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Comparing Poems 'England In 1819 And Douglass'

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Starved bodies, corrupt kings, roaring waves of prejudice. These are the times that Shelley and Dunbar lived in. Whereas Shelley has a more optimistic attitude, Dunbar holds a more downtrodden one which is reflected in the different enemies, tones, and endings of the two poems. While both poems are set in trying times, they differ in their antagonists. Shelley faces a tangible evil, a person, while Dunbar faces an intangible one, a social concept. Both “England in 1819” and “Douglass” start by describing both their oppressors and the hardships the respective authors must undergo while under the rule of the villain’s tyranny. For Shelley it is “an old, mad, blind, despised, and dying King” and his successors (Shelley 1). The negative connotations and…show more content…
Dunbar’s villain, on the other hand, is racism: “For thy strong arm to guide the shivering bark / the blast-defying power of thy form”. Douglass as the “strong arm” is guiding Dunbar, “the shivering bark” through the hardship that he has already gone through. One can extrapolate that the hardship is racism because of the historical context of Frederick Douglass. The contrasting adjectives of “strong” and “shivering” provides both a sense of protection from the strong arm and emphasizes the inexperience and terror of the shivering bark. Shelley faces a tangible evil, a person, while Dunbar faces an intangible one, a social concept. Thus, how they hurt the respective poets are wildly different. Even the difference in language reflects how different the two subjects are. Shelley enumerates the crimes of the monarchy, citing the “people starved and stabbed
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