in English Language, Essay Technique, Writing Skills

Below, you’ll find a comparative essay of the poems from the AQA Power and Conflict Poetry collection, specifically the poems “London” + “Checking Out Me History”. This is a borderline L7/L8 A/A* Comparative Essay Example with teacher feedback at the end.


Thanks for reading! For all English Language and Literature courses, click here.


Compare the way poets present negative emotions in London by William Blake and another poem of your choice.

London by William Blake, is a poem criticising how the poor people are left to suffer. Whereas Checking out me History by John Agard, voices the lack of consideration given to aspects of history which are important to understanding British identity within minority communities. Both poems illustrate the negative emotion of anger and how the disenfranchised within society have very little power.

Blake uses a regular rhyme scheme of ABAB to create his poem. This simple rhyming is unbroken throughout the poem and echoes the relentless misery suffered in the city. Likewise, Agard also uses simple rhymes when describing British school topics and this is to make them seem familiar. However, when reciting elements of Caribbean history, Agard uses a mixture of regular and irregular rhymes, and short and long lines suggesting he is breaking the confining structure of the Education system. Both poets use the natural, pleasant feeling of rhyme to disturb the reader into recognising what ‘appears’ to be normal, is unfair on others, therefore highlighting the poem’s negative feelings.

Agard uses colloquial language to celebrate inclusion of identities. He repeats the phrase ‘Dem tell me…’ to provide the speaker with a cultural identity of someone who isn’t represented by the school Curriculum. The phonetic spelling of ‘Them’ leaves the reader without doubt that the speaker is of Caribbean descent. The imperative use of the word creates the negative feelings associated with school and how rules are enforced. On the other hand, Blake uses formal language in his poem to reach out to those in power to enact change “Every black’ning church appals” the verb ‘to appal’ is one likely used by the people in power to describe the behaviour of poor people, yet Blake uses it to criticise institutionalized religion. The adjective ‘black’ning’ illustrates a tarnished and corrupt church failing in their duty to support those in need. Blake’s formal language unites the reader in their plight whereas; Agard’s binary of ‘Dem’ aligns the reader with the speaker’s negative feelings by showing their perspective and not focusing on their hopeless condition. Both poems use language to present negative feelings, but Blake present a poor to be pitied and not the identity to be celebrated in the more empowered ‘Checking Out Me History.’

London by William Blake – Poem Analysis

Checking Out Me History – Summary and Analysis

Agard uses imagery of light to show a contrast to the negativity. Toussaint L’Ouverture, a hero from the Haitian revolution is described as a ‘beacon’ and Mary Seacole, a ‘healing star’ and ‘yellow sunrise’. These warm images suggest hope within the desperate situation of war and freedom fighting and emphasises the binary of ‘light and dark’ emphasising the ‘them and us’. In contrast, Blake focuses on bleak imagery to illustrate how everything is affected by the neglectful treatment of the poor and nothing pure or innocent remains. The metaphor ‘mind-forged manacles’ presents a hopeless situation comparing the poor’s entrapment to a life of poverty with the way others are trapped by their thoughts and attitudes. These manacles have not been forged in a literal blacksmith’s, but in the minds of people. Blake’s imagery unsettles the reader into improving the way they view the poor. On the other hand, Agard’s hopeful, light use of imagery illustrates that people can overthrow oppression.

Checking Out Me History is a contemporary poem published in 2007 whereas, William Blake’s London was written in 1794. Blake wrote two volumes of poetry which explored the state of the human soul. London comes from the ‘Songs of Experience’ collection which explored how society had been corrupted. Blake held radical political views for the time ‘Runs in blood down palace walls’ suggests a reference to the French Revolution where the people overturned the Monarchy. Blake’s negative feelings and anger reflect radical views held at the time. In contrast, John Agard is writing at a time when people have an amount of freedom, but are still restricted by people in power and denied access to fair representation. Agard references historical figures such as Mary Seacole ‘she travel far/ to the Crimean War’ to emphasise how far we’ve come on the road to equality, but shows anger that we are still not there by illustrating our lack of focus on these figures in Education by naming her white British counterpart ‘Florence Nightingale and she lamp’ who is regularly drawn to in reference to the Crimean War. Blake’s poem is secured within a specific historical period whereas Agard’s draws on history to suggest change in the present.

To conclude, both poets illustrate their anger within the poems and direct it at people in authority; those who hold power. Blake uses anger to shame his readers into changing their attitudes toward the poor and accepting responsibility. Agard uses negative feelings of power to align the reader with his perspective. Both want society to change and suggest their anger will not be dissipated until change happens for one and all.

EXAMINER FEEDBACK:

  • Clear intro with a good detailed point of comparison that shows awareness of context. 
  • The approach of comparing techniques is perhaps not entirely helpful, the structure of the essay would be better if the student started with comparing / contrasting ideas to do with the question, then using the techniques to back up their analysis. 
  • There’s a clear shape to the essay including a thesis, separate middle paragraphs and a conclusion. 
  • The AO2 analysis is very thorough and precise, often considering words and the effects of techniques in detail.

AO1 L4-L5 9/12 

  • Clear, explained response to the task and whole text. 
  • Effective use of references to support the explanation.
  • Needs a little restructuring to achieve a higher level – paragraphs should explore topics rather than techniques. 

AO2 L5-L6 11/12 

  • Examination of writer’s methods with subject terminology used effectively to support consideration of methods.
  • Examination of effects of writer’s methods to create meanings.

AO3 L5 5/6

  • Precise application of themes and context.
  • Thoughtful consideration of ideas/perspectives/contextual factors shown by examination of detailed links between context/text/task.
  • Could go into further precise detail to achieve even higher – sometimes the context points are underdeveloped and quickly skipped over, although they are precise and accurate.

25/30 83% Borderline L7-L8 grade


Thanks for reading! For all English Language and Literature courses, click here.

Write a Comment

Comment