‘One Flesh’ Elizabeth Jennings LO) To explore how Jennings uses structure and linguistic features to describe the autumn years of a relationship. Background • Elizabeth Jennings was a well-educated English woman who worked in publishing and as a librarian. • She was born in 1926 and died in 2002 • She devoted much of her poetry to spiritual and emotional topics of a personal nature. • She explored suffering, relationships, loneliness and religious faith. What is it about? • Read the poem once and then listen to the poem. One Flesh = Elizabeth Jennings • What do you think the poem is about? One Flesh Theme • In this poem, Elizabeth explores the nature of a marriage relationship in old age. It is very personal as she is dealing with her parents. • The title of the poem comes from the description in the bible of two people becoming one flesh in marriage. The word ‘one’ stands for their physical unity and the poet’s link to her parents as she observes and thinks about them. • Elizabeth Jennings ponders how her mother and father’s traditional marriage has ended in silence and physical separation: ‘silence between them’ Glossary Shows the gulf between the couple Not happy, wishing for the past Contrast between light and dark, Showing how different the couple Lying apart now, each in a separate bed, He with a book, keeping the light on late, She like a girl dreaming of childhood, All men elsewhere - it is as if they wait Some new event: the book he holds unread, Her eyes fixed on the shadows overhead. Heroic couplet (iambic pentameter + couplet) helps to reinforce their binding marriage – structure of this juxtaposes with lack of rhythm before, reinforcing their separateness. Neither of them are talking, he has the book “unread” not really interested. She stares at “the shadows overhead” . They are both not just sleeping in separate beds but living apart. There is nothing between them – no communication. Shows a loss of the passion of youth, it has faded from their lives. Flotsam – wreckage floating in the sea. Shows that this is all that is left after their passion as a younger couple Expresses powerful emotion previously felt Tossed up like flotsam /from a former passion, How cool they lie. They hardly ever touch, Or if they do, it is like a confession Of having little feeling - or too much. Chastity faces them, a destination For which their whole lives were a preparation. Religious words, show that they keep to their vows even if unhappy Chastity = not having sex (sexual abstinence) Their life before was “passionate” but that is now lost Repetition, suggests it is not how things should be. Simile, their connection is weak, not as strong as in a younger couple. Sibilance - repetition of the s sound - emphasises the silence in a house where the elderly inhabitants don’t converse anymore Silence between them like a thread to hold And not wind in. And time itself's a feather Touching them gently. Do they know they're old, These two who are my father and my mother Whose fire from which I came, has now grown cold? Conveys unusual in their distance & proximity; implies awkward relationship emphasised by comma Contrast The image of fire is contrasted to coldness. Thus, the poem compares love in youth to separateness in old age. Sibilance = ‘s’ or ‘sh’ sounds close together Metaphor, The gradual unnoticed effects of time are compared to the touch of a ‘feather’ Rhyme • The rhyme scheme in stanza 1 and 2 is ababaa • Gives the poem a steady, repetitive feel. There are 10 beats per line which make it sound monotonous like the couples marriage. • In stanza 3 it changes to ababab . • This is where the poet reveals the identity of herself and the old couple. Tone • The poem sounds depressing • The couple are unhappy • The poet sounds regretful that this is what has become of her parents. • Would you agree with this? Why/why not? The simile is effective because their relationship has become a wreck. They haven’t got much to hold on to. This simile is effective because it’s like they have done something wrong. Guilt over the flaws in their marriage (their lack of physical connection) This simile is effective because the ‘thread’ suggests that their marriage has become weak. ‘To hold’ suggests desperation to make it work. This metaphor is effective because ‘feather’ suggests it’s soft, fragile and delicate like their marriage. This metaphor is effective because it shows that they once had a really strong passionate marriage in which their child was born. Over to you • How do you think the parents would respond? • Do you think they would agree with how their daughter sees their lives. • Write down the parents response, using evidence from the text. • What is your personal response to the poem? • Remember you will need to write about this for every poem studied! Comparison • Which poem that we have studied so far would you compare One Flesh to? • Choose one other poem that we have studied and write down the similarities and differences between them.