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Comparing Woodspurge and The Cockroach

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Compare the poems Woodspurge and The Cockroach

The Woodspurge is a poem written by Dante Gabriel Rossetti and is about a wild flower that catches the poet’s attention in a patch of open land where everything apart from the woodspurge is uniform, dull and non-inspiring. On the other hand, the Cockroach written by Kevin Halligan finds meaning in the movements of a cockroach in an enclosed room. While The Woodspurge is penned in depression, The Cockroach comes from deep reflection on human behavior. The structure and style of both poems are different with Dante’s poem appearing more structured in line and stanza, than The Cockroach. Both the poets use imagery, comparisons and personifications to bring clarity to what they wish to reveal/share in the poem.  

 

The setting in both poems is different. The setting in Woodspurge is an open wooded area. Due to the setting the poet finds himself exposed to the elements of nature like wind, trees, hills and weeds. These spur inspiration and introspection. The setting of The Cockroach, on the other hand, is an enclosed room. Hence the poet uses objects in that room to highlight the cockroach’s movements and explores how the objects act like props for the insect, instigating peculiar behaviour. Halligan’s reflection on human behavior through the movements of the insect comes from close observance.

 

The central theme of The Cockroach is metaphoric, about the change in human behavior during different stages of life and human responses to challenges encountered. Halligan uses the movements of the insect to display the manner in which humans react to different trials and ramifications of actions in life. The theme of the poem The Woodspurge is simplistic; a lesson learned in a phase of depression and from dampened spirit. Rossetti uses the presence of the woodspurge among the weeds to describe the subsequent introspection. The realization that Rossetti drives towards in the last stanza is that of the woodspurge being a beautiful herb, with a ‘cup of three’.

 

The Woodspurge flaunts a structured format. Rossetti’s structure is organized with four stanzas, with four lines each. Each stanza leads to the awareness and insight brought to light in the fourth stanza. The Cockroach is not as organized. Halligan’s poem is a sonnet that has a distinct octave and a sestet. The octave describes the movements of the cockroach while the sestet, as in any sonnet, unfolds the essence of the poem. The rhyme scheme in The Woodspurge is a, a, a, a; b, b, b, b; c, c, c, c; d, d, d, d. The rhyme scheme in The Cockroach is a, b, a, b, c, d, c, d, e, f, g, e, g, f.

 

In The Woodspurge there is a lot of personification used. “Shaken out dead from tree and hill” breathes life into the trees and hills with the human ability to shake out the wind. “My naked ears heard the day pass”. This line personifies day, with the capability of being heard as it progresses and passes by. In The Cockroach the poet has resorted to similes and rhetoric. “As if the victim of a mild attack” is an example of simile where the insect is compared to a human being having a heart attack (on the physical) or reacting with convulsions to some inner turmoil. “Was this due payment of some vicious crime A former life had led to?” This rhetoric addresses human nature to look for explanations and connect inexplicable events with past actions to comprehend and accept present circumstances. Both poems have a philosophical and metaphoric approach. The object used by Rossetti in The Woodspurge is a wild flower. The object used by Halligan in The Cockroach is an insect. While Halligan finds the answers to his questions on life within himself, Rossetti finds answers to his questions in the surrounding.

 

For practice: Compare Where I Come From and Summer Farm.