Analysis Of The Cool Web, By Robert Graves

1641 words - 7 pages

The Cool WebChildren are dumb to say how hot the day is,How hot the scent is of the summer rose,How dreadful the black wastes of the evening sky,How dreadful the tall soldiers drumming by.But we have speech, to chill the angry day,And speech, to dull the rose's cruel scent.We spell away the overhanging night,We spell away the soldiers and the fright.There's a cool web of language winds us in,Retreat from too much joy or too much fearWe grow sea-green at last and coldly dieIn brininess and volubility.But if we let our tongues lose self-possession,Throwing off language and its watery claspBefore our death, instead of when death comes,Facing the wide glare of the children's day,Facing the rose, the dark sky and the drums,We shall go mad no doubt and die that way.QUESTIONSWhy is the title of the poem "The cool web"? Give a reason for your answer.The poem discusses an adult's predisposition to use linguistic dexterity to avoid the consequences of extreme emotion.The title combines two words, "cool" and "web", each of which evokes a strong impression, to create a third even more evocative image.There are many English expressions which use the word "cool" to convey repressing emotion. This usage is similar to using "calm": "cool down", "don't lose your cool", "go and cool off", "cool it!" and so on. Even the slang interpretation of "cool" in the sense of fashionable or sophisticated conjures up the idea of a relaxed and casual attitude. In the context of the poem, "cool" can be seen as synonymous with a lack of passion and an increase of self-control."Web" is used to convey the sense of being enveloped by a layer which inhibits freedom. Graves could have used "net" or "mesh", however those words lack the sinister connotation of the most common use of "web": that of a "spider's web". In this sense, there is an air of vulnerability and menace; the spider's prey has not chosen to be caught in the web, but is ensnared nevertheless.The combination of "cool" and "web" creates an image of forced composure. The "cool web" is a linguistic lobotomy which life imposes on humankind.What is the effect of the repetition of 'hot' and 'dreadful' in the first stanza?The first stanza creates a threatening atmosphere. The adjectives used are intense: the day is not warm, it is hot; the evening is not dark, but black; the soldiers are full of dread, not just alarming. (Although now used in the same way as frightening, "dreadful" really describes a greater level of terror.) This development of menace is further emphasised by the repetition of the "hot" and "dreadful". The point is driven home to the reader.If Graves had used synonyms - blistering for "hot" and frightening for "dreadful" - in the second instances of each, the meaning would be essentially unchanged. However, the sound and rhythm of the stanza would be significantly affected. The effect is also assisted by repeating not only "hot", but the assonance and alliteration of the phrase "how hot".The repetition and...

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