Another essay submitted from one of our regulars. I’d marked this and annotated it in Word, so my notes may be a bit disorganised on this page: if you prefer you can download the Word file at the bottom of the page. I’ve made an overall comment at the end in red and comments throughout in red and within brackets.
- Q) Comment closely on the language and tone with which the writer presents the seasons in the following poem.
So forth issued the seasons of the year.
First, lusty Spring , all dight in leaves of flowers
That freshly budded and new blooms did bear,
In which a thousand birds had built their bowers
That sweetly sung to call forth paramours,
And in his hand a javelin did he bear,
And on his head, as fit for warlike stours,
A gilt-engraven morion he did wear,
That, as some did him love, others did him fear.
Then came the jolly Summer, being dight
In a thin silken cassock coloured green
That was unlinéd all, to be more light,
And on his head a garland well beseen
He wore, from which as he had chaféd been
The sweat did drop; and in his hand he bore
A bow and shafts, as he in forest green
Had hunted late the leopard or the boar
And now would bathe his limbs, with labour heated sore.
Then came Autumn all in yellow clad
As though he joyéd in his plenteous store,
Laden with fruits that made him laugh, full glad
That he had banished hunger, which to-fore
Had by the belly oft him pinchéd sore;
Upon his head a wreath, that was enrolled
With ears of corn of every sort, he bore,
And in his hand a sickle he did hold
To reap the ripened fruits the which the earth had yold.
Lastly came Winter clothéd all in the frieze,
Chattering his teeth for cold that did him chill,
Whilst on his hoary beard his breath did freeze;
And the dull drops that from his purpled bill,
As from a limbeck, did adown distil.
In his right hand a tippéd staff he held
With which his feeble steps he stayéd still,
For he was faint with cold and weak with eld
That scarce his looséd limbs he was able to wield.
A) Spensur (this would put me on edge as an examiner – spell the poet’s name correctly or else!) has used the life cycle of a man to personify the four seasons right from young adulthood to old age, and has done so by paying very particular attention to language and tone whilst describing these four seasons. The description of all these four seasons have a common element running through them that is the description of clothes, weapon, and activities of the man at each stage of his life symbolizing the four seasons. (I’d prefer if you were a bit more direct about what Spenser communicates about each season in your intro – e.g. Spenser’s language demonstrates his views of the spring representing the passion and romance of youth, the hard graft of summer showing our struggle to find our purpose in life, autumn as our chance to enjoy the fruits of our labour, but positions death as a miserable end to our existence.)
Each season has a distinct use of weapon or instrument associated with it, which the writer uses to present the season. In the first stanza which talks about spring, the man is shown carrying ‘in his hand a javelin’, when a javelin is thrown in air by a person, they cannot always precisely calculate how far it is going to land, (a bit wordy, but you are much more concise in the following sentence) this is symbolic of the stage of life summer represents, that is young adulthood. Young adulthood is full of zest and ‘lust’ to grow, a sharp vigor to succeed however often lacks the right direction to channel all this ‘lust’; (Good!) therefore a javelin very appropriately describes this season and stage of life, as the use of it does not always ensure certain results as one does not always know how far one will be able to throw it, just like all the aspirations one has at young age,and is not sure whether they will ever come true or not. (I find this a bit repetitive and wordy)
In the next stanza, which represents summer, the man has relatively grown up and carries,”a bow and shaft,as he in forest green”. The bow and shaft unlike the javelin represent a very calculated instrument which cannot be easily used by an amateur and requires some skill unlike the javelin which just has to be thrown in the air,it also represents a sense of purpose which in this case is to ‘hunt(ed) the leopard or the boar” unlike aimlessly throwing a javelin in the air,the use of a bow and shafts requires focus and a sense of direction.The use of the words “he in forest green” could imply the various horizons that open before a person at this young age with the sense of self assurity of being able to achieve anything coupled with focus the entire forest is at this young man’s disposal to hunt.Moreover it is ‘green’,which is a colour of fertility symbolizing his efforts as hunting will not be futile as the next stanza confirms. (I don’t follow this at all… green means he hasn’t been successful hunting? The change in weapon is all about the change from warrior, to skilled hunter – thus the purpose of our lives changes from passionate conflict to supporting a family through hunting)
The next stanza speaks about autumn, which enters carrying,”in his hand a sickle”. A sickle is heavy to hold but is smaller than a javelin and bow and shafts in size, it could show the depth the person has achieved over the years as he is matured and entered adulthood, (How does a sickle show depth?) reaping the fruits which are in ‘plenteous store’, its small size (only relatively. A sickle is usually pretty big) could indicate, the lack of aspirations and energy at this age and its weight could indicate the weight of everything the person has achieved as he is now ‘laden with fruits’,a sickle is swift and sharp,which is what adulthood does to one,as one matures and learns the expertise of the work he does,he now has to spend less time doing the same job,which required more efforts earlier and now that he is experienced he is swift and smooth. (analysis is good, but I think your understanding of the weapons is a bit off)
Lastly the readers see winter who “in his right hand (had) a tipped staff”,this line indicates old age which winter is often associated with it as it draws the end of the year which in this poem is symbolic of the man’s life. The staff cannot be used to attack another person or an animal, neither can it be used to hunt, its only purpose is to act as a supporting mechanism, this could indicate that towards old age ones only purpose in life is to survive, humans lose the quest and ‘lust’ for life, (superb!) they do not wish to hunt or grow, all they wish to do is “stay(ed) still”, that is stagnate, which is exactly what winter does, it stagnates life with heavy snowfalls and blizzards, making movement difficult and confining people to their homes, as if they were old,”cold and weak”. Thus Spenser uses the same tool that is the description of a weapon for each stage to deliver the message and purpose of a weapon. (The point you are making is fine, but it needed to be separated out into paragraphs as I have done and also try to be a bit more concise. Personally I think you should deal with each season alone so that you can explain how different elements of the language contribute to whatever Spenser is trying to say about that stage of life)
Another use of language by Spensur is the words used to describe the clothes the man who represents all these seasons wears at different stages of life, represented by each season. In the first stanza which describes spring, the man is described as wearing a “gilt-engraven morion”, this refers to a helmet. The use of helmet speaks a lot about this season (statement adds nothing). Morions which were metal helmets worn by soldiers in the 16th century, indicates the fighting spirit that one has during young adulthood, a soldier however is a part of an army and does not necessarily lead,this could indicate the lack of maturity as a leader has to be mature. (do you see how this point is interlinked with the one about the javelin? It’d be much better to combine them and your analysis) The helmet is a source of protection against attacks,this could act as a contrast to the previous ideas presented about young age,it could indicate that even though one has the lust, the energy and the want to conquer the world but still feels the need to protect itself and shies away from the dangers of the world as he has just “freshly budded”.
