Lines to my Grandfathers

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?
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
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
The sharp ‘s’ sounds
have an
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
Stone slopes
Wilkinson farmed Thrang Crag, Martindale.
Horner was the Haworth signalman.
Someone who
directs the trains on
the railway. A
dependable job.
Harrison kept a pub with home-brewed ale:
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
The word ‘graced’
connotes that he acts
like he is regal and
beyond his station in
Demonstrates the grandma is
the responsible one. The word
slave has negative
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
Simple which
contradicts the
regal nature of
the word
‘graced’. Also,
Use of direct speech
from the grandfather
tells the audience
about his lifestyle. He
is likely a heavy
describes his rich
The italicised
guineas shows that
the grandfather
wants to be seen as
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.
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
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.
Again, the image of lines
cropping up. His
grandfather was ‘street
Triple that has
been repeated.
Again like a
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
• 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.
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
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.
1. This poem is autobiographical. Find three quotes
from the text showing the poet’s memories of his
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!

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