‘Hour’ By Carol Anne Duffy - Sample Essay
In ‘Hour’ Carol Anne Duffy depicts both ‘time’ and ‘love’ as enemies, waging a constant battle. She starts off by stating ‘love is time’s beggar’, implying love is helpless to time, which is a very negative, powerful message, foreshadowing the friction between the two sides of a ‘good’ and ‘evil’ war. She immediately uses a contrasting view in the next line, as she says ‘… But even a single hour… Makes love rich’. This suggests that even an hour, in love, is well spent.
The word ‘spent’ is in juxtaposition with the reference to the lines ‘bright as a dropped coin, makes love rich’ and ‘spend it not on flowers ‘. This line incorporates the significance of wealth, as even an hour spent in love, is precious. It also has a double role in the latter sentence; ‘we find an hour together, spend it not on flowers’ as this time, ‘spend’ is metaphorically used in the sense of spending time, for the time they do spend together may not be very often. ‘We find an hour together’ suggests that to ‘find’ something, has to endure and search for it.
This is where Duffy sends out mixed messages, as she plays an underlying sinister tone, with a different meaning to something that looks innocent. ‘We find an hour together’ could propose that the lovers are so busy; they rarely have time for one other. Conversely, the following line, she brings in romance, and aspect of natural beauty of the ‘whole of the summer sky’ and a ‘grass ditch’. The latter does have a slight dubious message to romance however. A ditch is a dingy and muddy area.
It also means to forsake something, ‘to ditch him/her’. Alternatively, Duffy could have meant another reason, for readers to uncover, the more physical act of love, and being in a secluded area does promise privacy and certainty. Throughout the poem, Duffy uses a myriad of poetic devices, including imagery. Even as far up as the second line; ‘bright as a dropped coin’. This phrase evokes a falling coin, glinting as it drops. Duffy cleverly infuses the poem with metaphors as well, for the falling coin phrase is also a good metaphor.
She also relates to themes in a relationship, for example, she could be relating the ‘bright’ dropping coin as referral to love, and how bright and vibrant it is, but also how the passion and zest can drop, like a coin. She may have written this in close reference to the word ‘ditch’ and how it has two meanings, the first being the lowered, dingy area which could illustrate the lack of gusto, or how the ditch promises privacy and the couple could be making love, which relates back to how active and full of relish the partners may be.
Duffy also refers to nature and ‘cuckoo spit’, as it’s more valuable than a jewel, simply because it’s presence is blessed by love. She does relate themes to one other very effectively, as she says ‘so nothing dark will end our shining hour’. This suggests that the relationship is so strong, nothing bad will overshadow them, nor will wicked tongues curse the ‘shining hour’, the very rare, finite time they have together. ‘Shining hour’ could be related back to the title, and how from ‘Hour’ and how very short it is, the relationship could have progressed to a ‘shining hour’.
She them praises her partner, by stating ‘no chandelier or spotlight see you better lit’. This has one of two meanings, the first being you don’t need riches or fame to look more beautiful that now, or that they are so important to her, they don’t need a chandelier or a spotlight to seem more present. This could be again, in close reference to ‘nothing dark will end our shining hour’. The person could mean so much to her, that as a chandelier, or a spotlight, they would distinguish the darkness in their relationship.
Using enjambment, in the penultimate paragraph, may imply the relationship will carry on, till the next stanza, in the poem of their life. Finally, she does explicitly show that ‘time hates love’, he ‘wants love poor’, which does she there is enmity and contrast between the two. Although love wants to stay and last, time wants to march on, but she shows how love can conquer evil, personified as time, for ‘love spins gold, gold, gold from straw’. This shows the power and magnitude of love, how it can do anything, even ‘spin gold from straw’.