‘A Snowy Day in School’ by D. H. Lawrence and ‘Schoolroom on a Wet Afternoon’ by Vernon Scannell both describe a particularly monotonous lesson they taught. D. H. Lawrence was a teacher himself, so ‘A Snowy Day in School’ is an actual account, whereas ‘Schoolroom on a Wet Afternoon’ is fictional. Both poems express how dull the lesson is and how the poet and the students feel and react to this. Through ‘A Snowy Day in School’ D. H. Lawrence discusses society and the enthusiasm of the young. The poem itself shows the boredom that not only the pupils feel, but also the teacher.
In 1944 it was made compulsory for children to attend school up until the age of 14 due to the ‘Compulsory Education Act’. At that time, there was what was called a ‘utilitarian ideology’. This meant that everyone was taught in the exact same way to the same exact same standard, there was no individualism. The tutors were not allowed to vary their way of teaching like they do now. They were expected to stick to strict instructions, and their students were expected to follow them. ‘A Snowy Day in School’ talks about the thirst for knowledge, which was unsatisfied by the school system.
Lawrence sees his pupils as mysterious and full of potential, which is hard for him to reach. He explores his relationship with an impression that the reader may share his views. ‘Schoolroom on a Wet Afternoon’ talks too about the school system and the potential in children. Vernon Scannell also gives the sense that there is no individuality in the classroom and he tell us how ‘each child is disciplined; absorbed and still At his small desk’. Here he implies that although these boys are having a very ordered schooling, this does not necessarily guarantee a good adult life.
Vernon Scannell shows that adults underestimate children, they patronize them even. ‘Yet lift the lid and see’. What the poet meant by this was that teachers at that time did not pay close attention to a single child’s abilities or personality and if they did, they would have seen much more potential in each and every one of them. ‘A Snowy Day in School’ uses the present tense, which builds a sense of an endless day stretching out ‘immeasurably’. D. H. Lawrence says how his students and himself have ‘pattered the lessons ceaselessly’.
Lawrence writes from a personal experience, however, ‘Schoolroom on a Wet Afternoon’ was written in third person, from a teacher’s perspective. The structure of ‘A Snowy Day in School’ is set out in eight stanzas. The twenty-eight lines are divided into the first four stanzas consisting of four lines and the second four stanzas consisting of three lines. The poem has a rhyme of abac and aba. On the fifth stanza, there is a change to a pattern of three lines which quickens the pace of the poem, which increases the feeling of despair: ‘What was my question? -My god, must I break this hoarse?
Silence that rustles beyond the stars? -There! -‘ Verses become disjointed regularly – clauses become separated by dashes, which show Lawrence’s nervousness and that he sees his task as impossible. The sense of duty frightens him greatly and he shows this when he asks himself a number of questions. The structure of ‘Schoolroom on a Wet Afternoon’ is set out in a much more simpler way, to add to the monotonous effect of the poem. There are three eight-line stanzas and each is end-stopped. The structure reflects the time of the day, so the first stanza is the morning, the second is afternoon and the third the future.
The last line of the first stanza is the first complete sentence in the poem, and its end stop makes it stand out particularly with importance. The last line of the second stanza is a question and this introduces doubt to the poet as he fears for their ‘innocence’. The last line of the poem is vicious through violent images and can almost be seen as a threat. This line in particular stands apart from any other in the poem, as there is no other mention of such an idea until the very last line, it is a shock to the reader.
The rhyme used in this poem varies. Full rhyme, half rhyme and internal rhyme are all used. Full rhyme is the least obvious in ‘Schoolroom on a Wet Afternoon’ as it appears only very few times: ‘Each child is disciplined; absorbed and still….. Vicious rope, glaring blade, the gun cocked to kill’ These two lines, when placed together are extremely opposite. The first talks about how well behaved the child is, whereas the last line is suggesting to us what horrid murderer or person the children may grow up into.
Half rhyme is used very close together, each word with a ‘tion’ sound, which makes these particular lines stand out to the reader: ‘Their books, or make pretence of concentration, Each bowed head seems bent in supplication Or resignation to the fate that waits’ The language used in ‘A Snowy Day in School’ often refers to nature. The image we have of snow is a pure, white, soft matter that falls slowly and calmly from the sky, which drapes beautifully over the land. Snow is thought of as softening, so when we read ‘A Snowy Day in School’ we read it calmly and monotonously even.