The second stanza which speaks of summer,the man is shown wearing “on his head a garland” .A garland which is a circular band of flower arrangement requires a certain sensibility and hard work to create, as the right kind of flowers need to be picked for which a person might have to travel around the “green forest”, which is exactly what a person does at this growing age, they travel and work hard; however wearing it, ”he had chafed been”, indicating the lessons one learns and the hardships have to be borne to make the ornament .
The following stanza that describes autumn, the man is described as wearing “upon his head a wreath”, a wreath is often associated with a crown and can thus be associated with royalty. The association with royalty indicates the luxuries one experiences when reaping the fruit of their hard work, and they have a “plenteous store laden with fruits”. Like a king the person no longer has to go hungry or work hard as he has “banished hunger”.
Lastly in the last stanza winter is “clothed all in frieze”,this paints a weak image of a man who needs to be comforted with heavy woolen fabric, it could indicate that the man now wished to be covered and no longer wishes to expose himself to the world and wants to hide away in the comforts of the wool, as he no longer wishes to march onto any more quests owing to the lack of energy. He needs to be protected. Thus the man who once hunted the leopard and the boar ends up being wrapped in a woolen fabric as he is “chattering his teeth for cold”.
The tone of the poem changes with each stanza as each season has a distinguished story to tell. The first stanza uses alliteration in the verse, ”that freshly budded and new blooms did bear”. The use of this alliteration paces up the rhythm of the poem, the fast rhythm contributes to the tone of the poem. It indicates the energy and the pace at which the man wants his life to move, even though he is just budding he wants to achieve everything possible in a very short span of time. It directs the reader’s attention towards the act of the flowers budding which symbolizes growth and hope for the future, which is exactly what the person experiences at the age that spring represents in the poem.
The second stanza establishes a relatively somber tone of the poem, particularly through the last words of the couple of verses such as ,”green”, ”beseen” and “been”. The use of these words right at the end of the verse elongates the verse towards the end and slows down the pace of the poem right towards the end of the verses making the reader slow down and contemplate, which is exactly the stark difference between the man represented by spring and summer. (I’m unconvinced. How do these words elongate the verse?) At the stage of life, that summer represents, man contemplates his actions before executing them as he uses a “bow and shafts”, which forces him to first set a goal and then shoot, consequently contemplate, thus the contemplative tone achieved by the aforementioned vehicle.
Therefore it is the use of very similar techniques used throughout the poem regarding language and tone, however it is their treatment which gives each stanza in this poem a distinct identity despite being a part of a poem as a whole. The same use of the description of clothes, weapons or ornaments and tone is used to crate convey starkly contrasting images. (okay, but as with your introduction it doesn’t really clearly state what you’ve established)
K – competence selecting relevant knowledge to address the question (Band 3)
U – sound understanding of the way language works (Band 3)
P – beginnings of a personal response, but often unclear or not fully backed (i.e. you might say ‘it could mean’ as opposed to ‘this indicates’ and I always think boldness of analysis pays off, don’t leave any aspect open to the examiner to interpret, tell him what you think it means) (Band 4)
C – clear and accurate, but simple structure and often repetitive. (Band 4)
14/25 – Okay, it is clear this was rushed and if you are going to bother typing it, it is always a good idea to do a spelling and grammar check there as it wasn’t in a nice state for me to mark. Your analysis and understanding of the poem is good, but is often let down by the structure of your answer and your rambling. If you’d approach each stanza directly you would have been able to combine points you were making to show how Spenser uses various pieces of imagery and language to build up his idea of the different stages of life and it would sound a lot more convincing and with much less repetition.
Another thing you should think about is your intro and conclusion. Basically you need to tell the examiner how you are going to answer the question/how you’ve answered the question. Your first paragraph (based on the content of your essay) should have read more like: Spenser’s language compares the different stages of our lives through depicting different tools and clothing to show how priorities and attitudes change with growing older. He positions spring as the passion of youth, summer as the graft of becoming an adult, middle age as a chance to enjoy the fruits of our labour and final positions winter as a miserable decline towards death.