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To A Snowflake- Francis Thompson

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I have to do a poetry seminar on To A Snowflake by Francis Thompson for school, but I'm not sure exactly what to do and I haven't managed to find any information on the poem itself, only the poet and a copy of the poem.

Seeming as the people who post in creative writing are aspiring writers, I thought maybe you may know a little about the poem, basically what I would like to know is about the choice of techniques/ structure/ rhyme scheme, as well as themes of the poem.

please pretty please help meeeee

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Man ! WHY didn't I have the Net for my homework !? }:(

From wikipedia :

Wikisource has original works written by or about:

Francis Thompson

Francis Thompson (December 18, 1859 - November 13, 1907) was anEnglish poet born in Preston, Lancashire. His father was a doctor who had converted to Roman Catholicism, following his brother Edward Healy Thompson, a friend of Cardinal Manning.

Thompson was educated at Ushaw College, near Durham, and then studied medicine at Owens College in Manchester. He took no real interest in his studies and never practised as a doctor, moving instead to London to try and become a writer. Here he was reduced to selling matches and newspapers for a living.

During this time he became addicted to opium, which he first took as a remedy for ill health. After he sent poetry to the magazine Merrie England, he was sought out by Wilfrid and Alice Meynell and rescued from the verge of starvation and self-destruction. Recognizing the value of his work the couple gave him a home and arranged for publication of his first book of Poems in 1893. The book attracted the attention of sympathetic critics in the St James's Gazette and other papers, and Coventry Patmore wrote a eulogistic notice in the Fortnightly Review of January 1894.

Subsequently Thompson lived as an invalid in Wales and at Storrington. He died of tuberculosis in London.

His most famous poem, "The Hound of Heaven" describes the pursuit of the human soul by God. He also wrote Sister Songs (1895), New Poems (1897), and a posthumously published essay, "Shelley" (1909). He also wrote a treatise On Health and Holiness dealing with the ascetic life, which was published in 1905.

He is sometimes mentioned as a possible Jack the Ripper suspect.


^ Jack the Ripper, eh ? Steel , are you poets all a bit 'off ' ? ;)

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To A Snowflake

WHAT heart could have thought you? --

Past our devisal

(O filigree petal!)

Fashioned so purely,

Fragilely, surely,

From what Paradisal

Imagineless metal,

Too costly for cost?

Who hammered you, wrought you,

From argentine vapor? --

"God was my shaper.

Passing surmisal,

He hammered, He wrought me,

From curled silver vapor,

To lust of His mind --

Thou could'st not have thought me!

So purely, so palely,

Tinily, surely,

Mightily, frailly,

Insculped and embossed,

With His hammer of wind,

And His graver of frost."

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That sucks!

Well ... after THAT succinct literary critique, I'm not sure my comments will mean squat! (I do not, however, recommend quoting Kevin in your report to your teacher.)

Ashley, because of its short nature, it would be difficult for me to supply answers to your questions about this poem without usurping your effort to analyze this piece for yourself, but I will try to be broad and you will have to rewrite for your report.

basically what I would like to know is about the choice of techniques/ structure/ rhyme scheme, as well as themes of the poem.

The technique refers the poem's format; Q and A. The first half is a question from the POV of the author (representing "everyperson") asking how the heck anyone can make something as delicate and precise as a snowflake. This is indicated by the three question marks. The second half of the poem is the answer, obstensibly from the POV of the manufactured snowflake as indicated by the quotation marks containing the method by which the flake came into being as it speaks to "everyperson."

The structure or style for this poem is called lyrical poetry. It has repetious rhythmn (patterns of syllables falling on about the same beat throughout - you can hear it when reading it aloud) and end-line rhyming, much as lyrics to a song. The opposite would be considered "freeverse," which is much less rhythmic in its construction, and with little or no rhyme.

The rhyme scheme refers to the pattern of rhymes at the end of or within each line. This scheme is indicated using letters to define the rhyme sound of a word and where it next appears in the poem using same letters to indicate same rhymes. The first 9 lines of this poem would be indicated by the following:

WHAT heart could have thought you? -- a

Past our devisal b

(O filigree petal!) c

Fashioned so purely, d

Fragilely, surely, d

From what Paradisal b

Imagineless metal, c

Too costly for cost? e

Who hammered you, wrought you, a

Just continue this format through to the end of the poem to indicate the rhyme scheme.

As for theme, it is very similar to the theme of another (and shorter) poem you should read as a comparative piece. It is titled "Tree" and is written by Joyce Kilmer (found through Google.) Your teacher might be very impressed with a comparative theme analysis.

Mankind has found a way to pound steel into the shape of a strong frame, add a gazillion other components and produce automobiles. But in all out knowledge and with all our strengths we cannot build a fragile, infinitely simple, but profoundly amazing snowflake. What other things might be likened to this snowflake in its complexity? What about the most wonderous device on earth? Questions .... and ... answers.

One of the hallmarks of good writing is that you be challenged in a thought-provoking way; and from that challenge, gain knowledge you did not have before reading the piece. Your teacher might be also impressed if you listed the words you had to research in order to understand their meaning to further define the theme of the piece. For example, "argentine" is not referring to a nation in South America as it appears here. What is the meaning of this word and how does it fit into this poem? Do you understand "filigree" or "graver?" Don't pass over words in poetry (or any written format) just because you don't understand them at that moment. Look up (there are easy and exhaustive online "dictionaries), learn and expand your vocabulary; not because you HAVE TO, but because you want to grow as a rounded person.

Hope this gets you thinking, not only about the themes within this poem, but the nature of poetry itself and the revelations that come through this craft, Ashley. If I can help you in any other way, just let me know.

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Wow, thanks so much S2V! :)

I'd already actually written my seminar, but I felt it wasn't as indepth as it could be. This is really helpful and I've got more ideas now so I'll be able to change it and make it better.

It has to be about 8 or 9 minutes, so this extra information should help me to boost the length.

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