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39 Steps Case

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Cole Fairchild

The poem "The Thirty Nine Steps" is one of a pair of poems in the poem Twin Bill by Peter Swanson. In examining this poem by itself I hope to understand in greater detail the author's use of language and style. In the poem "The Thirty Nine Steps" Swanson uses four stanzas The first two carrying the same poetic structure with four lines each followed by the last two stanzas both three lines each. The main idea of Swanson's poem is a life wasted and that of knowledge, through the use of intense comparisons and strong language Swanson will shows the reader how strongly this persona feels about these main themes and how he feels about himself.

Swanson wastes no time using strong language to let the reader know how strongly he feels about the waste of life and lack of knowledge. The first stanza in this poem is the absolute strongest in my opinion carrying two of the most direct and important lines. The first line in the poem "Most live lives of half-remembering" is straight forward and direct. Followed by line three "most fall asleep with less than everything" which carries the same form. These two lines alone show how strongly this persona feels about the value of life. The words half-remembering in line one automatically bring several thoughts about the meaning, upon first reading I believed that the people whom the persona was speaking of were only worth half-remembering, and in rereading it several times I found it to also mean that they themselves would only half-remember their lives and the knowledge they have gained from it. The phrase "less than everything" in line three is equally as strong. It gives the reader the idea of what the persona is striving for... everything, and less than that is not acceptable.

Stanza two follows the same style with direct passages and meaning. "But not me, What burns the brightest won't blaze away." This stanza to me almost carried arrogance about it. The language is strong and to the point. Allowing the reader to see how "animate" this persona is. He will remember what is "important" as well as be remembered as important. After this line in Stanza two, Swanson list some facts that I believe the persona felt were worth remembering. In an almost ironic humor these facts did not seem important at all. How far from one city in Canada to another, A list of female horses, and where devil's flax comes from. I believe this use of irony, is simply a metaphor for life is what you make it, and a show if individuality.

Stanza's three and four are shorter than the first two and use quite a different style. There is a greater use of imagery here. Comparing his mind to a sticky nest, and his knowledge to spiderlings. These two images do not bring a pleasant feel to the reader, and in speaking of the "spiderlings struggling to live"



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