Comparison of The Old Cumberland Beggar and Holy Thursday Essay

1776 Words 8 Pages
Comparison of The Old Cumberland Beggar and Holy Thursday

Compare Wordsworth’s ‘The Old Cumberland Beggar. A Description’ (Romantic
Writings: An Anthology, pp.78-82) with Blake’s two ‘Holy Thursday poems (Romantic Writings: An Anthology, pp.17 and 32). How do the three poems differ in their treatment of the theme of poverty?

The title ‘The Old Cumberland Beggar’ (hereafter TOCB) immediately gives us the concept that the poem relates in some way to poverty.
The words ‘old’ and ‘beggar’, conjuring up an image of an old man wandering the streets. It is written in blank verse, creating an informal tone, as in storytelling. With 3 stanzas of differing lengths and no rhyme scheme, it comes across as a narrative rather than a
…show more content…
In contrast, the two
Holy Thursday poems relate to the poor children who are institutionalised or in workhouses, the title originating from the
‘religious service held on the first Thursday in May for children of the London charity schools’ (p.411- notes in Romantic Writings: An
Anthology). HTSI contains a sense of optimism, with statements such as ‘their innocent faces clean’ (L1), ‘these flowers of London town’
(L5) and ‘with radiance all their own’ (L6). HTSE on the other hand, represents the malevolence of the institutions, with ‘Babes reduced to misery’ (L3), ‘so many children poor’ (L7) and ‘It is eternal winter there’ (L12). They are in fact contradicting each other with their differing attitudes to poverty. HTSI painting a rosy picture, with
‘behind them sit the aged men, wise guardians of the poor’ (L11), giving the impression that these organised institutions are the best way to help the poor. On the other hand, HTSE is showing that the people who run these institutions, are doing it to satisfy themselves. The poet is questioning the use of charity, with ‘Babes reduced to misery/Fed with cold and usurous hand’ (L’s 3/4).

In contrast to these, TOCB uses metaphors of nature to depict a romanticised view of the old mans poverty, as if through rose tinted glasses. He gives a melancholic view of how the beggar gains food and money. His bag is ‘white with flour the dole of
Open Document