Tag Archives: poetry

Scary Revision Time 2019 (Don Paterson and Great Expectations)

Hello darling Higher students. It’s that time of year again, where you all start panicking and stressing out. Fear not, the revision materials are here to help you remain calm and make sure all those lovely quotes and pieces of analysis are secure in your head.

First up, RUAE. You will find past papers on the SQA website. Go check it out now!

Secondly you need to know your quotes for the Critical Reading paper:
revision quotes

Thirdly, some practice questions focused on your Critical Reading:
Don Paterson Practice Questions
Higher essay questions

And lastly, here’s some sample essays for you to think about:
Estella complex character

GE important incident Havisham and Estella

Havisham attitude

Havisham mental health theme

havisham side-by-side

Pip mixed feelings

Pip moral significance

Pip side by side

Waking with Russell notes

  1. In your own words, summarise the ‘difference’ that Russell is making to the poet’s life.
    The difference Russell makes to his father’s life is to give a new purpose and sense of direction. Before Russell was born the speaker felt he was simply drifting through life, but now he has a child to raise and look after.

  2. How does the poet’s use of language create a contrast between Russell’s smile and the poet’s own ‘grin’?
    Language is used to create a contrast between the child’s smile and the speakers ‘grin’ – the former is a true smile whereas the latters is forced. Paterson’s old smile is made to sound false and difficult. He calls it ‘hard-pressed’ suggesting he was once intensely cynical and had become world-weary. He was often just going through the motions of appearing happy. On the other hand, Russell’s smile is one filled with genuine joy. It is described as something that ‘dawned on him’ suggesting it was something that got bigger and wider the longer it went on. There is also this idea that it completely takes over Russell as we are told his grin “possessed him”. It is an unbreakable smile, with nothing unable to break it – “it would not fall or waver”. Russell has not encountered anything to make him unhappy yet.

  3. The poem can be split into a sestet and an octave. Who is addressed by the poet in each section?
    The sestet comes first in the poem and is addressed to an unknown listener. The octave which forms the final 8 lines of the poem is addressed directly to Russell.

  4. Look at lines 8–9. Show how the poem’s language and/or ideas create a contrast between the poet’s life journey and the arrival of Russell.
    In lines 8-9 Paterson is using an allusion to the path of life from Dante’s Inferno to get across the idea that his life now has meaning. In line 8 he talks about the “true path” being lost to him, which means that he felt his life had no definition or point to it. He was lost in some way,

  5. Considering the poem as a whole, how does the poet’s use of language help the reader understand the impact the birth of Russell has had on his life?
    The poet’s use of language is revelatory. Everything about Russell has changed the poet’s perception of life. This revelation hits the day he wakes up next to Russell – “it all began” showing us that this is the beginning of something new for Paterson. He talks about finding “the true path” suggesting that now he knows the purpose of his life whereas before he was simply going through the motions of living.

  6. Explain how the simile ‘like a river’ is extended in the language of lines 10–14. Evaluate the effectiveness of this image in conveying the point the poet is making.
    This image is very effective in conveying the point that Russell is a huge natural force that has taken over his life. First of all Paterson mimics the noise of a river by having lots of ‘r’ sounds in these lines. This creates an impression of the rushing noise of a river. Paterson also talks about the smile being “poured”. The word choice here is again suggestive of a great force which is unstoppable, just like a river.

  7. The sonnet form is typically used for love poetry. In what ways is this a love poem? How does the poet’s language show this?
    The sonnet is a love poem to Paterson’s son. A lot of the word choice mirrors the style and word choice typically found in love sonnets. The poem starts off with the two characters in the poem facing each other in a bed. Which Paterson states is “like lovers”. In the middle of the poem we have a direct address to Russell, which shows Paterson proclaiming this poem is dedicated to his child – “Dear son”. Nearer the end of the poem he begins to make a wide sweeping statement, showing us that his son has forced him to think about the wider implications of love – “How fine, I thought, this waking amongst men!” Here we can read that Paterson has realised that Russell has switched him on and that his life has been given purpose whereas before he felt he was simply drifting. It also ends with a promise of love – “I kissed your mouth and pledged myself forever”, here Paterson is showing that he will always be there for his son.

