“Starlings on George Square” Textual Analysis answers

“Starlings on George Square”
Textual Analysis answers
Edwin Morgan
Hello Duke of Edinburgh Chaps.
• I trust you have returned smelly, exhausted and happy.
And will blisters the size of coconuts. You will, of course,
be refreshed for your NAB on Friday. Hurray!
• I have put up the answers for the first stanza of the
poem. The rest of the class will be going over stanzas 2
and 3 in group work. There are model answers for word
choice, imagery, sentence structure, tone and
alliteration. Don’t be intimidated: these aren’t the only
answers and you won’t get everything I’ve put down.
Hope it helps.
Lines 1-23
• Tone – wonder, amazement, excitement.
• It’s evening as the sun is setting. “The
stonefields” are the high buildings round George
• The words “sundown” and “high stonefields”
suggest a Western film. The word “sundown” is
not a word we would normally say but might
hear in a Western and the High stonefields
suggest the high chaparral and thick, tangled
• Look at next slide. Not exactly like George
Square but still…
Lines 1-23
• “The darkening roofscape stirs –
thick- alive with starlings”
Just as the roofs of the building against the
skyline in George Square appear solid and dark
in the setting sun, so the mass of starlings
resting on the rooftops is so thick and packed
together that they seem to be part of the
building. When they move, it seems as if it is the
building that is moving .
Lines 1-23
• “like a shower of arrows they cross”
• Just as the hail of arrows we might see in a
Western moves swiftly and threatening, so the
starlings move together at great speed,
“threatening” the people in George Square, as if
the starlings are attacking. Moreover, arrows are
small and dark, which also reminds us of the
small, dark birds.
• This continues the Western imagery introduced
in Line 1.
“they bead the wire with jet”
• Just as jewels on a necklace are close together,
and there can be many of them, so the birds are
are regularly and closely spaced on the wires
above George Square. The idea of something
attractive and valuable is implied in the idea of a
piece of jewlery and the poet’s appreciation of
the birds is continued when he describes the
birds as “jet”. Just as “jet” is a shiny, black stone
of some value, so the poet thinks that the birds
are also beautiful and valuable.
“They nestle, preening by the lamps
and shine, sidling by the lamps
and sing, shining, they stir.”
• The words “nestle, preening and sidling” are all
very precise words which suggest the
movements of birds. The word “nestle” suggests
that the birds are very comfortable where they
are and are happily making a home there. It also
suggests they are content to be packed closely
together. The word “preen” suggests a bird
cleaning itself and perhaps showing off for the
citizens below. The word “sidling” suggests the
delicate, silent, careful, movement of the birds
on the wires above the square.
“They nestle, preening by the lamps
and shine, sidling by the lamps
and sing, shining, they stir.”
• Verbs are placed in a pattern beside the present
participle (-ing words; they can make us think of
movement that is happening now. Think about
Dulce “guttering, choking, drowning”.) Each line
is a verb, followed by a present participle. This
creates a pattern in the lines which reflects the
pattern of the birds movement as they fly
together above the Square. By focussing on the
movement of the birds, we are reminded of how
graceful and remarkable the movement of
starlings can be as they fly together.
• The repetition of “by the lamps” reminds
us of just how many birds there are, as we
are told twice that they are around the
lamps which surround the Square.
“Homeward hurrying crowds” line 11
”Wide eyed at the clamour on those cliffs” line 14
• “The alliteration of “homeward hurrying” seems
to draw the two words together, as the people on
George Square draw together against the
starlings. The people are coming together
against a common enemy.
• The alliteration of “clamour” and “cliffs” makes
the starlings sound like a single mass. The hard
“c” sound emphasises that the birds are being
described in terms of the noise they make at this
point, rather than the way they look. The word
“cliffs” takes us back to the stonefields that are
mentioned in the first line.