D. H. Lawrence expresses his boredom and great worry and confusion by telling the reader how snow ‘muffles’ his mind, ‘as snow muffles the sounds that pass down the soiled street’. The snow seems to have disorientated his class and even more so himself as he continues to panic. Snow blankets whatever there is beneath it, so streets are covered completely in white, it hides the inadequacies. When D. H. Lawrence says ‘the soiled street’, perhaps he is referring to himself. He is not sure what to say to his class, and the snow is distracting his pupils, therefore covering up his own inadequacies.
Lawrence frequently uses nature to describe his relationship or thoughts on his students. The image of stars suggests the students’ isolation and perhaps that he thinks they have the potential, to shine in fact. The use of flowers in ‘A Snowy Day in School’ suggests the fragility of the boys and their minds. ‘In the open depth of each flower, dark, restless drops;’ this is Lawrence’s description of his pupils. He sees them as dark as he does not know them, their minds are a mystery to him, a mystery that he knows is extremely challenging, and something he will probably never get a chance to solve.
He describes them as restless as they are evidently bored of the lesson and more interested in what is happening outside. The ‘froth on the shore in the moon’ suggests that Lawrence believes the students to be indefinable and unapproachable. Lawrence describes his pupils as ‘half-blown flowers’ and ‘half-seen froth’, which implies that they are losing their youth and innocence and they are slowly entering adulthood. ‘Twin-bubbling challenge and mystery, in the foam’s whispering riot’ suggests that the poet is uncertain as to whether his pupils are quiet because of enforced silence or creativity.
D. H. Lawrence frequently uses nature to tell us his ideas and interpretations of his students. He compares them to flowers in particular, as they can blossom or shrivel up, like a young child’s mind can. In the first line of ‘A Snowy Day in School’ Lawrence already indicates the boredom that the class feel by describing it as the ‘irregular hum’. He uses personification too in several places as he describes ‘immeasurable spaces of hoarse silence’. This gives us the impression that he is tense and incredibly tired. Alliteration is used frequently such as ‘muffled my mind’ in order for this to stand out.
Lawrence wants the reader to realise how he is feeling. ‘Beyond, the town is lost in this shadowed silence the skies distil’. This is another example of alliteration. Key words are used in order for the reader to fully understand what the poet means. ‘Pattered’ is used to inform us that the lessons are routine and unending, therefore monotonous. ‘Wrangle’ gives us the impression that the teacher and the class will struggle on to finish the work, no matter how tiresome and tedious it is.
The language used in ‘Schoolroom on a Wet Afternoon’, which uses nature, is always very depressing. Rain falls as though the sky has been bereaved’, using personification as it gives the impression that the sky is a human being, and the rain are his/her teardrops. This depressing attitude continues as Scannell talks of how his pupils will soon enter the ‘unmapped forests of the future’. The use of imagery here is to suggest that the world is like a forest, it is big with many different paths to choose from, many from of which are good, many of which are bad. Scannell means that it is time for his students to make their own decisions and that the future is unpredictable.
The poet describes his students by saying that in every heart of every man in his class only the ‘necessary blood’ is pumped out, which indicates that he feels that his students are not trying their best. They are simply doing what they have to and not excelling themselves, as they should be. ‘Schoolroom on a Wet Afternoon’ uses monotonous words to make the poem seem more relaxed or even morbid. Words such as ‘sleep’, ‘bereaved’ and ‘lachrymose’ add to this effect as they give the impression the poet is tired. Pathetic fallacy is used when Scannell says that ‘rain falls as though the sky has been bereaved’.
Here he is talking about the children’s futures as they are yet to be depressing and dull in his opinion. Scannell talks about the children’s ‘resignation to the fate that waits’. This tells the reader how the children would at last give up fighting the urge not to learn, and finally take in a lesson. Scannell also talks about how possessions reflect real attitudes. He uses a metaphor here, as what he means by the things students hide under their desks, is that the children are really hiding the inner workings of their individual mind.
Scannell uses negative and depressing words such as ‘vicious’ and ‘kill’ to create mood of the poem. ‘A Snowy Day in School’ and ‘Schoolroom on a Wet Afternoon’ are two poems which both base their content on a particular school day. However, the subjects they discuss are very different as ‘A Snowy Day in School’ talks about society whilst ‘Schoolroom on a Wet Afternoon’ is about the potential of children. Both poems use nature in order to express the poet’s feelings, but in very different ways.