Ancestors Words you should know ancestor ambiguous heritage predetermined apprehension tranquility identity uncertainty apocalyptic omniscience vision divine nocturnal disorientation discomfort Stanza 1 Who are these shadows The figures have a nightmarish quality which is developed through simple but strong visual imagery They ‘hang over you’ and stand ‘shoulder to shoulder’ which makes them threatening in number and intimidating in their stance No reference is made to women which also increases the veiled threat implied by the shadowy figures. One possible interpretation of this might be that male ancestors have had a greater impact on his cultural and social identity That hang over you in a dream- The bearded, faceless men Standing shoulder to shoulder? Stanza 1 Connotation- Nightmare vision. There is a distinct separation between the ‘you’ and the ‘shadows’ in the poem, emphasising that the persona is alone while the ancestors belong to each other Who are these shadows That hang over you in a dreamThe bearded, faceless men Standing shoulder to shoulder? Alliteration: emphasises that the ancestors belong together Rhetorical question: Highlights the persona’s confusion about his acnestors and his own identity. This, combined with the second person pronoun, draws the responder into the text and we are wondering with the persona Adjective: Connotations of fear, uncertainty, anxiety Second person pronoun: Draws the reader into the text Hyphen: The pause reflects the breaks in thought as he considers his uncertainties Oxymoron: Bearded- age, wisdom. Faceless- faces are obscured by the dark, lack of clarity Stanza 2 The darkness is given a sense of urgency as his sleep is broken by whispered secrets. Nothing is distinct or clear, developing an atmosphere of uneasiness. It is a scene we can identify with, those disturbing dreams and nightmares that can come to us all in the middle of the night Reference is made to the everopen eyes of these figures. We wonder what they are looking for and whether their appearance is a negative or positive omen. It also leads us to wonder if these visions are insightful or apocalyptic What secrets Do they whisper into the darkness- Why do their eyes Never close? Stanza 2 Connotations: Incomprehensibility, the ancestors whisper. Secrets also suggests a past, untold stories that the persona cannot access. What secrets Do they whisper into the darknessWhy do their eyes Never close? Recurring image of darkness: connotations of fear, anxiety but also suggests the persona is ‘kept in the dark’. Rhetorical question: reinforces the nightmarish vision. Image of an oracle (ancient Rome, woman, prophesy). Persona feels their omniscience (always present, always watching when he is sleeping). Stanza 3 The ring they form around the poet is both encircling and yet directional, their pointing fingers and footprints leading elsewhere to undetermined places. The term ‘ring’ generates a certain feeling of alarm, as if the sleeping figure is being entrapped by these figures from the past Directions are unclear, mirroring the unclear quality of dreams. It also raises the level of uncertainty and apprehension (anxieties/ fears) felt by the dreamer Where do they point to From the circle around youTo what star Do their footprints lead? Stanza 3 Symbolism: Suggests protective nature (positive) or that the persona is trapped (negative) Where do they point to From the circle around you- To what star Do their footprints lead? Symbolism: Suggestion of divine quality, a ghostly world that the persona is struggling to connect to Connotation: Suggests path, connection between past, present and future. Future, destiny, history and predetermined future. Stanza 4 Behind them are Mountains, the sound of a river, A moonlit plain Of grasses and sand. These nocturnal visitors are given by a natural backdrop, simply described as a mountain, river, plains, grasses and sand Simple, sensory imagery describes “the sound of river” and a “moonlit plain” giving some idea of place but not enough to get any exact location It is still a dreamlike landscape, ill-defined but strong and worrying Stanza 4 Prepositional phrase: The persona only sees from a distance. The place that is presented as behind the ancestors suggests that the ancestors have travelled from a place, reinforces the idea of history. Behind them are Mountains, the sound of a river, A moonlit plain Of grasses and sand. Contrasting imagery: Grasses (living) sand (dead) a contrast is created Enjambment: creates emphasis on mountain, emphasising the struggles that the ancestors have had to overcome. Natural imagery: beauty, tranquillity, situates the ancestors in a place and time, a homeland. This moves to a more heavenly image but ultimately the persona is unable to connect as this is a movement towards a spiritual connection that is beyond the personas understanding. Stanza 5 Why do they We wonder what these speechless, watchful and hovering figures ‘wait’ for and question their purpose Urgency is created by the use of hyphen which creates a pregnant pause in the middle of the question being asked. This involves the reader in the questioning process, challenging us to respond from a personal perspective It appears that these dead ancestors from the past are awaiting new members to join their host, adding strength/depth to the death theme earlier developed Never speak-how long Is their wait to be? Stanza 5 Rhetorical question: Involves the responder Why do they Never speak-how long Is their wait to be? Hyphen: Indicates waiting. The ancestors will not speak as it is up to the persona to overcome his fear of belonging to their world. Enjambment: places emphasis on never, suggesting the personas frustration with the recurrence of their images without allowing his insight into their world, purpose. Connotation: Connects to the idea of the secrets that ancestors hold. Here the ancestors never speak because there seems to be a barrier preventing the persona from connecting to them. The barrier is ambiguous, suggesting that it may be the persona's fear of belonging to the world of his family and cultural heritage. He wants their secrets without understanding their cultural world. Is it his attitude that prevents him from belonging to them? Stanza 6 The nightmare quality is not relieved by wakefulness which brings limited relief Why do you wake As their faces become clearerYour tongue dry As caked mud? Anxiety remains, for consciousness ironically makes their faces disappear just as they “become clearer.” They remain metaphorically out of reach The visual intensity of the simile “dry/As cakes mud” emphasises the negative impact of this ancestral visitation which neither soothes nor pleases the dreamer Stanza 6 Alliteration: emphasises the change as he wakes from his dream. Why do you wake As their faces become clearerYour tongue dry Visual imagery: Frustration of waking just as their faces start to become clear. This emphasises the struggle between the two worlds and that the persona is caught between the two. As caked mud? Sensory imagery: taste- physical effect of the dream, discomfort. Simile: heightens the responder’s awareness of his discomfort and anxiety about the world that his ghostly ancestors represent. Stanza 7 From across the plain Where sand and grasses never stir The wind tastes of blood This is the only stanza with three lines instead of four; this adds to the harsh images of un-stirring sand, grass and wind which “tastes of blood.” The inversion of typical senses is unexpected The reference to the taste of ‘blood’ refers again to the theme and adds to the reader’s sense of nightmarish disorientation (confusion), mirroring that felt by the disturbed sleeper Stanza 7 Prepositional phrase: Ambiguity of where this is. Contrasts of looking forward to stanza 4 where the place was behind the ancestors. Suggests connection between past and future. From across the plain Where sand and grasses never stir The wind tastes of blood Repetition of contrast (living vs dead)- perhaps his inability to be emotionally moved enough to commit to their world. Sensory imagery: taste, touch. The meaning of this is ambiguous. The wind could be carrying the blood that represents their hardships (bloodshed), blood lines (family). The wind could also be a means of time travel, between the past and present.