Talk:2008-09 BM1 Assignment 1: Poetry

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Student Questions

  • I am not sure in how far I am supposed to prove my analysis on the text. Shall we give line references and if so, do we have to put them all in footnotes or otherwise behind the quote/mentioned text passage?
Line references in brackets behind the quotation will be just fine. Anna Auguscik 10:10, 13 November 2008 (CET)
  • Furthermore, regarding task no. 5... are we allowed to compare the sonnet to a poem that was not in the poetry reader? Can it actually be any poem which seems appropriate for a comparison and how shall we quote from that? Do I have to give a "Quellennachweis"?
Generally speaking, the last question refers to other poems from our BM1 Poetry Reader. It would go beyond the estimated work load to look for any other poem which could offer an apt comparison but we do not ban anyone for reading more poetry than we provide in our lectures. If you use other poems, please indicate your sources (cf style sheet). Additionally, you can also attach a copy of that poem with your assignment. Anna Auguscik 10:10, 13 November 2008 (CET)
  • Is it possible that a poem does not have one particular meter, actually none? And is it possible that a poem consists of a rhyme scheme mixture of a Petrarchan Sonnet and an English Sonnet? Thanks!
  • And do we have to write an complete text or can we just answer to every single question?
Please answer each question separately (it is otherwise extremely difficult for us to evaluate your work - "where did she deal with this question? What information did she give here or there? Does she contradict herself...") --Olaf Simons 16:57, 14 November 2008 (CET)
  • In number five, are we supposed to compare the sonnet ONE other poem we have read or to more than one? I mean, it says: "... to other poems you have read..", not "to another poem you have read". So.. i compared it to two other poems. Is that too much or is that how we are expected to do it?
The number of poems is not as important as the relevance of your comparison. You are on the right track if the comparison does not just add up meaning but results in a "Mehrwert"/"Erkenntnisgewinn". And bear in mind: "Briefly suggest"... Anna Auguscik 10:44, 18 November 2008 (UTC)
  • Refering to the style sheet there has to be a margin about 3cm on the left and 4cm on the right side of the assignment. But if we only have three pages to write on, that can not be enough to answer all questions. Besides, my Words does not accept this format somehow. It automatically choose a margin about 0,63cm on the left side. Otherwise I would only have about four words in one line!? Can not be correct, can it?
"right margin: 3 cm, left margin: 4cm" refers to total page. Anna Auguscik 00:11, 19 November 2008 (UTC)

The following questions have turned up in my mailbox:


1. Muss das Deckblatt genau so in dieser Rautenform aussehen, wie es im style sheet dargestellt ist oder gibt es da andere Möglichkeiten/ Vorgaben? (bzgl. Schriftgröße, Schriftart etc.)

2. Gibt es einen englischen Begriff um „unreine Reime“ zu übersetzen?

3. Muss ich, wenn ich einen neuen Absatz beginne, diesen einrücken? So hab ich das zumindest auf dem style sheet verstanden. Soeren Koopmann12:50, 17 November 2008 (UTC)

1. Please put the information needed on the cover sheet. Font size and spacing on the cover sheet is up to you to the extent that the information remains clear.
2 You may want to use a dictionary for finding the correct translation, or a website such as or, to be absolutely certain a text or reference book giving the terms in both languages. For these things I for one found this book of use: Nünning, Ansgar, Nünning, Vera. Grundkurs anglistisch-amerikanistische Literaturwissenschaft, Stuttgart: Cornelsen, 2001
3. Yes.

Soeren Koopmann 13:40, 17 November 2008 (UTC)


Ich habe mich inzwischen mal mit dem Reim Schema des Gedichts beschäftigt und bin darauf gekommen dass es sich möglicherweise um abab cdcd efg efg handeln könnte. Weißt du vielleicht welche Sonettform so ein Schema genau ist? Das gehört doch nich zu "English" oder "Shakespearan" Sonetten oder?Soeren Koopmann12:50, 17 November 2008 (UTC)

Please understand that we cannot give you answers dealing with the specific contents of the assignment. You may want to have another look at the handouts, and at the text linked in the first handout. What you need to do is presenting a discussion of the poem's structure substantiated by the poem.Soeren Koopmann 13:40, 17 November 2008 (UTC)

