Assignment 1: Caravan by Michael Longley
By Michelle Clancy
This poem is one of extraordinary visual effects. Longley seems to move through the poem as if he was wandering tentatively through a museum of art. His attention to detail is something of admiration and his use of enjambment has both an effective and intriguing impact on the poem in its entirety. Longley’s use of metaphorical engagement, symbolic imagery and colloquial yet intellectual language contribute to the accessibility of this poem. In ‘Caravan’, Longley depicts an old abode, which was once filled with life, energy and youth but was mistreated by the harsh realities of poverty and the unavoidable effects of wicked weather. This poem creates an atmosphere of restriction and confinement yet shows signs of compassion and love. Both of these themes are universally accessible and with the contribution of Longley’s distinctive techniques and tone, they enhance the possibility of interaction between the poet and the reader.
In the first stanza of the poem, Longley depicts a poverty-stricken domestic atmosphere where he describes the chimney as “rickety” and the stove as “diminutive”. This imagery reveals the lack of resources available and the severity of the deprivation. Despite the family’s misfortune the poet suggests a presence of unconditional love that pervaded through the hardship that was endured. “..the pots/ And pans adding up to love”. This line offers a glimpse of hope that there was a profound sense of happiness within that stemmed from the love between family members. The significance of the ‘children’ proposes that the caravan was once a place of youthfulness and energy. There is a sense of daily toil woven around love and these symbolic ideas are a bright contrast to the depths of darkness that are introduced in the following stanzas.
The sense of hardship and impoverishment that was exposed in the opening lines of the poem is continuously reiterated. Longley uses a...