Englisch & Sport am Gymnasium ... und ein bisschen Tango

Carmens Liebe oder Klassische Lyrik im Leistungs-Kurs

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. 


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  1. Ich füh­le mich sehr geehrt und freue mich, dass es Leh­rer wie Dich gibt, die mehr sehen und geben als „nur“ den Unter­richts­stoff. Die Lie­be zur Spra­che und die­se zu ver­mit­teln ist Dir sehr gelungen!
    Ich wün­sche mir, dass Du noch vie­le wei­te­re Schü­ler inspi­rie­ren wirst und dan­ke Dir für vie­le unver­gess­li­che, wert­vol­le Stun­den, die mein Leben sehr berei­chert haben 🙂

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