Student Samples

Sample 1

  • Communicative Situation
The speaker of the poem “Lines written on a seat on the Grand Canal, Dublin, ‘Errected to the memory of Mrs Dermot O’Brien’” written by Patrick Kavanagh can be identified as appearing in the first person singular, because a closer look at the deictics reveals the repeated use of the personal pronoun “me” (l.1, l. 4, l.13).
Simultaneously to mentioning himself the speaker introduces the addressee with the imperative form of the verbs “commemorate” (l.1, l.4, l.13) and “look” (l.11). In relation to the imperatives the speaker directly approaches the addressee by naming him “brother” (l.3), what implies that the sonnet is addressed to a particular person.
The communicative situation as such can be explained as a request of the speaker towards the addressee to remember him by the water and describing the beauty of the canal. The repeated use of “O” (l.1) adds a kind of begging character to the request.
The term “brother” strongly implies that the addressee is male. Whether a real brother or just figuratively a passer-by is meant here cannot be said. Determining the gender of the speaker is more complicated, because the poem itself does not give any kind of hint.
If we take the title of the poem into consideration, it will strike us that here the wish the speaker concludes the poem with, is taken up again (l. 14). This could lead to the assumption that the lady mentioned in the title might serve as the speaker.
I disagree, because logically the wish for commemoration would have to be expressed before the seat is erected and not the other way round. I would rather argue that the author himself is the speaker, since he had written the poem only 4 years before he passed away. Probably the seat mentioned in the title gave him the idea of wanting to be commemorated at the canal. This thesis is supported by the amount of metapoetical aspects the poem contains which I am going to discuss in detail later.
All in all, it remains unclear who the speaker actually is, since there are no real evidences and the title even offers another possibility of interpreting the communicative situation. So a clear answer cannot be given and it is all up to the reader’s personal impression.
  • Topic
The most noticeable topic is “death”. Throughout the poem the speaker asks the addressee to remember him after his death. Terms used in this relation are “commemorate” (l. 1, l.4, l.13) and “hero-courageous tomb” (l.13 f.).
Apart from that another dominating isotopy is composed of words of the word field “nature”, like “canal water” (l. 2) or “swan” (l. 9) which relate to “death” in the way that the speaker wants to be commemorated with a place near the water.
The third major topic is very complex. It combines aspects of mythology (l. 12) and poetry (l. 8). These isotopies are fabricated to describe the exceptional meaning and beauty the canal has for the speaker. It might be just a simple canal, but for him this place contains everything he needs for contentment (l.4).
  • Figurative language
a) The metaphor which I find most interesting to analyze is “a barge comes [...] bringing mythologies” (l.11-12). Obviously mythologies cannot be transported since they are not a tangible item. So this phrase is ought to have a metaphorical rather than a lexical meaning.
Nevertheless why should an ordinary thing like a barge bring something extraordinary cultural like mythologies? I assume that this logical contradiction should complement the general description of the canal as a place of exceptional meaning for the speaker. A microcosm that unites all the great things the world has to offer (l.9 f.)
b) “Swan” has a very ambiguous meaning. On the one hand it is a well known symbol of beauty which fits well with the previously mentioned interpretation of the isotopies and the metaphor. The swan’s beauty shall most likely support the impression of a peaceful and tranquil environment surrounding the canal.
Apart from that the swan is also a commonly used symbol for nearing death. For instance the term “swansong” is used to describe the last artwork of a late artist or poet. If we now apply this understanding of the symbol to our poem, it can be interpreted in the way that the speaker monologues about remembrance while being reminded about his own death by the swan.
