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Crossing the Loch - Kathleen Jamie

AQA Literature Anthology - Place
by

Emma Keeler

on 4 February 2013

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Transcript of Crossing the Loch - Kathleen Jamie

Crossing the Loch Kathleen Jamie Overview The poem recounts an adventurous journey home from the pub across a Scottish loch late at night The poet is addressing someone who was there with them at the time; this puts the reader in the position of eavesdropping on a reminiscence of shared experience. There is a clear feeling of fond nostalgia as well as a recognition, towards the end of the poem, of the foolish nature of this youthful adventure. The poem conveys a sense of wonder at the remembered moment of 'magic' as well as highlighting an underlying discomfort Throughout the poem, the synthesis of the senses and word choice create a nostalgic atmosphere of a treasured memory. Analysis "Remember how we rowed toward the cottage" The opening line is poignant for a few reasons - what are they? The pronoun "we" suggests there is a listener; this puts the reader in the position of eavesdropping, "Remember" introduces the theme of memory. The tone is immediately nostalgic and reminiscent "that one night" indicates the significance of the memory for the speaker and the person they are addressing. "the pub / loosed us through its swinging doors" What connotations could we draw from the poet's word choice in these lines? "loosed" suggests both freedom and influence of the environment; "swinging doors" suggests a lively atmosphere, one which contrasts with the memories that follow. "till water lipped the sides
as though the loch mouthed 'boat?" In contrast to the 'pub', the natural world seems gentle; the shared experience appears to be enveloped in that world of nature. However, as the speaker later points out, there is also a hint of danger. "I forget who rowed. Our jokes hushed." The memory is unclear for the speaker, but what else could we say about this line? Short phrases and caesura create a conversational tone. The choice of word and long, soft consonants in 'hushed' serve to create a somewhat 'magical' atmosphere; furthermore, it emphasises the vastness of their surroundings - the open water in the middle of the night. "The oars' splash, creak, and the spill
of the loch reached into the long night." How does the poet use onomatopoeia to create atmosphere? What else can we say about these lines? The use of onomatopoeia helps to create a peaceful atmosphere; the enjambment and long vowel sounds emphasise the sense of mystery & adventure, as well as illustrating the fondness of this memory. "Out in the race I was scared: / the cold shawl of breeze, / and hunched hills KEYWORD Synthesis Here, the synthesis of the human senses creates an intimate atmosphere; a treasured memory. The use of alliteration and personification creates a powerful image, one that places the speaker and listener at one with nature, but also introduces an underlying threat. "What the water held / of deadheads, ticking nuclear hulls" This alludes to the fact that some Scottish lochs have been used as nuclear submarine bases. Freqent protest against nuclear weapons in Scotland has made many people wary of the dangers lurking beneath the waters. The allusion adds to the sense of adventure and adds an element of potential danger. "Who rowed, and who kept their peace?" The speaker expresses another question of their memory: "rowed" and "peace" could refer to others, the nuclear threat or previous arguments, but what stands out is that there is silence despite previous nuclear experimentation. "Who haled salt-air stars / deep into their lungs, were not reassured;" The speaker asks more questions to clarify their memory; this emphasises the sense of youthful adventure - someone there in the memory was clearly quite afraid. Sibilance and synthesis of the senses add to the magcal atmosphere, but it is clear that the experience was not completely positive. There is an ambiguity as to how many there were, but clearly, it was not a magical experience for all involved. "the loch's /phospherescence" This refers to light given out by a substance without burining, or heat, or with so little heat it cannot be felt - the desription enhances the 'magical atmosphere and the significance of the memory for the speaker. "an astonished / small boat of saints" allusion to the belief that important figures in the history of Christianity travelled to Europe and arrived safely by boat; again, this enhances the sense of adventure in ther 'crossing' and could suggest a 'miraculous' survival "it was foolhardy, such a broad loch, a tide" "but we live - and even have children / to women and men we had yet to meet" The speaker, as an adult, recognises their survival, not only of 'that night', but of the adventures of youth; the tone changes to suggest maturity, responsibility and the need to move forwards into the present. "as we shipped oars and jumped" the active verb creates suspense at the end of the line. In light of what follows, we might read this as a metaphorical 'jump' from youth to adulthood." "to draw the boat safe, high at the cottage shore" There is a sense of nostalgic relief. The homely image of a 'cottage' could be read metaphorically as the safety of adulthood and family life. Compare with... Cold Knap Lake - Significance of water / light 'The Prelude' - fearful adventure on open water 'Neighbours' - awareness of nuclear threat A Vision' - youthful innocence VS adult reality; reminiscence / nostalgia
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