Interpretation of the poem "Prologue" by Don Paterson

Term Paper, 2013

4 Pages, Grade: 1,3


The poem “Prologue” by Don Paterson was published in 1997 in his book “God’s Gift to Women”. Hence, the poem can be classified to the postmodernism, which “is characterized by the self-conscious use of earlier styles and conventions” (Oxford Dictionary, np). The theme of this collection’s opening poem is poetry itself and the importance of the lyric persona.

The poem can be roughly divided into an introduction (verse one to eight), a main part (verse nine to 18) and an end (verse 19 to 20). In the introduction the lyric persona rebukes the lyric thou in its behaviour. The main part is a foreshadowing of the upcoming poems of this collection. The poem ends with a demand for praying.

Throughout, the poem is written in couplets and consists of nine sentences that each end with a punctuation. These sentences are mostly structured as enjambments. Therefor not all couplets rhyme, but there is a tendency towards end-rhymes. These enjambments create a continuum in the poem. As a consequence the poem appears to be a speech. The enjambment also establishes a fast rhythm in the first four stanzas, when the lyric persona enumerates the rules of conduct.

Looking closely at the poem’s headline, the main aim of the poem becomes obvious. It is called ‘Prologue’ and functions as the very same thing. A prologue consists of “introductory words addressed to the audience by one of the characters […| or the author” (Nünning, 193). Instead of the author, the lyric persona addresses the lyric thou and sets the tone for the poems to come. The poem starts with a metaphor when the lyric persona, which appears as an I, states, “a poem is a little church” (v. 1). A church is a visible expression of God’s abiding presence. There, people gather to celebrate their faith, to worship their God and to feel his presence. Therefor a poem also connects people. Also, through the lyric persona the author’s abiding presence is expressed. Moreover the lyric persona refers to the lyric thou as its congregation. The lyric persona itself is the cantor and thus of a greater spiritual appearance than the lyric thou. This uniqueness is stressed by the following enumeration of the rules of conduct. The introductory part ends with an imperative and the demand to “raise the fucking tone” (verse 8). By swearing and writing in italics the lyric persona prepares the addressee for the upcoming part. It becomes clear that the lyric persona will not beautify the truth and that it could get unpleasant. In addition the italics function as a stress to the word and it also refer to the metre that changes from the fifths stanza on.

The lyric persona starts its actual speech that is reminiscent of a sermon. Again, a metaphor is used when the lyric persona announces, “from this holy place of heightened speech, we will join the berry-bus” (v 9-10). This heightened speech refers to the bible. Therefore the collection of poems written in “God’s Gift to Women” is of no lesser importance than the texts written in the bible. Moreover the phrase emphasizes that poetry is “a superior instance” (Culler, 69) of literature. In addition the stanza consists of one more metaphor, when the lyric persona announces that the lyric thou will take the “berry-bus in its approach” (v 10). That also relates to the following poems that are each “titled with a specific time and a specific geographic location corresponding to stops on the Scotland’s Dundee Newtyle railway” (Donnelly, np). The lyric persona states with the help of a metaphor that the addressee will be going on a journey inward the thoughts and fears of the lyric persona itself (see stanza six). In using irony in stanza six (“where language finds its least prestigious form”) the importance of an elevated language is emphasized. It is also a contradictory to the fifths stanza. Again, the imperative is used (“fear not”, v 13) to highlight the authority of the lyric persona.


Excerpt out of 4 pages


Interpretation of the poem "Prologue" by Don Paterson
University of Frankfurt (Main)
Introduction to Literary Studies
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ISBN (Book)
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Interpretation, Prologue, Paterson
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Jenny Ommeln (Author), 2013, Interpretation of the poem "Prologue" by Don Paterson, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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