Das folgende Gedicht stammt von Carmen Baumgart, einer früheren LK-Schülerin von mir. Es entstand im Rahmen einer Unterrichtseinheit Lyrik, in deren Verlauf die wichtigsten Stilmittel besprochen und anhand von Beispielen (u.a. Shakespeare’s Sonetten) geübt worden waren. Die Hausaufgabe lautete: „Write an old-fashioned love letter with a lot of similes and metaphors.“ Obwohl eigentlich nur ein Prosatext verlangt war, versuchte sich Carmen an einem „klassischen“ Liebesgedicht. Als Zeichen der Anerkennung habe ich ihr Gedicht in Hinblick auf die Funktionalisierung der Stilmittel in einem Beitrag für die Schülerzeitung analysiert.
You are my force, my colourful fire
You give me the warmth that I need
And the glow you cause, leads to desire
And I’m ablaze with heat.
You are my strength, my solid earth
You give me the ground to stand
A fertile soil, a sod that gives birth
To our love that will never end.
Even an unexperienced reader quickly becomes aware that this poem has got a certain “musical” quality. The fact that it simply sounds “good” is caused by quite a number of stylistic devices that all have to do with sound.
One well-known technique of relating certain words with the help of sound is alliteration. Already in the first line ‘force’ and ‘fire’ (together with ‘colourful’) are thus linked acoustically. This link emphasizes the fact that fire is regarded by the speaker as a positive force, i.e. something that helps us to live and survive e.g. by keeping us warm or enabling us to cook food. Fire in this context therefore doesn’t have the common, negative connotations of ‘burning’, ‘destroying’ and ‘killing’.
The technique of linking related words acoustically becomes even more obvious in the second stanza, which is dominated by the ‘s’-sound in ‘strength’, ‘solid’, ‘stand’, ‘soil’ and ‘sod’. An even closer relationship exists between ‘strength’ and ‘stand’ (it takes strength to stand) and ‘solid’ and ‘sod’ (‘solid’ is here a kind of synonym for ‘strong’, i.e. a piece of earth/ground gives ‘strength’ and makes it possible to ‘stand’).
Another acoustic link is established by the identical vowel sound in ‘fertile’ and ‘birth’. This assonance emphasizes the close relation between those two words, i.e. a ‘fertile’ soil is one that ‘gives birth’ to a lot of grain like e.g. wheat.
Whereas assonance refers to the repetition of vowel sounds within words, consonance means the repetition of consonant sounds especially at the end of words. In the second stanza ‘strength’, ‘earth’ and ‘birth’ are thus linked with each other (also ‘warmth’ in the first stanza belongs to those words). Again this connection makes perfect sense because all three (or four) words describe what the addressee means for the speaker.
A last device that is based on sound is rhyme. In the first stanza ‘fire’ and ‘desire’, in the second ‘earth’ and ‘birth’ are thus related. Desire is often described as the “fire in the heart” (= ”my heart is burning”); the acoustic similarity of ‘earth’ and ‘birth’ evokes the image of “Mother Earth” (or “Mother Nature”), i.e. that the earth is a mother that gives birth to children (= people) and cares for them e.g. by providing food and shelter.
Considering the metaphors of the two stanzas one quickly realizes that the images are tightly interwoven. In the first stanza there are ‘fire’, ‘warmth’, ‘glow’, ‘ablaze’ and ‘heat’, which are arranged in a climactic order. ‘Fire’ is, so to speak, the origin; the words become step by step ”hotter”, the imagery and thus the speaker’s emotion becomes constantly more intense. This development of images is beautifully balanced by ‘earth’, ‘ground’, ‘soil’ and ‘sod’ in the second stanza. Here the rather vague and general word ‘earth’ develops to something very concrete, namely a ‘sod’.
Another feature that adds to the ”musical” qualities of the poem is its rythm. In poetry rythm is mainly established with the help of metre, i.e. a regular pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables. In the following a stressed syllable is represented by the symbol ‘x’, an unstressed syllable by ‘-’:
1) – - x, – x – - x
– x – - x – - x
– x – x, x – ‑x
– x – - x – x
2) – - x, – x – x
– x – - x – x
– x – x, – x – - x
– - x – - x – x
As can be seen from the above analysis the first and third line of each stanza has four stressed syllables, whereas the second and fourth line each have only three. Anapestic feet (- – x) skilfully vary with iambic feet (- x). The result is one of the most difficult things in poetry: a fixed pattern which nevertheless doesn’t become monotonous.
The cohesion that is established by the metre is also reflected on the syntactical level. The first two lines of each stanza begin with exactly the same words namely ”You are my …” and ”You give me the …”. This specific case of a parallel structure is called anaphora. Other parallelisms are the third and fourth line of the first stanza (”And …” – ”And …”) and the third line of the second stanza.
As soon as one remembers that ‘Petros’ in Greek means ‘rock’ (= solid earth) and that Jesus said to Petrus ”You are the rock I can build (my church) on”, one becomes aware of the corresponding allusion at the beginning of the second stanza. By alluding to the Bible the speaker’s love is ”lifted” into some kind of religious or spiritual dimension. As this is the final stanza of the poem this device thus underscores the speaker’s strong feelings of love.
The whole poem originally consists of four stanzas, each of which is dedicated to one of the four elements. This first stanza deals with air, the second with water, the third with fire and the fourth with earth. This arrangement again gives the whole poem a definite cohesion, at the same time it achieves an aesthetic effect with the help of chiasmus because the first and the fourth and the two ”middle” stanzas correspond with each other.
All in all this poem beautifully proves how — in good poetry — contents (i.e. what is said) and form (i.e. how is it said) are closely interrelated, or, in other words, that form apart from its purely aesthetic function (i.e. to give pleasure) has got a definite function and helps to make those eight lines a genuine little work of art.
PS. Vom Klang her ist der Titel eine symmetrisch angeordnete Mischung aus parallelism und chiasmus: KL oder KL im LK.