I have chosen to compare and contrast two poems that appealed to me the most. The two poems are ‘Night of the scorpion’ by Nissim Ezekiel and ‘Hurricane hits England’ by Grace Nicholas. Both poems are monologues meaning that the poets have written it about their own experience and they tell the story from their point of view. Both the poems portray events that occurred in the poet’s life which can be seen as terrible or horrifying. In ‘Night of the scorpion’ the poet’s mother is stung by a scorpion and is on the verge of life and death.
In ‘hurricane hit England’ a hurricane hits the poet’s new place of living but the hurricane brings her closer to her surroundings and her cultural roots. In both the poems religion and superstition plays an important part. In ‘Night of the scorpion’ prayers are chanted and a holy man performs ‘rites’ which a formal religious act and prayers for the person’s good health. In ‘hurricane hits England’ the poet refers to her West-African gods ‘Oya and Shango’ and a Carib Indian god ‘Hurracan’ to help her in the storm. The setting is different in both poems. In ‘night of the scorpion’ is set in a poor village where the poet lived.
In ‘hurricane hits England’ the poem is set in the poet’s new place of living. In ‘night of the scorpion’ there are two stanzas. The first stanza is a long, single block consisting of forty five lines unlike the second stanza which only consists of three lines. In the first stanza the poet is telling the story where as in the second stanza the poet’s mother is speaking. When the poet tells the story in the first stanza he tells us that he feels detached from the surroundings as his home is full with all types of people who are all doing different things and all he can do is observe. I watched the flame feeding on my mother, I watched the holy man perform his rites’. In this the mood is very sad and depressing. The image of the flame feeding on his mother is very painful and sorrowful for him.
When the poet’s mother speaks she makes the poet feel strongly bonded and connected with her. In ‘hurricane hits England’ there are seven stanzas with one line separating the fifth and sixth stanza. She does this as that single line expresses the poet’s feelings as she is asking a question that shows that she is confused and is in a dilemma of what to do, ‘ O why is my heart unchained? . Then in the sixth stanza she makes the decision to ride the storm and offers herself to Oya, the male West-African god of storm and weather.
Both poems are in free verse and create their rhythmic flow through use of repetition, similar sounding words and alliteration. The poets use this to build up atmosphere and interest like in’ hurricane hits England’ it says, ‘their crusted roots their cratered graves’. This phrase has a steady beat to it persuading the reader to go on. In both of the poems many poetry devices are used to create imagery well.
In ‘Night of the scorpion’ poetic devices like repetition, similes and alliteration are used. The poet uses repetition on lines 18 – 27, ‘may the sins… may your suffering…. may the sum… may ‘. ‘May’ is used to show the politeness of the peasants and also to show the kind language of the prayers. Repetition is used to show how many things are building up, ‘More candles, more lanterns, more neighbours, more insects’. The poet uses this to show that no matter how many things are building up; it is not making a difference to anyone.
The poet also uses a simile to show how many peasants there were and how much they cared about the poet’s mother, ‘the peasants came like swarms of flies’. This shows that there were a large number of them and they were coming in very fast as flies travel very quickly. This also shows their culture as it tells us that even though the poet’s mother is not closely connected with the peasants they are doing their best to revive her until the wound is healed. From this we can say that the bonding between all the people is like a family who re all trying to look after one member of the family who is on the verge of life and death.
I think the poet feels that the peasants are trying to prove that they love and care about the poet’s mother more than him. The poet uses onomatopoeia to emphasise the ways of his culture, ‘they clicked her tongues’. The peasants show their culture by clicking their tongues to capture the scorpion. ‘They buzzed the name of god’ this shows that the peasants repeat the name of god so many times that it sounds like a buzz. I think the poet doesn’t respect the peasants very much as the word ‘buzz’ is not a very respectable word.