  8. How does the poet use images connected to light to create a sense of the importance of the baby in the poet’s life?
    The first light imagery is in the first few lines when he talks about Russell’s smile “dawning” on him. This suggests that the smile will grow and brings light and therefore happiness with it. There is also an idea of light connected with Russell when he interrupts his father on the path of life, and acts as a guide to his father, showing him what the meaning of his life now is. We are told in very simple terms that Russell “lit it as you ran”. Really Paterson should be guiding Russell as his father, but here it is the other way round as Russell shows his father the true meaning of life.

11.00 Baldovan Notes

  1. Explain how appropriate you find the title to the poem’s central concerns.
    The poems title is very appropriate to the central concerns of the poem – them being time and place. The title speaks of the time they will get the bus 11:00. There could also be another reference here to time – the eleventh hour as at the end of the poem the world has become very apocalyptic with everyone dying. The poem also focuses on a journey, with the destination quite clearly being marked out as Baldovan.

  2. Identify and explain how the language of lines 1–4 conveys a sense of adventure about the two boys’ bus journey.
    The sense of adventure is introduced in lines 1 with the phrase “base Camp” to describe the bus stance. It suggests that this is where they are starting out from and where they will return to after a voyage, like they are scaling Everest or going on an expedition. This idea is further created with the “steel flag” in line two. This suggests they have somehow conquered this land and are claiming it as their own before they go out exploring

  3. Comment on the effect of the list used in lines 5–8.
    The list in these lines describes the different types of coins the boy has. This creates a sense that the boy feels incredibly wealthy. It is also quite humorous as actually what the boy is carrying around is small change, but he feels he possesses a lot of money.

  4. Explain how a change of tone is created in lines 11–16.
    At the start of the poem there was a tone of excitement and adventure. This has changed to a sense of uneasiness. The word ‘however’ is placed right at the start of the line to emphasise the contradiction about to come. The boys are going on an adventure on the bus, but now they feel apprehensive about getting on it. He describes his worry as ‘obscure’ suggesting that there is no real reason to worry about getting on the bus as it is such an ordinary activity yet they have never done it before and are slightly freaked out about having to do it alone. The speaker also lists the questions he asks, showing he is unsure of what to do.

  5. Identify and analyse the effectiveness of any two poetic techniques in lines 18–24 that convey the speaker’s fears of travelling to a new place.
    There is a metaphor in line 19 that conveys the speaker’s fears of travelling to a new place. He describes their destination as “another country”. They are not really travelling to a foreign place but he sees it as being somewhere spiritually different from his home and so associates it with the ‘other’. He then goes on to describe how the streets “suddenly forget their names”. This is a transferred epithet as in actuality the boys have forgotten the name of the streets in this foreign place. There is a sense of aggression in line 22 as the shopkeeper shows hostility in his “shaking” fist when they ask for sweeties he cannot identify. A more sympathetic shopkeeper would have offered the boys help. He then “calls his wife through” suggesting they will now mock the boys or chase them.

  6. Comment on the effect of the parallel structure/repetition of ‘and’ in lines 21–30.
    The parallel structure and repetition of ‘and’ in lines 21-30 creates a sense of growing panic. There is no break at all in these lines and the sense of terror is created through the lack of breath as much as the growing list of things that could go wrong. The ‘and’ connects a very graphic list of things that are not quite right in this new future world where the boys have found themselves. There is the old apocalyptic looking bus, the physical changes to their own bodies, the “black waves” which will suck them under and the lack of their families.

  7. Identify and analyse two ways in which a nightmarish atmosphere is created in lines 24–30.
    The sense of being in a nightmare is already established in line 24 when the speaker says ‘ever make it home again’. The word choice here gives a sense that there is a possibility of not returning to where they came from and that they might remain lost forever. The catastrophic image is then introduced with the word choice “charred wreck” to describe the bus. ‘charred’ suggests it has been physically burnt out and there is a possibility that someone has done this to the bus, physically inflicting harm upon it. The word ‘wreck’, short and simple, shows just how badly damaged the machine is. There is a sense that the boys no longer recognise themselves when it read ‘our voices sound funny’ they don’t understand to begin with why they sound so strange. It is of course because they have grown up into men and their voices have broken. The final nightmarish image is introduced in the last line – ‘our sisters and mothers are fifty years dead’. Their family has died and there is no one familiar near them. This last line is particularly significant as the family members singled out are female which could also suggest that the nurturing figures in their life are no longer present, making them feel incredibly vulnerable.

