Lines to my Grandfathers LO: To understand how structure and imagery describe the relationships in ‘Lines to my Grandfathers’ Pre-Reading Questions 1.In this poem the writer discusses his grandfathers. What images/ideas does the term grandfather suggest? 2.You may have vivid memories about your grandfather(s) when you were younger. Do you own anything that once belonged to them? If so, what is it and why do you have it? I Much of the poem has to do with lines. Ploughs use lines, walls use lines. The alliteration connects to the speaker’s grandfather Wilkinson who was a farmer. The tone of this section of the poem is quite lonely. Ploughed parallel as print the stony earth. The straight stone walls defy the steep grey slopes. The place’s rightness for my mother’s birth Exceeds the pilgrim grandson’s wildest hopes– Lines To my Grandfathers is a Identity poem that is highly nostalgic and, like many poems we have seen, is a type of elegy. The speaker may not have met this grandfather as the tone is rather distant and it is also the grandfather he has written the least about. It is clear he has completed some research and has visited his mother’s birthplace. The sharp ‘s’ sounds have an onomatopoeic quality and emphasise the feelings of the speaker about the farm he has visited. Both alliteration and a metaphor is being used here. The ‘stone walls defy the steep grey slopes’ shows the difficulty of farming life. The speaker is discussing his 3 grandfathers here. Each one has a different memory and identity associated with their profession. Stone slopes Northern England Wilkinson farmed Thrang Crag, Martindale. Horner was the Haworth signalman. Someone who directs the trains on the railway. A practical, dependable job. Harrison kept a pub with home-brewed ale: Hills Fell farmer, railwayman, and publican, The double spacing separates this as a ‘chorus’ and the rest of the poem the verses. Owner of a pub. This whole line is repeated at the beginning of the last stanza, like a chorus. The word ‘graced’ connotes that he acts like he is regal and beyond his station in life. Demonstrates the grandma is the responsible one. The word slave has negative connotations. And he, while granma slaved to tend the vat Graced the rival bars ‘to make comparisons’, Queen’s arms, the Duke of this, the Duke of that, While his was known as just ‘The Harrisons’’. Use of a triple suggests that this is a list of many pubs the grandfather visits. His grandson could be reflecting on this unfavourably as the tone is nonchalant. Named for his grandfather. Simple which contradicts the regal nature of the word ‘graced’. Also, slightly narcissistic. Use of direct speech from the grandfather tells the audience about his lifestyle. He is likely a heavy drinker. Alliteration describes his rich outfit. The italicised guineas shows that the grandfather wants to be seen as wealthy. He carried cane and guineas, no coin baser! He dressed the gentleman beyond his place And paid in gold for beer and whisky chaser But took his knuckleduster, ‘just in case’. This contrasts the wealth as he needs to carry around a knuckleduster for protection. His lifestyle gets him into trouble. Again, use of direct speech suggesting that Harrison could not stay on the straight and narrow path. II The closest grandfather as they lived together. The one who lived with us was grampa Horner Who, I remember, when a sewer rat Got driven into our dark cellar corner Booted it to a pulp and squashed it flat. Shows both a tendency to strength and potential violence. Clearly a caring man as well. He made the children shows. It is something that the grandson is proud to have his last pair. They are cherished. He cobbled all our boots. I’ve got his last. The token is precious and is still being We use it as a doorstep on warm days. made useful. My present is propped open by their past And looks out over straight and narrow ways: The alliteration shows that the speaker’s identity has been shaped by these men and how they lived. Again, the imagery of lines being shown. The lines representing multiple paths and destinies that the speaker can partake in. The way one ploughed his land, one squashed a rat, kept railtracks clear, or, dressed up to the nines, with waxed moustache, gold chain, his cane, his hat, drunk as a lord could foot it on straight lines. This whole section compares and contrasts the three grandfathers through a large list of memories used to emphasise the importance of them to the author. They have inevitably shaped his views on life. Interior rhyme Again, the image of lines cropping up. His grandfather was ‘street smart’. Triple that has been repeated. Again like a chorus. Fell farmer, railwayman and publican, I strive to keep my lines direct and straight, and try to make connections where I can– Has more than one meaning. Could mean both his poetry and life decisions. The knuckleduster’s now my paperweight! The author makes connections to his grandfathers by not only using old tokens like the knuckleduster, but makes connections in his identity. Set apart. A bit humorous and reflective. Themes • Major themes are that of memories, the past and the present, as well as family. • This poem’s tone is highly nostalgic as it looks back on how each grandfather acted differently and the impact that they had on shaping the speaker’s life. The poet also comments on the fact that he wants to shape the direction of his life ‘direct and straight’ according to how his grandfather’s lived. They are his role models. Structure Harrison explores the places where his grandfathers lived, the jobs they did and the lives they led. The poem appears divided throughout. It is written in two separate parts and each grandfather is written about separately. The three men are very different and (although it is not stated) they all appear to have died. There is a separation between the living and the dead as the poet attempts to make the lives of his grandfathers ‘come alive’ through his vivid and detailed description and in the final line the poet makes a connection between grandfather Harrison and himself. The poem is made up of a strict, rigid structure, not unlike the straight lines ploughed by his grandfather Wilkinson. Part one has four line stanzas and so does part two. The rhythm and rhyme scheme also keep to this rigid pattern. Every line has ten beats and each verse follows an ABAB rhyme scheme. There are also variations in the spacing of the lines creating different patterns in stanza 2 and in the final line. It sets them apart and acts almost as if it is a chorus as the first line of the last stanza begins with the last line of stanza two. Questions 1. This poem is autobiographical. Find three quotes from the text showing the poet’s memories of his grandfathers. 2. What jobs did the grandfathers do? How were they similar and how were they different? 3. How does the poet feel about his grandfathers? 4. The word ‘lines’ appears a few times in the poem. How is it used in different contexts? 5. Harrison writes about the men’s possessions. Can you match up the possessions with the grandfathers? Essay Question • Discuss the theme of memory in relationships in ‘Lines to my Grandfathers’ and one other poem in the anthology. • Look at similar themes and structures to help you decide what to look at. • Use POETIC to help you formulate what needs to be said in each paragraph. • Remember to compare the poem’s throughout using a poem A /poem B structure to ensure you are writing about both!