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Example of analysis of a poem

XL
Into my heart an air that kills
   From yon far country blows.
What are those blue remembered hills,
   What spires, what farms are those?

That is the land of lost content,
   I see it shining plain,
The happy highways where I went
   And cannot come again.
                                           (A.E. Housman)

Situation: The title is a simple Roman numeral suggesting that the poem belongs to a collection. Since this poem is not narrative, it contains no setting and no events occur, rather the 1st person speaker is reflecting on the past. 

Layout: The poem is read horizontally. The words are arranged into 2 stanzas of 4 lines each (regular quatrains). The lines are of 8 and 6 syllables alternately. Those of 8 syllables are aligned; those of 6 syllables are indented. All lines begin with a capital letter and there is no unusual capitalization, punctuation, parentheses, spacing or word division. The layout does not give prominence to words in isolation.

Sound pattern: The rhyme scheme is regular (a-b-a-b, c-d-c-d) and the rhymes are perfect. As regards the rhythm, all lines are iambic (unstressed - stressed): lines 1, 3, 5, 7 have 4 feet and therefore are iambic tetrameters; lines 2, 4, 6, 8 have 3 feet and therefore are iambic trimeters. Caesura and alliteration (z) are present in line 4. The second quatrain also contains alliteration: (l) in line 5; (h) and (w) in line 7; (c) in line 8.

Language: Simple, everyday language is used in short sentences. All lines are end-stopped except for1-2 and 7-8 which are linked with enjambment. Lines 3 and 4 are questions to which the second quatrain is the answer and anaphora is also present here (what). Line 1 contains a paradox: ‘air that kills’. The other meaning of ‘air’ (‘tune’, ‘melody’) may also be suggested. Sensory language is found in lines 2 (blows - touch), 3, 6 (blue, shining - sight)  and ‘blue remembered hills’ is very evocative, giving a melancholy tone to the poem.

Symbols, themes & motives: nature - hills, plain: hills are only ‘remembered’ and plain is a play on two meanings   of ‘plain’ (‘clear’ and ‘plateau’) / built by man - farms, spires, highways: farms allow people to live in contact with nature, spires suggest churches and highways are a means of communication between people / nations - far country, land of lost content: changes are so great that the speaker feels he is in a completely different nation.

Message: We all feel nostalgia for our childhood or the past in general when life was lived nearer to nature and religion with their therapeutic values and without neglecting the benefits of human communication. Perhaps we should enjoy to the full the pleasures of the moment because there is no permanence in our ever-changing world.

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