  8. The semi-colon at the end of line 17 could be said to mark a turning point in the poem, dividing it into two. Explain, by close reference to the use of language and structure, how the poet creates a contrast between the former and latter halves of the poem.
    At the start of the poem the speaker seems very self-assured and in control of himself. There is only the slightest hint of worry at travelling without an adult. There is a tone of confidence in the phrase ‘first time ever on our own’. The emphasis on ever and own hint at the pride he feels doing this. There is then a simple statement ‘I plan to buy comics, sweeties and magic tricks’ which show he has a clear line of thought about what he intends to do when he gets to Baldovan. The creeping doubt kicks in nearer the turning point when he begins to list worries and questions – ‘where we should we sit, when to pull the bell’. Here we can see him worrying about what it is he should do when he gets on the bus, he isn’t sure about how to take responsibility for himself. After the turning point there is a genuine feeling of alarm. The speaker describes the streets as ‘wrong’ showing that he feels alienated from them. He reinforces this feeling with the phrase ‘no one will have heard of the sweets we ask for’. The blanket term that everyone in this new world will not have heard of the things they ask for shows that they are in an alien territory. The shop keepers speech to his wife – ‘come here and see this’ – again suggests that the boys are something to be mocked and that they are different and strangers in a world where nothing is familiar as the locals don’t take kindly to them.

Nil Nil Notes

  1. Explain how the title ‘Nil Nil’ corresponds with the two ‘stories’ told within the poem. The poem is about football and this title references a scenario in which both teams lose. Both the stories contained within the poem are about nothingness which is reflected in the title of double zero. Also the fact that the poem deals with two stories that both end in nothing is shown here as there is an idea of two teams (stories) being played.

2.In your own words, explain the connection between the football club and the plane crash.
Both the plane and the football club start on a high but by the end of the poem they are nothing.

  1. Look at line 18. How does the poet’s language emphasis how far Farquhar’s fortunes have declined? Explain how Farquhar is further characterised in the story of ‘the Cup’?
    In line 18 we find out that Farquhar has died and that he has probably been forgotten about. This is emphasised by the tone and word choice of ‘name-check in Monday’s obituaries’. There is an image here that he has grown old and that he has been forgotten about. The only thing he will be remembered for – name-checked- is his “spectacular bicycle kick”. Farquhar is later portrayed as a villain in the poem. He somehow manages to score an “own-goal” in a later match. He has sabotaged his team’s chances of winning when they are already on a losing streak.

  2. Look at lines 19–31. With close reference to the text, how does the poet help us understand the way the club’s success has diminished?
    The poet helps us to understand that the clubs fortunes have diminished over time by using a really long list. He lists all the things you can now see at a game “big tartan flasks, open hatchbacks, the half-time Satsuma, the dog on the pitch…” all this suggests that the atmosphere has gone a bit stale and that the team is now only playing at amateur level.
    The word choice to describe this decline is also worth noting. Paterson calls it the “fifty year slide”. The decline is taking a long time to happen, and the slide part suggests that they have no control over it and cannot prevent it from happening.

  3. Look at lines 1–7. With close reference to the text, explain how the poet’s language establishes the level of the club’s success and glory.
    Paterson uses specific word choice in his opening line to establish straight away that the club is experiencing success and glory. He opens with the phrase “from the top”. This suggests that the team is at the height of their game and are doing the best they possibly can. This idea is further reinforced with the phrase “the zenith” again suggesting that these men have reached the peak, no one can beat them. The team are clearly well supported as Paterson speaks of a “plague of grey bonnets”, the word “plague” suggests an epidemic of people so we know the grounds are swarming with supporters. The word “majestic” is also used to describe the skills of one of the players. This word bears connotations of being god-like and great or important. This tells us that the team holds a high position and is doing well.

