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Derek Mahon`s poem “After the Titanic” essay
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Derek Mahon`s poem “After the Titanic”. Custom Derek Mahon`s poem “After the Titanic” Essay Writing Service || Derek Mahon`s poem “After the Titanic” Essay samples, help



We were under a freezing impression from the cliff we saw – it was a high, intimidating creation of nature, a glacial castle, with an unscalable fortress. The snowy wall seemed a living being – calm and unkindly, it was ready to tear down its heavy icy blocks and bury us under the black waters of the Antarctic Ocean. I could barely feel its deadly breath, and it grew nearer with every second – the cliff`s carefulness and lethal tranquility still did not touch us, but I knew - the end was near. The author describes the glacial oceanic monster as a vivid creature, a silent executioner, to whom the passengers were “introduced even more intimately”. The cliff also “arranged” itself by the ship`s side and these words create tension, which makes the reader shiver and clearly imagine the hostily-biased and lively nature of the block. The author seems very frightened at the sight of approaching death and that is why he associates it with something alive.

The narrator of the novel is, presumably, a young person, because his parents are still alive. He also has a “Beloved”, which means that he is a young man in love. The Beloved, whose status is capitalized, indicates on that the narrator feels strongly for her. I guess the relator has a social status, because he is travelling on the ship, instead of working as a seaman, for example; as he himself states, his eye is “untutored” in relation to the ship control. The narrator appears to be a brave man that is, though, frightened with the situation in which he might die, nonetheless, can depict it with an imperturbable tranquility. As the narrator observes, he makes his narration “coldly rational”. The young man has a gentle nature, and can definitely describe the horrible experience that he has passed through. He even remembers the various colors of water overboard.

The writer makes the reader relive the dreadful moments of peril in the similitude of the ice cliff that threatens the lives of the ship`s passengers. Nature in the eyes of a man, found oneself trapped on the wooden ship, devoted to destruction, in the middle of the freezing Antarctic Ocean may seem a wild beast. In order to strengthen the feeling of the unbridled element, the writer uses personification. The water is implacable in its “disorganized fury”, and its waves “climb the ice cliff”. The ice, for instance, “was behaving preposterously”, and is given a demonic coloring in that it “leapt up monstrously from beneath the foam.” The ice is also endowed with a mental condition – delirium (“Now, the ice, as if to demonstrate its own delirium, was performing the impossible.”), and the Nature has “finally gone mad”.  

The tone of narration is alarmed and agitated. The writer even uses exclamatory sentences to convey his perplexity about the occurring (“I had no rational appreciation of what was happening, only the incomprehensible sight of it!”, “We were going backwards faster than we had ever gone forwards!”). The general atmosphere of the passage is gloomy (“It was a crisis of helplessness beyond seamanship.”) and desperate (“The last spasm of our ordeal came upon us.”).

The writer also uses metaphors to share his impression from the nature`s insanity (“I was a present panic.”), and similes, within successful examples of human helplessness against terrifying power, in order to show how much stronger are the forces of nature against human creations (“I heard the boat crack like a nut.”, “the yard fluttering […] like a feather”).



Derek Mahon`s poem “After the Titanic” tells a story about Bruce Ismay`s (the Titanic`s president) hard life after he has escaped death on his ship in a cowardly manner. However, the poet sympathizes with Ismay, because the latter is suppressed by depression and shame.

In the line “I sank as far that night as any Hero” the writer employs assonance that is evident in two ‘i’ and six ‘a’ sounds. Whereas the sound ‘a’ displays the intensity of the narrator`s emotion and despair, and the sound ‘i’ connects the latter to the night that ruined his life. In his poem, Mahon uses different literary devices, in order to convey his feelings and the presumable feelings of Ismay about this occurrence. For example, sound effects are not the least important in the poem. In the line “soul screams out in the starlight” the alliteration (‘s’ in “soul”, “screams”, “starlight”) intends to interrelate the nothingness of the universe with Ismay`s lonesome soul. Also, the shrill ‘ou’ makes assonance in the words “out” and “soul”. The repetition of ‘s’ sounds (sibilance) is apparent in line “the tide leaves broken toys and hatboxes silently”. Here is described the sea`s movement, and the ‘s’ sound is present five times.  Inasmuch as the sounding of the sea is imitated by the ‘s’ sound, the latter is likewise onomatopoeic.

The word “flowers” echoes with “showers”, forming a cross rhyme. Except for the conclusion, the poem has no pattern of recurrent rhyming. He poem`s verse is free. Everyday words and lingering lines constitute an easy feeling of the poem`s rhythm. The reader can feel a heartfelt cry of the poem, addressed to him. The absence of rhyming reinforces the ‘mourning’ of the poem. Every two lines of the poem is a separate unit.

The poetic images in the poem are both dramatic and painful. The writer applies a metaphor (“sank”) that stands for Ismay`s despair in the line “I sank as far that night as any hero”. Afterwards, the narrator tells: “I turned to ice to hear my costly / Life go thundering down in a pandemonium […]”. Three metaphors are used here. “Ice” means a cold sensation, connected with poverty that came to Ismay with the loss of his enormous ship. The ice can also be a word-play, since Titanic sank because of an iceberg. A life that went “thundering” symbolizes a vociferous foundering. The “pandemonium” stands for hell and chaos. “Shredded ragtime” means the manner in which the jazz band played on the ship as the latter went down. At the beginning of the line there is another metaphor - “I drown again […]”, where the writer does not mean death in consequence of drowning, but guilt and panic that overwhelm Ismal`s heart like water fill the lungs of a drowning man. In order to place an accent on the point, the author resorted to exaggeration. In the line “my poor soul screams out in the starlight” we can observe a metaphor in the words “soul screams”, because the human soul cannot scream, it is dumb. The line “heart breaks loose and rolls down like a stone” implies on Ismay`s feelings (traditional meaning for “heart”) that are heavy and cold (“like a stone”).

Different type of imagery is present in the poem: imagery of the sea (“the tide leaves broken toys and hatboxes”, “the dark water”) and of Titanic (“Boilers bursting”, “ragtime”, “Prams, pianos, sideboards, winches”). There is also imagery concerning pain and inner suffering of Ismal, such as: “Now I hide in a lonely house”, “heart breaks loose”, “I sank”, “I turned to ice to hear my costly life go thundering”. Weather images are also present: “nights of wind”, “The light of June”, “The shower of April, flowers of May”.

The tone of the poem also plays a significant role. It can be depressed and gloomy (“Now I hide in a lonely house”, “humbled me at the inquiry”), mocking and hilarious (“I sank as far that night as any hero”), imploring (“Include me in your lamentations”), guilty (“I drown again with all those faces I never understood”), desperate (“flowers of May mean nothing to me”).

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