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Poetry Commentary “Carpet-Weavers, Morocco” and “Ispahan Carpet”

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  • Category: Poetry

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A comparative study of the two poems “Carpet-Weavers, Morocco” and “Ispahan Carpet”, brings us into an Eastern culture of young girls working skilfully, their small hands creating woven carpets of great beauty. Both poets create different environments by injecting emotionally charged descriptions of similar scenes.

I believe that the success of these poems results from their splendid use of themes, emotive vocabulary and contrasting as well as similar issues raised. The poem, “Carpet-Weavers, Morocco” is, as I see it, the lighter of the two poems, has three lines in each of its four stanzas. The first line contains the main theme seen in both of the poems; it talks of “another world”, which as is followed up later in the poem, refers to the constant differing between the East and the West. The poem continues and in the first stanza there is reference to the second theme, that of the children being like machines, working constantly. There is more reference to the East versus West contrast opening the second stanza.

This stanza also contains the poem’s constant reference to the future, what is to happen. It also talks of the children being responsible for creating something that is more beautiful than them and their situation. It discusses the issue of the vast time taken from their lives, the children working “in the school of days.” It deals with light versus dark, appearance versus reality and a respect for these poor children. It is also written in the third person, which gives the reader a sense that they are looking down on the vivid scene from a distance. The poet doesn’t seem to disapprove wholly of the situation deciding that the masterpiece created in the end is worth the effort.

The other poem, “Ispahan Carpet” shares many of these themes; it however has no apparent structure, different from “Carpet-Weavers, Morocco” which has clear structure. It has five stanzas all but two of varying length. “Ispahan Carpet” is as I see it, is a much darker, more shadowy poem; it creates a vivid picture of a dank eerie cavern with that quick, “flickering fire” shadowing the weavers yet illuminating their creation. The poet uses words such as “gallows” to create an almost deathly feel to the poem. The poem speaks of the tradition, “Left by their aunts and sisters”. The monotonous repeating of the words, “One hundred” is used to create the sense that these children’s lives are being timed away, only to have their creation crushed by the “foot” of the na�ve West.

This contrasts the other poem which seems to think that the time is all worth it in the end. The poem says that the carpet is all that they know, the poet says this in the words, “O, eyes whose whole horizon is the carpet”. The poem goes on to sound like a line from a movie stating, “Who can unravel/ The worlds weaving?” Which is used to make a statement saying just what is all this about, the poet seems confused here. The poem ends in a powerful two lines making a statement about the thinness of the children’s “greenstick shoulder” in comparison to the poet’s “swollen hand” as well as the strong disapproval as the child looks at the poet with a “speaking darkness”

Both poems are clear in the fact that it is the young girls weaving and not the boys; this is a “traditional” aspect of the Eastern world. The constant recurrence of the seeming clash between East and West is a big theme in both poems. In “Carpet-Weavers, Morocco” there is a line that says “They watch their flickering knots like television” which hints that these Eastern girls are transfixed by their “knots” as Western children are by television. In “Ispahan carpet”, the poet’s “swollen hand” is the Western world on the East’s “greenstick shoulder”. Both the poems also talk of the weaving being cruel yet an honour. The cruelty found in “school of days” and “speaking darkness” and honour being, “traditional beauty” and “all-that-will-be”. Both poems are written by women; seemingly both are Western women too. Both have the children who are creating these beautiful carpets, outshone in a sense by their work, the children have “unsupported bird-bones/ Bent like old women” and “braids” which “are oiled and black”, creating an image which has the children as what one might call ugly.

Both the poems liken the children to machines, “Carpet-Weavers, Morocco” uses the same phrase “braids are oiled and black” to create the image of the machine, and “Ispahan Carpet” talks of the girls’ “little fingers… one hundred to the square centimetre” this creates the image of the girls’ fingers working with the precision of a machine. The social injustice of the amount of time spent by the girls working constantly occurs in both poems too, “Carpet-Weavers, Morocco” talks of the “school of days” which creates an effective image of the long arduous time spent bent above the “knots” and “Ispahan Carpet” repeats the words “one hundred” to a similar effect. Both poets have a distinct admiration for the children in “Ispahan Carpet” the words of admiration are “traditional beauty” and in “Carpet-Weavers, Morocco” the words “all-that-will-be” make the carpets seem historically valuable.

In both poems, especially in “Carpet-Weavers, Morocco” there is a recurring “f” throughout, this creates the flicking sound not dissimilar to that of a sewing machine which could be linked to the girls being likened machines. In “Ispahan Carpet” there is also the “f” sound in “flickering fire”. In both poems there is also the slithering “s” sound in words like “sensuous” and “servants of the mosque” the sound makes you think of the slithering, weaving, knotting of the girls at work; this could also have some relation to the Arab pastime of snake charming. In “Ispahan Carpet” there is repeating “b” alliteration in the first stanza this adds to the dark, slow movement of the poem. In contrast “Carpet-Weavers, Morocco” has the accentuated repeating “f” giving the poem a quick flittering feel.

These two poems have raised the issues of child labour in a culture where the creation of beautiful objects, the carpets – the end result, justifies the means. However the difference or similarity in these poems is not so much the use of imagery as the differing opinions on whether it is a good and useful experience or not, I believe both poets have achieved their objectives, creating vivid images of the children working and the ultimate values of their sacrifice.

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