  4. How effectively does the epilogue sum up the central concerns of the poem?
    The epilogue is very effective at summing up the central concern of nothingness in the poem. The speaker in the poem is addressing us directly after telling us the story of the club and plane descending into nothingness. He too is about to disappear into nothingness. He talks of “the failing light”, – the coming night will be complete darkness, “the trail as it steadily fades” – the path disappears, and then eventually mentions “nirvana” the state of non-being. All of this highlights and reinforces the idea that eventually all of us, no matter what, will become nothing.

  5. Look at lines 19–23. Explain how the poet’s language creates humour and irony as he describes the club’s ‘spell of giant killing’.
    In lines 19-23, Paterson is describing the decline of the football team. There is sense of humour and irony here as he describes the “spell of giant killing” as a “setback”. He is looking upon the teams short spell of victories as a bad thing because it causes a blip in their steady fall from the top. This is ironic as really this should be something to celebrate, the team are doing well. There is also humour in the mock heroic word choice. “spell of giant killing”. The team are not really knights fighting a deathly battle against huge beings, but a small football team challenging another football team. It makes it sound like the football matches were difficult and epic battles.

  6. How does the poet further establish the idea of decline in lines 44–49? You may comment on the poet’s use of language or his ideas.
    The idea of a decline is further established in lines 44-49. The team has been reduced to one wee boy “swanking” home on his own from the field that now acts as the football pitch. The town from which the football club once hailed has also fallen into decline, mirroring the demise of the club. We are told that he walks past “stopped swings, the dead shanty-town/ of allotments, the black shell of Skelly Dry Cleaners/ and into the cul-de-sac”. The “stopped swings” hints that once upon a time this area was lively with children playing but now they no longer come outside. The use of “dead” to describe the allotments also suggests this lack of life, and the “shanty-town” to describe the allotments appearance suggests great dilapidation has taken place. The Dry Cleaners that once sponsored the team has now gone bust as there is only a “shell” left, letting us know they are now empty. The word choice “black” lets us know it is darkness and could hint that it has actually been burned down so the area is now invaded by hoodlums who wreck what is left. Dramatic epithet is also used as the boy trudges home in “rain” which suggests a sad and dreary mood and setting for the poem at this point.

The Ferryman’s Arms Notes

  1. Explain how the language of lines 1–10 creates an ominous and/or foreboding atmosphere.
    An ominous and foreboding atmosphere is created in the first ten lines when the speaker states “I stood with my back turned”. This suggests to the reader that there could be something behind the speaker, waiting to attack or approach him. It is reminiscent of the horror scene in which the attacker can be seen lurking behind the victim. The personification of the table ‘humming’ also creates a threatening atmosphere as the only thing that can be heard in the pub is the electricity running through the table. It suggests the pub sis eerily quiet. This quietness is reinforced in the word choice ‘deserted’ which tells us there is no one else there, not even a barperson. The back room is also referred to as ‘darkened’ the word choice here suggesting that the pub is not very well lit and is shadowy. All of this creates quite an oppressive and bleak atmosphere.

  2. Identify two ways in which the idea of duality is introduced in lines 1–10.
    There is a very clear sense of duality in the first ten lines of the poem. This begins in the phrase “with ten minutes to kill”. This is a double agent. The speaker is saying that he has a lot of spare time before the ferry comes and he needs something to fill it. However in reality it is time that kills us, as we age or get ill. The duality is continued with “I took myself on for the hell of it”. There is a clear image here of a man in a pub playing himself at pool. There are two of him – there is even a hint that he could be playing for his life further on in the poem.

  3. Identify two ways in which lines 1–10 introduce the idea of death.
    The first image of death in the first ten lines appears when the speaker states “I was magnetized by a remote phosphorescence/and drawn, like a moth, to the darkened back room.” Here the speaker compares himself to a moth and the back room of the pub to a light which attracts the moth. However, given that there is an overtone of Greek mythology and death to this poem a deeper reading of this simile shows us that actually it is his soul that is moving towards the light. There are also echoes of the western idea of being pulled towards the light when you have died.
    The second image of death appears in the phrase ‘a striplight/ batted awake in its dusty green cowl”. The metaphor which the light fitting becomes a cowl is suggestive of death’s hood and robe.

