Comparing poems: “Cousin Kate” and “Catrin”
Conflict is presented in the poems “Cousin Kate” and “Catrin”. In the poems the conflict is based on the relationships between families. However, in “Cousin Kate”, the conflict is also in the class divide of a powerful lord and a poor maiden who I s controlled and abused by the lord. “Catrin” focuses on the bond between a mother and daughter and the conflict that relationship brings. The imagery in “Cousin Kate” conveys how the love between the lord and the poor maiden was only temporary. “He wore me like a golden knot, He changed me like a glove”. The clothing imagery illustrates that the women meant hardly anything to the man.
She was just disposable, like an inanimate object. “A golden knot” portrays how the maiden was trapped in the relationship with the lord but it also refers to the temporary nature of their relationship. Knots can be easily untied.
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Contrastingly in “Catrin” the imagery is extended to demonstrate the permanence of the relationship between the mother and daughter. “Red rope of love” and “From the heart’s pool that old rope”. This metaphor implies the mental and physical bonds between the two people. Alliteration in “red rope” emphasises the sense of anger that love can sometimes cause.
The rope is a metaphorical tie between the mother and daughter which connects the two, despite their differences. Furthermore the “red rope” contrasts with the colour of the white room. This depicts how the passion of the relationship stands out in the “hot, white room” of the hospital that is mentioned earlier in the poem. Extended imagery helps to establish how the love between the mother and daughter is unconditional and constant despite any conflict, unlike the relationship between the maiden and the lord in “Cousin Kate” where the persona is just tossed aside when a prettier woman comes along.
At the end of the poem “Cousin Kate” alliteration is used to give a strong sense of protection. “Yet I’ve a gift you have not got… cling closer, closer yet”. In this quotation there is a sense of irony, although the persona was cast aside by the lord, she has his heir. The alliteration highlights her fear for her son as she tries to protect him as she is afraid to lose him. Moreover in “Catrin” the final metaphor of the poem illustrates how the mother is trying to protect her daughter. “As you ask may you skate in the dark, for one more hour. ” Gillian Clarke has chosen this metaphor
because it is a question a child is most likely to ask, and something a parent would most likely refuse. “Dark” may show how there is still a lot that the mother doesn’t know about the child. Furthermore darkness is often related to the unknown, this tells us that the mother doesn’t know what will happen in the future so she is scared for her child. It could also refer back to the darkness of the womb, supporting the cyclical structure which was created with the imagery of the “red rope”. The mother is trying to protect her daughter from bad things, like the things that happened to the persona in “Cousin Kate”.
In “Cousin Kate” dynamic verbs are used to show the emotional turmoil and agony that the persona goes through. “Moan…howl…. spit”. These animalistic verbs illustrate the predatorily nature of the lord as he hunts the women like a lion stalking it’s pray. Dynamic verbs make the reader feel more involved in the poem and create more of an atmosphere. This links to “Catrin” because Gillian Clarke also uses dynamic verbs, but to create a tone of war. “Fought…fighting…struggle”. This maximises the impact of the physical conflict between the mother and her child. The violence portrays the conflict between the mother and the child.
They “struggle” for independence from each other, especially the daughter. She is trying to become her own person but the mother doesn’t what the daughter to leave in to the unknown. The war imagery allows the reader to see the household as a battle field where the two opposing forces clash with each other repeatedly. Personal pronouns are used in both poems to involve the reader. “You” is used to place the reader in the position of “Cousin Kate” in Christina Rossetti’s poem. It gives the reader a personal connection to the poem and makes them feel as though they are a part of the story.
“You” is also the personal pronoun that is used in “Catrin”. This time the reader is put in the place of the child who again gives the reader a personal connection to the mother and the poem. The structures in the poems are very different. In “Cousin Kate” the six stanzas illustrate the drawn out pain and agony that comes with betrayal and heart break. It also conveys the shame of the suffering. Readers are taken on a journey through the difficult times the persona faces; they are taken through all the suffering that they have gone through.
However in “Catrin” there are only two stanzas, this separates the time difference in the poem. In the first stanza the mother is looking back through her memories and remembering the labour of her child. Whereas in the second stanza, the reader is brought to the present where the mother is arguing with her daughter. The changes in time shows their shifting fight for independence and the conflict this brings. The poet takes us through the ups and downs of a mother daughter relationship and how the connection doesn’t diminish over time.