“Water” is often used as a symbol for life, but I do not think that it has this kind of universal meaning here, because it is precisely the “canal water” (l.2) that the speaker admires. So it rather has the position of being the central subject, rather than a symbol.
  • Metre, rhyme-scheme, interplay
It is very interesting in how far the poem “breaks” and “plays” with certain features of sonnets. The poem comprises 14 lines, which is a typical characteristic of classical sonnets.
Based on the rhyme-scheme the poem can be divided into two quatrains, rhyming abab/cdcd and a sestet, rhyming efg/efg . It is important to point out that in several cases it is an imperfect rhyme, as it can be found for instance in the first stanza where “water” (l.1) and “brother” (l.3) only have a similar sound, but don’t accurately rhyme. Other examples can be found throughout the poem (l5. and l.7, l.10 and l.13).
The division in two quatrains and a sestet is typically Petrarchan, though these sonnets usually have enclosing rhymes instead of alternate rhymes as we have here.
But if we take a different approach and try to divide the poem contentwise into meaningful units, we could also find aspects of a Shakespearean or English Sonnet, which actually uses the here found alternate rhymes in two of the quatrains and a couplet in the end. Though those two last lines do not rhyme, they resume the topic of commemoration which is already mentioned in the first quatrain, whereas the lines in the middle concentrate more on the topics of nature and its comparison to mythology.
So, to come to a conclusion I think that formally this sonnet shows more Petrarchan features, but contentwise it is designed in a Shakespearean style, still regarding the limitation of the rhyme-scheme which does not totally match with either of them and in combination with several enjambements (e.g. l.6) supports the impression of an intendedly slightly unrhytmical sound in parts of the poem.
Another common sonnet feature which can be found is an iambic pentameter from line 5 to line 12. Here stressed syllables follow unstressed ones. It corresponds perfectly to the content, since this part of the sonnet deals with the beauty of the canal which the speaker relates to poetry by saying that “No one will speak in prose” (l.7) in order to put emphasis on it. I think by doing this the poem definitely gains a metapoetical level, because here structure and content perfectly complement each other.
One irregularity within the iamb can be detected in line 9, where “many apologies” does not fit into the pattern, because the second syllable of“many” would have to be stressed. In relation to the content, the author might have done it to put emphasis on the “apologies”.
Apart from this interplay the first four and the two last lines do not show any particular metre. In my opinion this is done to stress the strong desire for commemoration by the canal, because that is the actual main subject of the poem. (l. 1, l. 13f.).
  • Spot a problem
Discussing this sonnet in comparison to others might be relevant, because of its already mentioned similarities and differences concerning form and contentual arrangement. It will be interesting to examine how other poems deal with a similar topic and how they use form and structure to portray it.
A good example would be Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 71” . Superficially speaking the main topic of the poem is “commemoration” as well. With the difference that the speaker here does not seem to appreciate the world he lives in (l.3) and does not want to be remembered at all or at least not with grief (l. 8).
Needless to say this sonnet’s rhyme-scheme, metre and general form is all Shakespearean. Generally it could be interesting to analyze how the speakers of the different poems portray their opinions and how they deal with the topic of “commemoration” and “death”. What kind of language they use and in how far their works might have been influenced by personal experiences.
Another basis for comparison could be the different centuries these poems were written in. One could examine how the general form and understanding of the sonnet itself might have changed and in how far even the “old masters” have made variations to the form.