  4. Lines 11–20 describe the speaker’s game of pool. Explain how these lines develop the theme of life and death.
    In lines 11-20 the speaker states that “the black did the vanishing trick”. The word choice here could simply be talking about the ball being pocketed. However it could be a metaphor for the life of the player ending. This is his passage from the real world – the green felt of the pool table – into the underworld – the inner mechanics of the pool table.

  5. With close reference to the language of lines 21–26, explain how the arrival of the ferry is made sinister.
    The ferry’s arrival is made to sound sinister through word choice. We are told that it arrives from “somewhere unspeakable”. The place from which the ferry has come is unnameable. It suggests through the ‘unspeakable’ that it is physical impossible or painful in some way to utter the name. The sibilance in these two words also adds to that idea, as they are almost hissed out again making it sound like the ferry has arrived from somewhere dangerous or disagreeable.

  6. Discuss, with reference to examples from the poem, the symbolic importance of either light and dark or colour, in this poem.
    The light colours in this poem are all associated with life where as the darker colours come to be associated with death. There is a clear simile in the final stanza, where the

  7. Identify and explain the effect of any one allusion to Greek mythology in the poem.
    One of the allusions to a Greek myth is when the speaker ‘slots a coin in the tongue’ of the pool table. In Greek times the dead would have had coins placed on their eyes. These were to pay Charon, the ferryman, who would take them along the river Styx and into the Underworld. Here instead the speaker pays the pool table with the coins before he gets on his own ferry.

  8. ‘I got aboard early/remembering the ferry would leave on the hour/even for only my losing opponent;/but I left him there … sullenly/knocking the balls in, for practice, for next time.’
    (a) Explain the paradox in these lines.
    The speaker says he leaves the losing player behind, however he was apparently both players.
    (b) In light of the use of metaphor and symbolism in other parts of the poem, explain what you believe to be the significance of these final lines.
    These lines then imply the idea that we are both the living and the dead. We can only play the game fully until we die.

Carol Ann Duffy 10 marker quotes

Here’s the quotes I would go for in the exam for the 10 marker. Depending on the question, you would word your analysis slightly differently.


‘Beloved sweetheart bastard’
‘ropes on the backs of my hands I could strangle with’
‘don’t think it’s just the heart that b-b-breaks’


‘It promises light like the careful undressing of love’
‘it will blind you with tears’

War Photographer

‘spools of suffering set out in ordered rows’
‘Rural England’
‘A hundred agonies in black and white/ from which his editor will pick five or six’


‘as the miles rushed back to the city, the street, the house, the vacant rooms’
‘my tongue/ shedding its skin like a snake’
‘Where do you come from?/ strangers ask. Originally? And I hesitate.’

Carol Ann Duffy – Mrs Midas Questions

Mrs Midas (2016 paper)

37. Look at lines 1–12. By referring to at least two examples, analyse how the poet’s language conveys the contrast in atmosphere between stanza 1 and stanza 2. (4)


The first stanza is very calm whereas the atmosphere in the second stanza is excited and dangerous.
The calmness is created through scene setting and word choice in the first few lines. The speaker uses the word ‘unwind’ to show that she is done for the day and is chilling out now as this tells us she is releasing all the pent up energy from her day and work (1 mark). This idea of the household and the people in it calming down for the end of the day is also repeated when the house is personified as ‘relaxing’. It gives a sense that the whole house is letting go of all the worries from that day. (1 mark)
In contrast the second stanza creates excitement and danger, especially with the use of personification to describe the poor twilight lighting. It says ‘the way the ground seemed to drink the light of the sky’. This image uses word choice to suggest a grim impression of the fading light. It sounds intimidating and like there is a fight going on between dark and light. The way the ground is personified as ‘drinking’ also makes it seem like a monster that is trying to devour things around it. This all seems dangerous because the night is made to seem bad. (2 marks)

