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Poem purpose

This topic overlaps somewhat with the poem’s topic and other sections, but should be dealt with individually. When you read a poem you must decide what the author’s ultimate purpose is (if there is one). Sometimes, for instance in an anti-war poem, the author may be passionately trying to influence a society’s general attitude towards the issue of war. Satirical poems, on the other hand, may just be the product of a writer who has had a jaded experience and puts to paper a sarcastic response.

Once you’ve worked out what you think the poet’s purpose is, you can analyse whether you think they’ve achieved their purpose with you the reader. On top of that, for older poems, you can look at the relevance of the poem in today’s society and whether the effectiveness of the message has been reduced because it is dated (old and not really relevant anymore). If you’re feeling really enthusiastic, you can even think about whether the poem works across different cultures - do you need to have a Western background to get all the references, or is it truly applicable to all people?

Many poems, such as fables, try to teach some general moral lesson to the reader. The Rime of the Ancient Mariner attempts to convey the sanctity of all life with these two wonderful stanzas near the end of the poem:

Farewell, farewell! But this I tell

To thee, thou Wedding-Guest!

He prayeth well, who loveth well

Both man and bird and beast


He prayeth best, who loveth best

All things both great and small;

For the dear God who loveth us,

He made and loveth all.

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