Slessor Themes Essay

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One of the themes that dominate Slessors poem, Sleep, is the idea that the act of sleep is wholly overlooked as a beauteous daily act and the cleansing affect it has on the mind, body and soul. The first stanza is constructed as a rhetorical question asking the audience if they will give themselves wholly to the unconscious act of sleep. The answer “yes utterly” is italicised to show that a second voice is present. Whilst this second voice may seem unnecessary it conveys to the audience how one must be fully consensual in surrendering themselves to the hands of sleep. The use of alliteration, “blindly and bitterly”, assonance, “carry you and ferry you”, and the repetition of the word “you” throughout the poem enforces a hypnotic beat which symbolises the steady beat of the human heart as a person sleeps. The poem relies largely on extended metaphor to convey the idea of sleep as a pure and beautiful act. Throughout the poem many of the lines allude to pregnancy and childbirth through the imagery used, “…slumber there in that dumb chamber, beat with my bloods beat”. This extended metaphor of childbirth and new life which is often considered a beautiful and miraculous phenomenon emphasises the wondrous act of sleep. The use of emotive language, “dumb” and “blindly”, highlight to the audience the true vulnerability of a person who is asleep much like a newborn baby. The dissonance used in the last stanza, “riving and driving forth” help to convey the violent and negative imagery, “expulsion… remorseless… pangs and betrayal of harsh birth”, which emphasises how pure and perfect sleep is in comparison to the harsh realities one must face in their consciousness. The water imagery throughout the poem, “estuary… lave you”, suggests the cleansing effect of sleep on the mind body or soul. Water is commonly associated with cleanliness however it also alludes to holy water which
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