38. Look at lines 13–24. Analyse how the poet’s language in these lines creates an unsettling mood. (2)

One way in which the poet makes the mood unsettling is through her word choice which she uses to create a list of how Midas looked. Duffy says ‘strange, wild, vain” to describe the look on Midas’s face. Each of these has negative connotations. If he is ‘wild’ then he can’t be controlled, if he is strange then he has become something odd and weird and unfamiliar. If he is vain then he is only concerned with himself. The listing of these adjective also suggests that the speaker is struggling to find the right word to describe her husband. (STRONG 2 marks)
Mrs Midas inserts what she said to Midas into the poem to show her reaction. “What in the name of God is going on?” She is asking him a question. Her word choice of ‘name of God’ shows that she feels upset and distressed by what she is seeing – her husband turn things to gold. She is stressed because it doesn’t make sense and shouts out this question showing her unsettled mood. (2 marks)

39. Look at lines 25–36. By referring to at least two examples, analyse how the poet’s language presents the character of Mrs Midas. (4)


Initially Mrs Midas is ‘rightly’ shocked at what has happened. She says ‘I started to scream’. Duffy uses sibilance here to highlight the noises Mrs Midas started to make. The choice of ‘scream’ tells us that Mrs Midas was very upset when she saw things being turned to gold as she couldn’t understand it. She is presented as reacting typically to something she is scared of. (2 marks)
Mrs Midas is shown to be quite tough and no-nonsense but also a little bit cool. We get this when it says she ‘finished the wine on my own’. The wine had been opened so they could have a nice dinner, but the ‘on my own’ implies that she is sitting taking in Midas’s changes and drinking the wine to calm herself down. There is also an element of punishing Midas here, as she takes the wine from him. (2 marks)
Her humorous side is also shown here as she tells him at the end of stanza 6 ‘You’ll be able to give up smoking for good’. She has obviously been at him to quit cigarettes, and now he is forced to because they turn to gold in his hands. She is mocking him in order to get her head around what has happened. (2 marks)

40. By referring closely to this poem, and to at least one other poem by Duffy, discuss how the poet explores the attempts of characters to cope with life-changing situations. (10)

In Mrs Midas the life-changing situation being dealt with is that Mrs Midas has to deal with Midas’s new gift of turning everything he touches into gold. The poem explores how Mrs Midas deals with this change by telling us her story from her own perspective and the changes she made in her life to deal with Midas.
In Havisham, the life-changing event is Mrs Havisham being jilted at the altar, in the poem we listen to her rant about the event and her inability to cope with the effect this had on her.
In Mrs Midas Duffy suggests that Mrs Midas has come to terms with Midas’s acceptance of his gift. However, she still feels very sad about it as she says ‘what gets me now isn’t the idiocy or greed/ but the lack of thought for me’. Her word choice here shows how some people might think Midas was stupid or was simply materialistic in wanting to turn things he touched to gold, but for Mrs Midas she gets upset because her husband never thought about her when he did it. For her, his acceptance of the gift was selfish as he didn’t consider that it would mean he could never touch his wife again and he forgot about their love for some gold.
In Havisham, the speaker shows that her way of coping with being jilted was to become bitter and mad. This idea is immediate in the opening sentence when she says ‘beloved sweetheart bastard’. The alliteration of the ‘b’ draws attention to what she is saying, it also sounds like she is spitting out the words because these are plosive and sibilant words – lots of b’s and s’s. The words also set up an oxymoron, she loved her fiancé, but thinks he is scum now because he left her. The opening certainly shows that Miss Havisham has become angry after being jilted.
Another thing which suggests her angry madness is when she describes how she has prayed so hard for her ex-fiance’s death that she has ‘ropes on the back of her hands she could strangle with’. This suggests how aged she is as her veins are popping up on the back of her hands, it could also suggests the stress she has put herself through. The idea as well that she is willing to strangle someone – her ex-fiance in particular – suggests how enraged she is still. This is all she fixates on.
Finally, she tells us that she has been totally broken emotionally, physically, mentally and sexually by the jilting as she tells us in her parting lines ‘don’t think it’s only the heart that b-b-breaks’. The word choice and layout of ‘b-b-breaks’ makes it sound as if she has broken down at this point. Also saying that it’s not just a heart that breaks shows that being jilted has affected Miss Havisham in every way it could, it has changed how she thinks and how she feels.