No longer mourn for me when I am dead
By William Shakespeare

No longer mourn for me when I am dead
Then you shall hear the surly sullen bell
Give warning to the world that I am fled
From this vile world, with vilest worms to dwell:
Nay, if you read this line, remember not
The hand that writ it; for I love you so
That I in your sweet thoughts would be forgot
If thinking on me then should make you woe.
O, if, I say, you look upon this verse
When I perhaps compounded am with clay,
Do not so much as my poor name rehearse.
But let your love even with my life decay,
Lest the wise world should look into your moan
And mock you with me after I am gone.

Sample 2

  • Communicative situation
There are two ways to identify the speaker and the addressee of the poem. If the poem is read without knowing the title, the speaker will be identified through the personal pronoun “me” (line 1, 4, 13). The addressee is “brother” (line 3) in this case, but it is not mentioned whether brother is really a relative or just meant for addressing someone. Furthermore it indicates that the addressee is male. According to the words “Those” (line 6), “No one” (line 7) and “Who” (line 8) there is someone else mentioned who is not directly addressed. Looking at the title “Erected to the Memory of Mrs. Dermot O’Brien” and at the poem itself, one can conclude that Mrs. Dermot O’Brien is the speaker. In fact Patrick Kavanagh himself can be seen as the adresse because a memory is something subjective and thus there is a high possibility that he is remembering a conversation with Mrs. O’Brien who inspired him to write the poem.
The speaker is talking directly to the addressee which is shown by the sentence “Brother Commemorate me thus beautifully” (line 3) and the imperative “And look!” (line 11). The addressee is only listening to the speakers monologue and is not actively involved in the conversation. Thus it is definitely a difference whether is read or not.
  • Topic
One of the topics is “commemoration”. It is mentioned three times in the poem (line 1,4 and 13). The speaker does not only mean active commemoration, but also passive one. In the first seven lines the speaker describes the place where he is situated and gives an idea about the impression it gives to him. This is summarized in line 8 by calling it “[…] these Parnassian islands.” He wants “[…] a canal-bank seat for the passer-by” (line 14) for his commemoration. This wish leads to the conclusion that he wants other people to experience the same he did. According to that “No one will speak in prose […]” (line 7), when they will sit down there looking at the beautiful nature. Thus the speaker will be commemorated passively. In fact ,this is the main topic of the first 4 lines. According to the first eight lines it can be said that nature is being used as a vehicle for the inspiration of poetry which is another, closely related topic and which is outlined in line 5 to 8. This is supported by saying “No one will speak in prose who finds his way to these Parnassian islands.” (lines 7/8). It implies that not only people in the future will be inspired by that place, but also the speaker was. The subject changes in line 9 which brings up the next topic: Death. From line 9 to 12 the speaker deals with this. “A swan goes by head low with many apologies, […]” (line 9) is the first sign for a possible upcoming death. This is also supported by the speaker’s wish to be commemorated. Also the “barge” (line 11) underlines a possible valediction. But if you relate the “barge” and “mythologies” (line12), one can debate of an imitation of the legend of the ferryman, who brings the dead across the river into the underworld. This impression is also supported by mentioning the “[…] Parnassian islands.” again, which is a place in Greece and consolidate the conclusion of the ferryman because it is both Greek.
The last two lines sum up all three topics. The “commemoration” is mentioned (line 13), also a sign for death is given , “tomb”, (line 14) and again nature is used as a vehicle for leading to poetry by wishing for “[…] a canal-bank seat for the passer-by.”
