IN 800 WORDS, COMPARE AND CONTRAST SIR THOMAS WYATT’S “WHO SO LIST TO HOUNTE” WITH GWEN HARWOODS “OYSTER COVE”
It is difficult – some say impossible – to decipher the difference between poetry and prose. In the following essay I have attempted to analyse then compare and contrast two pieces of writing. I will class them poetry. The first thing I do when analysing poetry or prose is to read through the piece several times then translate it into ‘my’ language. This can prove quite difficult, but even harder is my second step of attempting to derive the underlying subtext of the piece. While conducting this second step, I also attempt to analyse single words and relate their specific significance to the overall meaning. Thirdly – and I am only just starting to do this now- is take note of the type or form of the piece. This ties in with the different poetic devices and rhythms. I have attempted to employ these tactics when analysing and comparing the two contrasting poems, ‘Who so list to hounte’ by Sir Thomas Wyatt and ‘Oyster Cove’ by Gwen Harwood.
The immediate difference between ‘Who so list to hounte’ and ‘Oyster Cove’ I notice is the type of English. ‘Who so list to hounte’ is a difficult English, whereas ‘Oyster Cove’ is simple. This understanding conceded with the recognition that ‘Oyster Cove’ is modern, whereas the other is not. In ‘Who so list to hounte’ the word ‘hounte’ is an example, it is spelled differently to ‘hunt’ and if it weren’t for the notes in the poetry book, a person reading in the 21st century may not understand its meaning.
The basic understanding I decipher from ‘Oyster Cove’ is that it is about a deprived family of three – I gather Australian from the mention of opals – and live near the sea, hence the title; living in a harsh world that has been taken over, the mother is violently ill, possibly dying at the end. It’s when you read the footnotes, which are extremely helpful, you realise it is a poem almost certainly about an Indigenous Australian family, suffering due to the white colonisation.
The likeness to me between ‘Oyster Cove’ and ‘Who so list to hounte’ is the seemingly gloomy tone. When I read them both out loud, I read slow and sombre, as opposed to maybe half singing particular Shakespeare sonnets.
Incorporated in the language differences I found it difficult to conclude an initial meaning from ‘Who so list to hounte’ It seemed to be written by a man who used to hunt, but now is incapacitated inn a way and cannot, he seems to have become the hunted.
For ‘Oyster Cove’ I found it difficult to derive a subtext, it seemed Hartwood’s intention was presented clearly. When you understand what it’s about, you can see why she has used strong, simple words and a clear language. I interpret it as a story, possibly fictional or true, but making a point about the negative effects of white settlers. I also found it difficult to find a subtext in ‘Who so list to hounte’ the entire text could be appointed to many things in the man’s life that he does not have or cannot do anymore. I feel this is a huge difference between the two poems, this first having simple, modern language, the second an older more complex attitude.
In regards to poetic form I think that ‘Oyster Cove’ is written in Iambic Pentameter, but ‘Who so list to hounte’ not. I see that both poems have used metaphors. For example the first line of ‘Oyster Cove’ “Dreams drip to stone” A dream cannot actually ‘drip’ let alone to stone but you understand the meaning. I saw no particular similies. In ‘Who so list to hounte’ I think the entirety of the poem is a metaphor, but due to the difficult language, could not pick one in particular.
‘Who so list to hounte’ uses a Petrachan rhyme system for the first eight lines but then I was confused as to whether it stuck to that theory. ‘Oyster Cove’ definitely uses a Petrachan rhyme. Both poems contain fourteen lines, therefore indicating they are both classified as sonnets.
In ‘Oyster Cove’ I could not decipher any particular alliteration, but repetition is used, predominantly in the last sentence “There’s still blood to fall, but all the bloods spilt that could have made a child” The word ‘blood’ is used three times. In ‘Who so list to hounte’ there didn’t appear to be any repetition, but some alliteration. For example, in the first two lines, there are four words that start with the letter H.
The analysing and comparing of these two pieces could be much more extensive, but I have attempted to cover a basic ground. Fortunately, poetry, or any form of art expression for that matter, can be interpreted by different individuals, which helps some people extract their own meanings from the piece. As mentioned earlier, it can be difficult to define what is ‘poetry’ or a ‘good piece’ but I believe that decision is in the eye of the beholder.
Leonard, J. (5th Ed) 2003, Seven Centuries of Poetry in English, Oxford University Press South Melbourne Vic.