Introduction (I) - Language, tone and structure

Language and tone in Introduction (I)

Valleys wild – This reference establishes the context as rural/rustic. This suggests the poem will be pastoral, evoking an idealised world of simplicity and innocence.

stain'd the water clear - Critics have argued over the implications of this:

  • Read at a literal level, it would merely refer to the colouring of the water to make ink
  • Some, however, have seen negative connotations in ‘stain'd'; the piper is destroying the clear purity of the water in making ink to write
  • They see this as the poet corrupting the purity of the poet's vision by the act of writing, i.e. that any attempt at poetic communication is a distortion of reality. The reader should therefore approach the poems with this awareness in mind.

The vocabulary is restricted and simple – ‘piping', ‘happy', ‘merry', ‘pleasant', ‘glee', ‘laughing', ‘joy'. This simplicity is heightened by repetition of a few words – ‘pipe', ‘piper', ‘piping', ‘chear', ‘happy'. This all suggests an experience of simple, unalloyed happiness. Nothing negative is allowed to darken the atmosphere. It establishes the voice of the poem as that of a child

Investigating language and tone

  • Explore the ways in which Blake suggests a child's way of speaking in the poem

Structure and versification

  • The metre is trochaic (stressed, unstressed) and ends with a stressed syllable. This gives it a positive-sounding tone
  • The pattern of repeated ‘So' and then ‘And' suggests the child-like simplicity of the piper:
    • The repetition of ‘So' suggests his obedience - he is asked to act, so he does so
    • The repetition of ‘and' in connecting sentences is characteristic of a young child's way of writing and emphasises the absence of any complexity
  • It enhances the impression that the voice of the poem as that of a child.

Investigating structure and versification

  • Write a short paragraph in which every sentence is joined with ‘and'
    • What effect has this produced?
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