  • Figurative speech
a) In line 13 and 14 the speaker mentions a “[…] hero courageous tomb[…]” which is a metaphor for a pompous kind of grave. “Hero courageous tomb” is the vehicle for everything decadent and unnecessary. This literally means that the speaker only wants a kind of simple grave or rather something banal for his commemoration. This is clarified when he says in line 14 “[…] just a canal-bank seat for the passer-by.”The author uses mainly symbols in his figurative speech. One has to separate between personifications, i.e. line 10 “[…] the eyes of bridges[…]”, and hyperbole, line 5 “[…] Niagariously roars […]”. So one really have to take a look at different words which seem to be metaphorical in the first place.
b) Water or canal water can be interpreted as a symbol for life. Nothing is able to exist without water: therefore one can call it the source of all life. It is described as being calm and “stilly” (line 1-4) and also as being loud (line 5). One can say that life and water both flow which gives the impression of being peaceful and smooth. The barge swims on the river (line 11) and is disturbing this peace. In fact this “barge” is a symbol for a change. It transports people and before leaving, they have to say goodbye. But it could also be used as an imitation of Greek mythology. In this mythology a ferryman transports the dead over a river to the underworld. So one can clearly say what that symbol exactly implies, death or change. Considering it as a symbol of change and including the swan (line 9), one will be able to relate those three symbols to each other. The water stands for life itself which is going on easefully and calmly, while the barge separates the water - and also the life -, something will change. This change is introduced by the swan which “[…] goes by head low with many apologies[…]” (line 9). Symbolizing death, it is already apologizing but nothing has happened so far. All in all one can say that there will be a big change, “barge”, in the speakers life, “canal water” caused by death, “swan”.
  • Metre, rhyme etc.
The sonnet is structured into three quatrains and a sestet. This is indicated by the rhyme scheme which is ABAB CDCD EFGEFG. This form is also underlined by dealing with different topics in the quatrains: each has its own topic, whereas the sestet consists of another topic. It is noticeable that the sestet breaks with the form that is mentioned before, by not only dealing with another topic, but also containing the assumption of the sonnet. Thus it could also be possibly divided into 3 quatrains and an assumption of two lines if one separates it by topics. It is difficult to classify whether it is a Petrarchan or Shakespearean sonnet because of the unusual rhyme scheme. The same goes for the classification of the meter. The lines differ from 3 stressed syllables to 5 stressed syllables, but most of them are pentameter. Having so many different emphases it is not possible to speak about of interplay, because an interplay underlines something special or important and draws the attention to it.
  • Spot a problem
Comparing it with, for example, John Milton’s “Sonnet VII”, one will realize that Milton’s sonnet differs in the idea of the topic and the form. It has a clear iambic pentameter and a different rhyme scheme. “Sonnet VII” also contains one interplay to emphasize the importance of that special line (line 8). The topics of both sonnets are related loosely to each other. Both are about life, but Patrick Kavanaghs brings in the topic of death and poetry and John Milton writes about ripeness and maturity. By comparing these two sonnets one realizes the differences and similarities between them. Not just the obvious different topics, but also the formal ones. Even though the sonnet of Patrick Kavanagh was written 200 years after “Sonnet VII”, some used methods are still the same. Both have 14 lines and can be divided into two quatrains and a sestet.

