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Copy of John Montague
Transcript of Copy of John Montague
Killing the Pig
This poem describes the slaughtering of a pig on a farm. The whole process is very swift and is managed by a number of professional operators:'swiftly the knife seeks the throat /swiftly the other cleavers work/till the carcass is hung up'. In no time what so ever the living pig is transformed into a clean, lifeless object:'shining and eviscerated as/a surgeon's coat'. Montague seems to find the whole process disturbing. He argues that the pigs are well aware of what is about to happen to them and 'they want none of it'. It is the loud scream of the pigs just before they are slaughtered, 'the high pitched final effort' that the poet finds most disturbing.
The theme of nature is prominent in this poem. It manages to highlight the conflict that exists between man and nature. The poet is horrified by the whole process. H e argues that pigs are intelligent animals, conscious of the fact that they are about to die. Montague considers the pigs scream to be an indication that it is aware of the fact that it is going to die. For him, unlike the people living on the farm the screams of the pig seem to linger after the event and cannot be easily forgotten.
In this poem Montague's mother has recently died. He wishes to commemorate her with verses of remembrance, to 'sing a last song/for the lady who has gone.' The poet, however, does not remember his mother in a sentimental fashion. His relationship with her has brought a lot of misery into his life. For him it was a 'fertile source of pain'. The relationship, according to the poet, was troubled from the very beginning. Montague was born the wrong way around in his mother's womb, this resulted in a painful experience for his mother. He even goes as far as to say that it was 'the worst birth in the annals of brooklyn'. He also disappointed his mother by being a male child when she really wanted a girl: 'naturally she longed for a girl'. When the poet was four years old he was sent to live with his aunts in Ireland. After his mothers death Montague finds out that his mother wore a locket containing a picture of him. Once he realises this their relationship is somewhat redeemed. To the poet the knowledge that his mother actually loved him comes as 'a mysterious blessing'.
The theme of hardship and suffering is most prominent in this poem. It shows the effect that poverty can have on families. Poverty leads to the break up of the poet's family as he is sent back to Ireland because they lack the money to take care of him. The poem suggest's that both love and affection are impossible in a household hit by poverty;'when poverty comes through the door love flies up the chimney'.
This poem describes the unhappy life of Montague's father. He considers him to be the 'least happy man' he has known. He spent several years working in the underground in New York. It was a very dark, dreary and noisy place to work; 'listening to a subway/shudder the earth'. As a result of working in the underground his father's face remained pale and un-healthy looking all his life; he 'retained the pallor/of those who work underground'. Montague tells us of how his father drank heavily after finishing his shift in order to escape the misery of his existence. The poet thinks of his father whenever he enters the subway or underground. He imagines his fathers 'bald head behind/the bars of the small booth'. He describes his fathers forehead as 'ghostly'. This could be seen as a reference to the paleness of his fathers face or perhaps to the fact that his father has since passed away and now only exists as a ghost or memory that surfaces whenever he enters a subway station.
Similarly to 'The Locket', 'The Cage' shares the main theme of hardship and suffering. Montagues father lived a deeply unhappy life in New York. Not only was he working underground, shut away from the sun, but he worked behind a 'grille'. The poem likens his place of work to a cage in which he is trapped only to be release every evening. Working in these though conditions took a toll on his father his face retained the sickly pallor that is a mark of all those who work in similar conditions. Montagues father coped with his unhappiness by drinking until he reached the point of 'oblivion'. It was only at this point that his father would begin to feel comfortable or 'at home'.
This poem describes the effect that the wind has on the irish landscape. Montague describes this flow of air as a 'restless whispering', something that you never get away from.' This soft rustling sound seems to emerge from the land itself; 'seeping out of/low bushes and grass,/heather bells and ferns. Montague also describes the effect of the clouds moving across the sky. These clouds create shadows on the landscape below. As the shadows move across the land patches of light follow as the sun breaks through. It can seem as if the light is chasing or 'hunting' the clouds. We are told of how the wind is like a hand that strokes the landscape; 'a hand ceaselessly/ combing and stroking/ the landscape'. As it passes over the land it causes the grass to bend. The smoothened grass occasionally catches the light and the landscape suddenly shines or 'gleams' like the hair of 'a mountain pony's coat'.
As with 'Killing the Pig' the theme of nature is the most prominent theme in the poem. The poem offers us wonderful and memorable descriptions of the sounds and sights of the countryside. The poet describes the soft 'whispering' of the breeze blowing through the grasses and ferns and says that this sound never ceases. We are also given beautiful images of the sunlight travelling across the landscape, seeming to give chase to the shadows of the clouds. The final image of the blown grass catching the light is particularly memorable; 'the valley gleams/ like the pile upon/ a mountain pony's coat'.
The Wild Dog Rose
'The Wild Dog Rose' is inspired by a holiday Montague spent in Garvaghey. Over the course of his holiday he has payed several visits to an old woman who lives in the area. When he was a young boy the sight of this old lady was enough to terrify him; 'the terrible figure who haunted my childhood'. However now that he has returned to the area as an adult he can see the woman for what she really is; 'no longer harsh ,/a human being/merely,hurt by event'. We first come across the old woman standing outside her cottage. Montague tells us that she has a 'great hooked nose' and her eyes are 'sunken'. He finds himself chatting easily and comfortably to this woman who used to scare him so much; 'we talk in ease at last,/ like old friends, lovers almost'. Suddenly the woman tells him of how one night a drunken man broke into her cottage and attempted the rape her. The speaker finds the story so horrible that he can hardly bear to listen. He wants to some how 'push it away'. Hearing it makes him shiver, turning his legs to jelly; 'my bones melting'.
As with 'The Cage', 'The Wild Dog Rose' strongly features the theme of hardship. The old woman's circumstances seem desperately poor. Clothed in rags, she survives in a decaying cottage. Loneliness, too is presented as a feature of rural Irish life. The old woman is a 'seventy-year-old virgin' who has never married or known a man. 'For sixty years/since, she has lived alone, in one place', living out a solitary existence in her remote cottage.
Like Dolmens Round My Childhood
This poem tells us of how the poet's childhood was overshadowed or dominated by some of the old people living in his locality. These people surrounded his childhood like 'dolmens'. In the first five stanzas Montague provides us with descriptions of some of these people. In the first stanza he tells us of a man named 'Jamie MacCrystal'. He describes him as a gentle soul who lived alone. This 'kindly' old man would give the young poet a penny each time he collect his pension for him. In the next stanza Montague tells us about 'Maggie Owens'. He describes her as a woman who loved to gossip and tell malicious stories about her neighbours; 'She was a well of gossip defiled'. The poet however did not believe her stories and her as only a lonely woman who lashed out bitterly at her neighbours; 'all i could find/Was her lonely need to deride'. In the third satnza we are told of the 'Nialls', who were a family that lived 'along a mountain lane'. The entire family was blind and received the 'blind pension'. In the fourth stanza Montague introduces us to 'Mary Moore', who lived in a rundown gatehouse. We found out that she was thought to be a fierce lady by the community but the poet new she liked to fall asleep at night reading romantic tales and dreaming of gypsy weddings. Lasty Montague tells us about 'Wild Billy Eagleson' who came from a protestant family. He is described as a reckless individual who married a catholic servant girl when the rest of his family passed away.