Saturday, February 2, 2008

"The Wind That Shakes the Barley" Poem

I couldn't remember which class this assignment was for, so I hope I posted to the correct blog. With that said, the subject of this post is the poem/song (ballad, more precisely) "The Wind That Shakes the Barley." We talked about this ballad in class a little bit but didn't get into it very much, so Professor Brewer said we could make a post and get a couple of extra points.

"The Wind That Shakes the Barley" is an Irish ballad about love in the midst of the fight for Irish independence. Every line seems to have a feminine ending, which represents the feminine beauty/grace/etc. of the girl in the poem, and of Ireland itself (like when people say "she" instead of a country's name). The poem is largely iambic, but each line has an extra syllable, making it feminine in form, and making it difficult to discern the number of feet in each line (seems to be 7 feet per line, but it is difficult to tell, as there is an extra syllable in each line). The poem is dark in tone, even when speaking about the girl (e.g., her tears, a bullet's piercing her heart, her clay-cold corpse, etc.). There is talk of "bold men united," which is a reference to the IRA, and it is the "foreign chains" that the IRA is trying to destroy; these references to military and war create the initial darkness of the poem, but it is when the girl dies that the poem plunges even further, right to the end of the ballad. Each of the five stanzas ends with a variation of the wind's shaking the barley. At the end of the first stanza, it says "the wind blew down the glen and shook the golden barley." The second stanza says "while soft winds shake the barley," the third says, "while soft winds shook the barley," the fourth says "while soft wind shook the barley," and the final stanza ends with "I hear the wind that shakes the barley." These slight variations seem to connote the changes that Ireland goes through with each step of the fight for independence, as well as the changes it hopes to go through in the future, the steps toward total independence. Finally, it just occurred to me that they also reference the slight change in meter at the end of each line (the extra syllable in each line).

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