Do the lines of Derek Walcott's poem, "because we serve English, like a two-headed sentry / guarding its borders? No language is neutral;..." contain personification, internal rhyme, irony or...

Do the lines of Derek Walcott's poem, "because we serve English, like a two-headed sentry / guarding its borders? No language is neutral;..." contain personification, internal rhyme, irony or caesuras?

Derek Walcott in Midsummer (1984):

      "Have we changed sides ...
because we serve English, like two-headed sentry
guarding its borders? No language is neutral;
the green oak of English is a murmurous cathedral ..."

 

Asked on by rts-18

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pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

In my opinion, there is both personification and a caesura in these lines from Walcott's poem.

I think that there is a caesura in the lines you cite.  The caesura comes when there is the question mark after borders.  At this point, there is a break that is caused by the rhythm of speaking, not by the meter of the poem.

One might be tempted to argue there is personification here because in the poem English has borders and language does not have borders.  However, this is not personification because English is being compared to a country, not a person.

So I'd go with caesura.

wilco2012's profile pic

wilco2012 | (Level 1) Assistant Educator

Posted on

The second and third lines definitely contain caesuras (or caesurae, whichever you prefer). As the other responses have noted, a caesura is a pause in a line of poetry meant to create a sense of natural speech rather than emphasize poetic meter. In both of these cases we have a “medial” pause – a break in the middle of the line – and Wolcott is quite fond of this device. The first comes at the end of a grammatical clause (“because we serve English,”), while the second forms the end of a grammatical sentence (“guarding its borders?”).  Both are prime examples of a break in a line of poetry being caused by something other than poetic meter, and both draw attention to a particular image. In the first case, the caesura emphasizes the basic concern of the poem – the English language – while the second caesura emphasizes the idea of borders and boundaries, a theme that’s central to the poem as a whole.

Personification isn’t readily apparent in these particular lines, but is definitely present in the poem itself, as in earlier lines English is portrayed as different troops of marching soldiers (indicating the seeming opposition of different dialects). Irony and internal rhyme aren’t apparent, unless we really want to stretch the definition of both.

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kplhardison's profile pic

Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted on

Caesuras are breaks at the middle of poetic lines, which correspond with metric features of stressed and unstressed syllables. Caesuras may be strong and incorporate punctuation or they may be weak without punctuation. Caesura are said to follow normal breathing rhythms. Both of Walcott's lines have caesura, and both incorporate punctuation, so both are strong caesura. The first is after the comma in "serve English, like a." The second is after the question mark in "borders? No language."

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