Sample 3

  • 1.) In Patrick Kavanagh’s sonnet Lines Written on a Seat on the Grand Canal, Dublin, "Erected to the Memory of Mrs Dermot O’Brien" which was published in the year 1960 there is a very complex communicative situation. The speaker (who might possibly be Patrick Kavanagh himself) is sitting on a canal bank in Mid-July and writes the sonnet. He uses the personal pronoun “me” thrice (cf. l. 1,4,13). The addressee is probably his biological brother or other loved ones since the speaker uses the term “brother” (cf. l. 3) which could mean both. There are requests like “commemorate me” (cf. l. 1,4,13) or “And look!” (cf. l. 11) where the addressee is spoken to. Considering the subtitle of the sonnet the speaker presumably reads the line "Erected to the Memory of Mrs Dermot O’Brien" on a little tag placed on the bank, likes this mode of being commemorated and pleases the so-called “brother” to commemorate him in that way, too. Because the term “Lines Written” is ambiguous one could also come to the conclusion that Mrs Dermot O’Brien is the speaker and that the whole sonnet is written down on the canal-bank. But the former version is more likely.
  • 2.) The sonnet can be divided into smaller units. In the first unit (cf. l. 1-4) the speaker expresses his liking to the nature. Nature in his case would be nice and stilly canal water (cf. l. 2) with the “greeny” environment (cf. l. 3) in Mid-July (cf. l. 7). He wants to be commemorated close to nature (cf. “canal water preferably”, l. 2) and in a way as beautifully as the nature around him appears (cf. l. 4).
In the second segment (cf. l. 5-8) he refers to the people who experience nature in the same way as he does, namely “those who sit in the tremendous silence” (cf. l. 6). While sitting on a canal bank enjoying the silence the fall caused by a lock seems to roar as loud as the Niagara Falls (cf. l. 5-6). This beauty of nature arouses a poetic feeling in the speaker which he phrases as being on “these Parnassian islands” (cf. l. 8). The word “these” implies that the speaker himself is situated on the Pernassian islands which stand for a poetic level where nobody would be able to speak in unpoetic prose (cf. l. 7). The term “islands” could also connote Ireland, since the speaker is located in Dublin.
Lines 9 to 12 form the third unit in which the speaker depicts his current surroundings. He sees a remorseful looking swan passing by (cf. l. 9) and how the shafts of sunlight shine through the arches of a bridge (cf. l. 10). Moreover he discovers a barge (cf. l. 11) with which he associates alien mythologies. The barge might transport interesting new goods and the sailors might have exciting stories to tell. The bridge, the barge and “Athy and other far-flung towns” (cf. l. 11-12) demonstrate the connection between humans and nature, how humans influence nature and how beautifully they interact.
In the last two lines of the sonnet the speaker asks the addressee again to commemorate him in a particular way, namely as a “canal-bank seat for the passer-by” (cf. l. 14). He does not want to end in a “hero-courageous tomb” (cf. l. 13-14) which is an exaggerated phrasing but wants a canal-bank seat that reminds one of his person, which is a rather moderate wish (use of the word “just” cf. l. 14). The request to the addressee is like a frame which clasps the sonnet.
The four units show a development within the interaction of humans and nature.
  • 3a.) One metaphor in the sonnet is the phrase “Parnassian islands” (cf. l. 8). The term “Parnassian” means “home of poetry” and the word “islands” in this context could mean the areas in which poetry occurs. In this case the speaker escapes into a different world while enjoying the beauty of nature and calls this world the “Parnassian islands”. The difficulty here (and with metaphors in general) is that the reader can only guess which meaning the metaphor actually wants to convey. As already mentioned it could also refer to the islands of Ireland and Great Britain.
  • 3b.) The element of “water” which is used in the sonnet (cf. l. 1-2) is a well-known symbol for life and survival. This meaning perfectly fits into the context of the sonnet as the speaker confronts himself with the topic of death and how he wants to stay alive in the minds of his loved ones which is “where there is water” (cf. l. 1).
The term “canal-water” (cf. l. 2) is no typical symbol but could be seen as a modification of the symbol “water”. A canal is made from humans to enable shipping. It is a natural connection between cities made for commercial benefits. Therefore it could especially refer to the human life and survival.
Another well-known symbol is the word “swan” which represents pride, grace, beauty, love and clarity. The swan in the sonnet goes by “head low with many apologies” (cf. l. 9) which gives the reader room for diverse interpretations. The fact that the swan lowers his head does not go well together with the symbolic meaning is holds. Especially the adding of the expression “with many apologies” lets the reader think of interpretations like for instance a broken, unfortunate love. Maybe the speaker has just gone through such an experience.
A “barge” does not belong to the established symbols and therefore cannot be interpreted in an universally valid way.
  • 4.) The general metre in the sonnet is an iambic pentameter with irregularities. The first two quatrains have the alternate rhyme-scheme abab cdcd, which is typical for a Shakespearean sonnet and the following sestet efg efg is typical for a Petrarchan sonnet. Hence the sonnet is a mixture of the Shakespearean and the Petrarchan form. Interplays are the exclamations “O” (cf. l. 1,13) or “And look!” (cf.l. 11) which are outstanding parts of the sonnet since they are directed to the addressee and violate the general metre. Interplays are usually to be found in parts of the poem that have important semantic content and are therefore decisive aspects for the context.
  • 5.) The sonnet could be discussed in connection with John Milton’s poem Sonnet VII (1645). Because the two poems are both sonnets one can distinguish differences and similarities concerning the rhyme-scheme, metre, communicative situation, topic or others. Similarities are that both sonnets obviously consist of 14 lines, have an iambic pentameter and a speaker who uses personal pronouns. They both display interplays which are relevant for the context (cf. “will of Heav’n” l. 12, Milton) and have an addressee (who is God in John Milton’s sonnet). A major topic in both sonnets is the progressive movement of time and especially life time. By comparing two similar poems one can achieve awareness of the difference of typical poetic features and those that are unique and should thus be analysed thoroughly. One thing that one will notice by considering several poems is that stylistic devices usually accentuate semantics features.

