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The language MacNeice uses in lines one and two is quite appealing. How are the lines linked? How does line two create an effective impression? How are stanzas one and two linked in their subject matter?
The first two lines are linked together, as in both of them the poet is talking about music. Line one says that someone is practicing music somewhere; and in line two the reader is told that the written notes of the music (which is being practiced and can be heard) resemble little fish who shake their tails and disappear. Maybe the poet is trying to remind us of the fact that it is considered inappropriate to listen to music on a Sunday morning (a time which should be dedicated to church.) The connection between stanza one and two exists vividly because stanza one is mostly talking about music _ saying there is no limit in listening to the it; and stanza two is mostly talking about movement and speed _ saying there is no limit in going fast. In the last two lines of stanza two:
That you can abstract this day and make it to the week of time
A small eternity, a sonnet self-contained in rhyme.
The reader is told that with the existence of music and movement people can make Sunday not just an ordinary day, but eternity.
4. Note how the last four lines contain an entirely different atmosphere than the first ten lines do. How do those lines contrast with the earlier lines? How does the poet create this contrast? Discuss the use of poetic devices as well as the “sentence structure” of the final line.
Stanza one tells the reader about the power of music and stanza two discusses movement and how limitless speed is. These two stanzas have a somehow similar tone. The third stanza starts with a “But”. This means that the poet attempts to make a contradiction. In stanza three the reader is told that despite the fact that the music exists and the movement exists, the church bells start to ring and tell “how there is no music or movement” which makes people feel safe. This means that although people can try to make themselves happy, they are never completely safe from the dangers threatening them (Comerford, 2012). The poet’s word choice has helped him to transfer the sense of terror in the last stanza; for example, he uses the word “listen” to create the atmosphere of warning. He also depicts the image of “skulls” to transfer the feeling of fear.
1. Patrick Comerford, “Poem for Lent (23): ‘Sunday Morning,’ by Louis MacNeice”, www.patrickcomerford.com, 18 March 2012, Access Date: 24 October 2014.
2. ”MacNeice, Louis (Vol. 1)" Contemporary Literary Criticism Ed. Carolyn Riley. Vol. 1. Gale Cengage 1973 eNotes.com 24 Oct, 2014
Down the road someone is practicing scales,The notes like little fishes vanish with a wink of tails, Man's heart expands to tinker with his carFor this is Sunday morning, Fate's great bazaar;Regard these means as ends, concentrate on this Now,
And you may grow music or drive beyond Hindhead anyhow,Take corners on two wheels until you go so fastThat you can clutch a fringe or two of the windy past,That you can abstract this day and make it to the week of time A small eternity, a sonnet self-contained in rhyme.
But listen, up the road, something gulps, the church spire Open its eight bells out, skulls' mouths which will not tire To tell how there is no music or movement which secures Escape from the weekday time. Which deadens and endures.