failing like never before


AP English Literature

Because I know everyone loves reading my old high school essays, heres another one from my AP English Literature class. I received a nine (out of nine) on this 40-minute timed essay, and was the only student out of 60 to score so high (not that I mean to brag, I realize that my writing skills have grown worse afer high school).

Here's the prompt:

Read the following two poems very carefully, noting that both contain a depiction of a blacksmith. Then, in a well-organized essay, discuss how the relationship of the speaker to the blacksmith affects his attitude toward him. In your essay, you may wish to consider such things as diction, tone, figurative langauge, and style.

Felix Randal, by Gerald Manley Hopkins

Felix Randal, the farrier, O he is dead then? my duty all ended,
Who have watched this mould of man, big-boned and hardy-handsome
Pining, pining, till time when reason rambled in it and some
Fatal four disorders, fleshed there, all contended?

Sickness broke him. Impatient, he cursed at first but mended
Being anointed and all; though a heavenlier heart began some
Months earlier, since I had our sweet reprieve and ransom
Tendered to him. Ah well, God rest him all road ever he offended!
This seeing the sick endears them to us, us too it endears.
My tongue had taught thee comfort, touch had quenched thy tears,
Thy tears that touched my heart, child, Felix, poor Felix Randal!

How far from then forethought of, all thy more boisterous years,
When thou at the random grim forge, powerful amidst peers,
Didst fettle for the great gey drayhorse his bright and battering sandal! Didst fettle for the great gey drayhorse his bright and battering sandal!

The Forge, by Seamus Heaney

All I know is a door into the dark.
Outside, old axles and iron hoops rusting;
Inside, the hammered anvil's short pitched ring,
The unpredictable fantail of sparks
Or hiss when a new shoe toughens in water,
The anvil must be somewhere in the centre,
Horned as a unicorn, at one end square,
Set there immovable: an altar
Where he expends himself in shape and music.
Sometimes, leather-aproned, hairsin his nose,
He leans out on the jamb, recalls a clatter
Of hoofs where traffic is flashing in rows;
Then grunts and goes in, with a slam and flick
To beat real iron out, to work the bellows.

And now finally, my essay: (I've left in any and all spelling and grammer mistakes as I've typed this up.)

The poems "Felix Randal" and "The Forge" are written, respectively, from the perspective of a priest and from the perspective of a young child. The priest feels more towards the saving of Felix Randal's soul, and the child views the blacksmith with an air of deference and awe. Through the use of literary techniques such as diction, tone, and figurative language, the authors convey the aforementioned attitudes towards the blacksmiths.

"Felix Randal" begins with the rather disquieting phrase of "O, he is dead then?" THe author's use of tone, conveys the image that the speaker does not care very much for this dead man. Although toward the middle of the passage the priest's tone begins to take on a more sorrowful point of view, as he cries "... Feix, poor Felix Randal!" In life, the priest cried that Randal's soul might be save, but after death, the priest's duty is all ended.

Comparitevly, the young child in Seamus Heaney's "The Forge" views the smith with an almost religious awe, as can be determined by the tone of the poem. The very first line of the poem, "All I know is a door into the dark," has a rather mystical tone, and the diction used by Heaney later on in the passage, bring a nearly religous overtone to the poem. Words and phrases such as "horned as a unicorn," "altar," and "to beat real iron out." All these combine to give a tone fo worship, where the young boy sees the blacksmith as a Vulcan, a god and not merely a man.

Heaney's use of figurative language also show how the young boy's age affects his view of the blacksmith. The phrase "hairs in his nose" has a literal meaning that the speaker is so short that he must look up to the blacksmith. It also conveys the possibility, taken figuratively, that the boy is looking up to the blacksmith as a figure of great power. As mentioned before, the boy sees the blacksmith as the ancient Roman's saw Vulcan. Heaney also describes the oudside of the forge as having "old axles and iron hoops rusting," and the inside of the forge with an "unpredictable fantail of sparks." The rusting world outside is decrepit and old, a wasteland, whereas the forge is a place of brillant sparks where the iron is beaten out and made new.

Hopkins also uses figurative language in the priest's narrative, to show the attitudes the preist has towards Randal. At the final line, the priest says "didst fettle for the great grey drayhorse his bright and battering sandal." It is almost as though, in the process of mourning the death of Randal, the priest condemns him for creating his own death. The "grey drayhorse" being the horse of death that Randal shoed and which eventually caused Randall's death. Although the pries maintains sad feelings for Randal's death (as a priest it's of course his job) he does not love Randal wih any kind of passion, for even in death he still condemns the man.

In retrospect, this wasn't really all that great of an essay, but I still got a 9/9 on it. On the rubric, the grader highlighted the following:

...a keen, inferential understanding as to the way in which the speaker's relation to the blacksmith affects his attitude towards him in each poem, but by detailed reference to the texts show how the author's diction, tone, figurative language, and style effect these descriptions. Well-concieved, well-developed, and well-organized, these papers are marked by frequent and accurate references to the texts of both poems, by an admirable ability to synthesize thought, and by a mature control over the elements of composition.

Comments (2) Trackbacks (0)
  1. There is no way you could know that you received a 9/9.

  2. I wrote this essay as a practice essay in class, which is why I mentioned that I was the “only student out of 60 to get a 9/9”

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