Sample 4

  • 1.) In Lines Written on a Seat on the Grand Canal, Dublin, ‘Erected to the memory of Mrs Dermot O’Brien’ written by Patrick Kavanagh, published in 1960, the title already contains the location of the speaker. Namely a seat on the Grand Canal in Dublin. The speaker uses direct speech (cf. l. 1; 4; 13: “commemorate me”) and glorifies the environment, respectively the Grand Canal. The title indicates the speaker could be a female person, but asking for “no hero-courageous Tomb” (cf. l. 13) it is rather a male person. The speaker addresses someone he is calling “Brother” (cf. l. 3). This differs again to the title, which states Mrs Dermot O’Brien could eventually be the addressee. It is likely, either the real brother is meant, or just someone who is very familiar with the speaker.
Talking about the wish to remember him with “a canal-bank seat” (cf. l. 14) indicates the communication to be a last will of the speaker. The author might be identical with the speaker, considering he died four years after publishing this poem. With the imperative “And look!” (cf. l. 11) it becomes clear, the author is also writing the poem at the Grand Canal.
  • 2.) Although the content of the poem is divided in the stile of Shakespearean sonnet’s (because of a conclusion), there is a typical segmentation for Petrarchan sonnet’s of an octave and a sestet. The main topics are the beauty of the Nature/Canal water, Death/Commemoration and Life.
In the first quatrain, the topic is death, because the speaker asks twice for commemoration at the Grand Canal. Nature and Life are set in a relation. He starts describing the beauty of the water, respectively the Grand Canal. He is enthusing over the still water (cf. l. 2: “Canal water preferably, so stilly”) and the beautiful summer (cf. l. 3: “Greeny at the heart of summer”). This is directly related to life, knowing heart is the engine of the human body and summer the time where nature has a highlight in the year.
In the second quatrain the Grand Canal is described by comparison to the Niagara Falls (cf. l. 5: “Niagariously roars”). The water is moved extremely loud through the sluice, but surely not as loud as the Niagara Falls. This exaggeration shall elevate the extravagance of the Canal. Furthermore, the speaker indicates no one would speak with common words being on one of “these Parnassian islands” (cf. l. 7-8). He opposes the language used in prose (common words) and the language used in poems (most beautiful words) to emphasise everyone would be impressed by the situation being on the Grand Canal.
In the now following quatrain, it becomes concrete the speaker is certain to die in the near future. He is talking about a swan, which passes with a lowered head and apologies (cf. l. 9: “A swan goes by head low with many apologies”). The swan symbolises the speaker. A swan with a lowered head implies upcoming death and the apologies stand for his sins he wants to apologise for, before he dies. This swan is also the connection between all the topics. It is generally a symbol for life or nature, but the “head low” reverses its meaning into death.
Further on, the speaker describes a sort of admirable light, which is shining through the bridge piers (cf. l. 10: “Fantastic light looks through the eyes of bridges”). This admirable light might be compared to the light at the end of a tunnel one is supposed to see dying. It seems the water is moving in the direction of the light, what points to his life moving towards the end. Afterwards, an imperative is used to make the reader attentive to the speakers thoughts and experiences made in life (cf. l. 11-12). The mythologies are his experiences, which he obviously wants to share with the reader, because a sudden direct speech with excitement in it occurs (cf. l. 11: “And look!”).
In the last two lines, the speaker is explicitly saying in what way he wants, and does not want to be remembered (cf. l. 13 f.). This makes definite the poem to be a last will.
  • 3a) The author uses the metaphor “heart of summer” (cf. l. 3) to describe the speakers life. He collates the heart (centre of the human body) and the summer (centre of the year) to one expression, to state the relation between the nature and the speaker.
  • 3b) All of this elements are in some way symbols. “Canal water” (cf. l. 2), also a topic of this poem, symbolises the run-out of the speakers lifetime. It is carrying the “barge” (cf. l. 11), which stands for the thoughts and experiences of the speakers life. The “swan goes by head low” (cf. l. 9) is the probably most import symbol. It symbolises either life and death.
  • 4) There is no regular metre definable, which draws throughout the whole poem. For the most part (cf. l. 5-12) it is written in an iambic pentameter. Both the beginning (cf. l. 1-4) and the end (cf. l. 13-14) of the poem have each a stress on their first syllable and are generally very irregular. The author uses this method of irregularity to emphasise these parts from the rest of the poem and directs one’s attention on their subject, namely death. To distinguish important expressions in the regular part (cf. l. 5-12), he produces flaws in the rhythm (cf. l. 5: “Niagariously roars”). This emphasises the loudness of the water moving through the sluice.
The poem is composed of an octave and a sestet. This is a typical Petrarchan/ Italian sonnet pattern, but the style of rhyme scheme changes from octave (alternate rhymes abab cdcd -> Shakespearean) to sestet (enclosing rhymes efg efg -> Petrarchan). The Shakespearean sonnet form is also used on the textual basis. The author partitions it into three quatrains and a conclusion.
More stylistic devices, like enjambements (cf. l. 3/4; 6/7), neologisms (cf. l. 2: “stilly”; l. 3:”Greeny”) and hyperboles (cf. l. 5: “Niagariously roars”; l. 6: “tremendous silence”) are used to accentuate irregularity anymore.
Recapitulating, the author wants this poem to be a singular, no common work.
  • 5) Comparing this sonnet to any other poem would bring two results: either they have similar subjects, form, figurative language or a communicative situation or somehow not. Actually, it is most effective to compare it to another poem written by the same author. Kavanagh’s Canal Bank Walk seems to be similar to “Lines Written on Seat...” at first sight. It also issues the beauty of the Canal and shows the author’s partiality for nature, although implying religious topics. Important is the connection “Canal Bank” between both poems. He makes it perfectly clear, he is connecting nature to his person, even identifies himself with it. Whereby in “Lines Written on a Seat...” this has to be more or less concluded. One can also see there is a regular rhyme scheme in Canal Bank Walk, unlike the other poem. This means the author used it deliberately to highlight Death/ Commemoration and the personal importance of the poem “Lines Written on a Seat...”.

cf. "Canal Bank Walk", by Patrick Kavanagh: "Leafy-with-love banks and the green waters of the canal [...]"