If the poet respected them or liked them he would rephrase the sentence by saying ‘the peasants repeated the name of god as fast as… ‘. In ‘hurricane hits England’ the poetic devices that are used are repetition, alliteration, metaphors and personification, she also asks rhetorical questions. The poet uses a rhetorical question to ask the hurricane why it travels to new places and brings havoc and destruction with it, ‘What is meaning of old tongues reaping havoc in new places? ‘. ‘Old tongues’ are the voices of thunder and storm.
This question is forcing her to question her mind set about her cultural past and present. The poet uses an image of a howling ship to create horror and scary outlook to the hurricane, ‘ the howling ship of the wind’. The image is very powerful and frightening. This metaphor makes us imagine the hurricane as a haunted, frightening and a scary ship. This image is contrasted when the poet refers to the hurricane as her cousin, ‘my sweeping, back home cousin’. The poet uses a simile to emphasise how heavily trees are falling, ‘what is the meaning of the trees falling as heavy as whales’.
This shows that the trees were falling with so much force and anger that it sounded as if whales were falling. The poet uses personification to show that the hurricane is familiar and is closely bonded with the poet and moves from place to place, ‘my sweeping back home cousin’. The last three words show that the hurricane is known well by the poet and as if it has a close relationship wit her. The poet uses repetition to emphasise that she is following Oya, the male West African god of weather, ‘tropical Oya of weather, I am aligning… I am following… I am riding… .
The poet us this technique to show that wherever you travel the ways of the earth will be the same; ‘ that the earth is the earth is the earth’. In ‘night of the scorpion’ alliteration is used on line 12 where it says, ‘scorpion shadows’. This tells us that there are scorpion shadows but when read out load the words feel sinister and evil. The mood is very spooky and scary. The poet feels frightened as he is scared that if the scorpion looks so threatening will the poison kill his mother. He wants the reader to sympathise towards him and his state of mind.
In ‘hurricane hits England’ alliteration is used on lines24-25,’thir crusted roots, their cratered graves’. This shows us that the roots of her culture go very deep and the effect of alliteration is to create a good image of the roots, old and cracked, the graves, cracked, covered with ivy and faded out letters. In both of the poems there is a shift from past tense to present tense. This creates the effect that the poet is telling the story and also to show that even though the poems were set quite a long time ago, it shows the culture that has been carried on since then to today.
In ‘hurricane hits England’ all the lines are separate like at the end of each line there is a comma separating the lines, ‘ah sweet mystery, come to break the frozen lake in me,… ‘. Where as in ‘night of the scorpion’ there are sentences split into lines, the lines run into each other, ‘ I remember the night my mother was stung by a scorpion. Ten hours of steady rain… ‘. Even though both poems have a similar setting and a bad event taking place, both poems have different moods.
In ‘hurricane hits England’ the event that is taking [place is bad but the mood is both scary and powerful but at the same time sentimental. The poem tries to make us feel that no matter where you go on the earth it will have the same problems with weather or people as well as their own culture but will not force you to forget your own. In this case a hurricane can come anywhere on earth and you should be ready to meet it if it comes. The poet feels strongly about the subject as it allowed her to understand the issue of everywhere being the same which would help her in future if she moves somewhere again.
In ‘night of the scorpion’ the mood of the poem is tense yet happy as many people are trying to look after the poet’s mother. It’s nice to see the care of all the people towards her. The poet tries to make us feel sympathetic towards him as he feels detached from his surroundings. The poet feels strongly about the subject as his mother is on the verge of life and death. Both the poems have many poetic devices like onomatopoeia, alliteration, similes, metaphors and repetition. These are all used to emphasise particular points and to create good imagery of what’s happening.
Both poems have a sentimental tone and provide an excellent insight to the poets’ culture. I personally enjoyed ‘hurricane hits England’ more then ‘night of the scorpion’ as it is a much more powerful poem and allows you to imagine how the poet would have felt when the hurricane hit her new place of living. In ‘night of the scorpion’ there is physical pain where as in ‘hurricane hits England’ there is emotional pain. ‘night of the scorpion’ made me feel view a place by the king and caring minds of the people and the atmosphere not by the quality of housing or in terms of economy.