Poems are an effective method of expression, instruction as well as passing cultural aspects across generations. This paper seeks to compare and contrast two popular poems: The Night House by Billy Collins and Reapers by Jean Toomer. Billy Collins is a renowned writer and author whose work is very relaxed and humorous. The author has a tendency of focusing on contemporary social topics. His achievements include several fellowships artistic foundations. He has also lectured on literature and art classes at Columbia University and other institutions. Conversely, Sara Constantakis is also a poet and author of the popular series “Poetry for Students”. Sara is an accomplished publisher with several establishments including Thrive Detroit Street Newspaper. After comparing and contrasting, this paper will conclude by placing the discussion in a larger context.
One of the quotations from the Constantakis’ article is “how have the machines affected the personalities of humanity?” The other quotation from Yarbrough’s article is “the human animal is made up out of component parts that work together, such as the body, heart, mind, and conscience” (Yarbrough 36)”. Both articles share the common theme of deliberate breakdown in the quality of humanity within the current generation.
In Toomer eye’s, one of life’s vital truths was the developed society had exploited humankind, rending useless people’s innate decency and communal sense. As industrialization encroached, the world gradually became disorganized (Yarbrough 35)”. In “Reapers” and the original Cane from which it originated, Toomer examines the relationship between humans and technology and, by extension, the dichotomy between the human and the inhuman qualities aspects of communities. Humans have the ability to experience many emotions and make moral decisions: a quality that is absent in machines. “Reapers” illustrates this truth by comparing two scenes alongside each other. In the first scene, men working the farms while in the other, a lawn mower. While the poem paints a picture of work being done by human beings, the narrator refers to tem as “reapers” This is because they are cutting vegetation with the intention of getting food.
In the second scene, machines fail to identify the pain of a dying rodent or stop working when it encounters bloodstains. It is indiscriminate in its path of destruction and lacks the capacity to care even if it was aware that this was unethical. Toomer assumed that people who injured others acted in this manner because they had relinquished their human features and embraced machines.
The poem “The Night House” by Billy Collins starts with an ordinary summary of most people’s routine lives: the way they attended work, go back home, and eventually sleep. He opted to say “the body works”, instead of merely proposing a statement such as “humans” or “people”, meaning that within most workers, their hearts and minds are detached from their actions (Yarbrough 35)”. There is also an instance of wordplay when Collins says “fields of the world”- he makes a contrast between working in actual fields with fields of diverse categories of work. This is evident when he writes, “Or swinging a sickle through the tall grass/ the grass of civics, the grass of money“(Yarbrough 36)”. Both poems talks about the ordinary person in the community.
In both poems, there is an element of work within the agricultural setting. In Collin’s poem, he discusses several aspects that can lead the audience to assume that he was referring to actual farm work. These include the quote “Every day the body works in the fields of the world/ or swinging a sickle through the tall grass” (Yarbrough 35). From this statement, it is clear that the poem was set in an agrarian background. Similarly, in “Reapers”, the narrator talks about “Black horses drive a mower through the weeds” and “Black reapers with the sound of steel on stones
Are sharpening scythes”. These two instances confirm the aforementioned suggestion that both poems were set in a rural context.
These two poems also share several similar themes. One such set of topics is and pessimism. In other words, both narrators focus on universally acknowledged bleak discussions that revolve around death and despair. The narrators in both poems put across a dark disposition and setting which offer imagery that practically takes the audience on a journey from death’s perspective. It would be easy to conclude that they were designed for readers to feel a sense of despair. In the poem “Reapers” Jean Toomer makes the deliberate use of the color black in identifying the reapers and horses. This has the effecting of setting a scary mood over the reader mainly because in most societies, black is associated with tragedy and evil. In the poem “The Night House”, Collins uses several styles to introduce a gloom feeling over his piece. His choice of title alludes to a haunted houses filled with evil spirits. Furthermore, in the body of the poem, he reinforces this dark image by inserting subtle reinforcing phrases. The lines “And roams from room to room in the dark/in her nightdress, straddling the ridge,” are sufficient evidence of this point.
Between the two poems, “Reapers” by Jean Toomer is clearly stronger and more satisfying because of the following reasons. One, its length is very appropriate for a quick read. Nine lines are short enough to pass the message and still have enough space to include gravity into the piece. “The Night House” fails in this assessment as it has approximately six verses and each verse having on average seven lines. It is difficult for individuals to remember all the emotions in the poem. In terms of the weight and choice of vocabulary, “Reapers” contains simple and emotive language. Furthermore, the author used the first-person speaker and this added an element of humanity into the piece. Conversely, “The Night House” contained an impersonal language and relatively complex vocabularies. Additionally, the poem gave the readers an option to detach themselves from the “body” and its consequent plight.
analysis into the two scholarly articles reveals a significant amount of information
on human nature as well as the role of poetry. Both articles captured the essence
of the poems that was essentially the behavior of human beings in the modern
society. It has been increasingly difficult to find a faction of the community
still embracing constructive behavior such as self-reflection, environmental
conservation and social responsibility. The authors of the poems managed to
bring this indifference through the gloomy picture. They also managed to reinforce
the role of poetry and other forms of artistic expression. Indeed, they can
also be used as excellent sounding boards for a person to vent their emotions
in a safe way.
Yarbrough, Scott D. “Poetic Allusions in Billy Collins’s The Night House.” Explicator 69.1 (2011): 35-37. Academic Search Complete. Web. 26 Sept. 2016.
Constantakis, Sara. “Overview: ‘Reapers’.” Poetry for Students. Ed. Vol. 43. Detroit: Gale, 2013. Literature Resource Center. Web. 26 Sept. 2016.