Fifty years a letter unanswered - Sample Essay
This use of sound to continue the theme reinforces that idea and so it is important to an understanding of the poem that this are of the theme is perceived. Ironically, these pauses go unnoticed if the poems are read in silence. This once again suggests the importance of the oral tradition to Bunting. Bunting’s poem contains a great deal of assonance. This is a type of rhyme that the reader is unaware of unless the poem is read aloud: Seeking charred hearths (71) This technique is one that was used in the ballads and songs of the North. The area where Bunting grew up.
The results of this technique are similar to those of alliteration in that it draws attention to certain words within the sentence. It also gives an overall symmetry and rhyme to sentences that do not rhyme. The fact that Bunting integrated this oral tradition into his own work shows that tradition was important to him. However, Bunting adds his own musical qualities to the poem as well as the traditional techniques. I have already explored his use of pauses and the theme of silence but he also uses clashing lines alongside harmonised ones:
My quilt a litter of husks, I prosper Lying low, little concerned. My eyes sharpen When I blink. (73) These lines alert the reader, when read aloud, and draw attention to the rhythm that is momentarily interrupted. Yet, paradoxically these clashes continue the rhythm and harmony much like a minor note added to a major key piece. I believe that while this is not in following with oral traditions it is a contemporary extension of that tradition and will go unnoticed should the poem be read in silence.
Bunting’s poetry is full of references to music. He writes ‘descant on Rawthey’s madrigal (61), ‘writhe to its measure! (74), ‘great strings next the post of the harp'(80) and ‘a strong song tows'(81). The fact that Bunting’s poetry is not only musical but music is a major theme in it reinforces the necessity for oral recitation. One would not buy a score of music and sit down to read it. It is to be played and so Bunting said ‘poetry, like music, is to be heard'(handout). So, does Bunting’s poetry benefit from being read aloud?
I believe that it does. The rhyme schemes that he uses and the important pauses in the reading would go unnoticed in a silent reading. Reading the poem aloud gives it symmetry when a silent reading would leave one with a feeling of broken images similar to that of Eliot. All this shows that Bunting believed the oral tradition of poetry to be highly important to contemporary poets. He clearly uses old traditions as well as integrating new techniques to compose a forceful and provoking poem.
However, there is much in the words of the poem too. The themes of silence, music and Bloodaxe are all mentioned which would suggest that there is also an importance in the words. I find that, when reading aloud, I am far more focussed on sound than on meanings and so I believe that the best way to read this poetry is twice; aloud and then again silently. This shows a break from tradition where there was no need to read the poem silently but it was understood perfectly aloud.
I therefore believe, that while the past oral traditions of England and particularly North England were important to Bunting, he also found the traditions of poets like Pound and Eliot, who did not rely on out loud recitations, important too. As Bunting said ‘a man who is not influenced by Pound … is simply not living in his own century’ (Bunting 1978: 4-5). His poetry is an amalgamation of the old and the new and I can therefore conclude that contemporary poets were interested in oral traditions but did not rely upon them entirely.