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Analyse Language in 'Winter Swans'

In this worksheet, students will be able to exercise their analysis on language in 'Winter Swans',(part of the Love and Relationships anthology cluster of poem).

'Analyse Language in 'Winter Swans'' worksheet

Key stage:  KS 4

GCSE Subjects:   English Literature

GCSE Boards:   AQA

Curriculum topic:   Poetry

Curriculum subtopic:   Love and Relationships: 'Winter Swans'

Difficulty level:  

Worksheet Overview

QUESTION 1 of 10

Want to practice your language analysis in 'Winter Swans'?

 

Thought bubble

 

Good! You've come to the right place. All you need to do is refer to the poem 'Winter Swans' in your anthology.

 

To quickly recap: Written by Owen Sheers, this poem is about a couple who decide to take a walk in the park after two days of bad rain. Their relationship is rocky, but they begin to find themselves reconciling when they see two swans doing a mating dance.

 

Take notes as you do this activity. It'll help you absorb more information if you're writing all the new things you learn alongside. Take your time reading the teacher's explanation - it's full of helpful gems!

Looking at the quote from the first stanza:

 

"The clouds had given their all"

 

 

Pick out the one answer that you think gives the best explanation of symbolism within the quote.

 

The clouds giving their all symbolically represents the couple's love

The clouds giving their all symbolically suggests that the couple have been going through a rough patch

The clouds giving their all is pathetic fallacy

The clouds giving their all means it's been raining

Pick out two reasons why Sheers might use the pronoun 'we' in the last line of the first stanza.

 

The pronoun 'we' suggests that the couple are walking

The pronoun 'we' hints at the fact that the couple will break up and end up with other people

The pronoun 'we' hints at the fact that the couple love each other and aren't going through a rough patch

The pronoun 'we' suggests that the speaker wants the couple to be a unit, even during their rough patch

The pronoun 'we' hints at the idea of togetherness and unity

Pick one word out of the second stanza which conveys the couple's relationship at this point in time.

Now check out this bit of the second stanza.

 

"...the waterlogged earth [...] gulping for breath at our feet"

 

Other than personification, what kind of word is "gulping" and what does it suggest? Pick one answer each.

"...as if rolling weights down their bodies to their heads"

 

What do you think this simile means in the context of the couple's relationship?

 

The simile conveys effort

The simile conveys pain

The simile conveys effortlessness

The simile conveys love

"they halved themselves in the dark water, icebergs of white feather..."

 

 

Fill out the table with the language devices that are present or not present in the quote.

 

 PresentNot present
Adjective
Metaphor
Simile
Imagery of fire
Imagery of winter

Looking at the same quote as the previous question, fill in the blanks with your choice of three words from the selection below:

 

Dark

Metaphor

Imagery

Contrast

Depth

Winter

Summer

Spring

 PresentNot present
Adjective
Metaphor
Simile
Imagery of fire
Imagery of winter

"we moved on through the afternoon light"

 

 

Fill in the blanks with three words out of the selection below:

 

Contrast

Darkness

Metaphor

Symbolism

Pathetic fallacy

Motif

Theme

Enjambment

Simile

 PresentNot present
Adjective
Metaphor
Simile
Imagery of fire
Imagery of winter

Link the correct language device to the quote (all within the two last stanzas).

 PresentNot present
Adjective
Metaphor
Simile
Imagery of fire
Imagery of winter

Last question!

 

Fill in the table linking a language device found in the poem to its effect.

 Personification ("the clouds had given their all")Metaphor ("porcelain over the stilling water")Personal pronoun ("we walked")Continuous verbs ("settling" "stilling" "returning")
Shows the power of an inanimate object
Shows unity and directness
Shows immediacy and presentness
Shows a deep connection between one thing and another
  • Question 1

Looking at the quote from the first stanza:

 

"The clouds had given their all"

 

 

Pick out the one answer that you think gives the best explanation of symbolism within the quote.

 

CORRECT ANSWER
The clouds giving their all symbolically suggests that the couple have been going through a rough patch
EDDIE SAYS
You'd be correct to detect that the poem begins with a bang - pathetic fallacy and personification are used to pack a real punch on the device front. But...what does this symbolise? There is a direct correlation between nature and the couple's relationship in the poem. So as there's this indication that it's been raining and miserable - the clouds had given all the rain that they could (emphasised by the superlative 'all')- we can infer that the couple might have been going through a rough patch, echoing the tone created through gloomy rain. But, remember, the clouds HAD (past tense verb) given their all. So the weather is much better now... What else might become much better, as a result? The couple's relationship!
  • Question 2

Pick out two reasons why Sheers might use the pronoun 'we' in the last line of the first stanza.

 

CORRECT ANSWER
The pronoun 'we' suggests that the speaker wants the couple to be a unit, even during their rough patch
The pronoun 'we' hints at the idea of togetherness and unity
EDDIE SAYS
Pronouns are important because they suggest direct address, separation or inclusivity. In this case, the deliberate use of the pronoun 'we' really cements this idea of togetherness. The couple are in unison, even as they are going through a rough patch. Think about the motif of harmony and unison throughout the poem. What is Sheers trying to say about nature in terms of unity and togetherness?
  • Question 3

Pick one word out of the second stanza which conveys the couple's relationship at this point in time.

CORRECT ANSWER
Silent
Apart
EDDIE SAYS
The use of 'silent' and 'apart' summarises exactly how the couple are in their relationship at this point in time. What are the connotations of these words? And what is the impact of having these describing words right at the end of the sentence on the reader? Jot down any ideas you may have.
  • Question 4

Now check out this bit of the second stanza.

 

"...the waterlogged earth [...] gulping for breath at our feet"

 

Other than personification, what kind of word is "gulping" and what does it suggest? Pick one answer each.

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
The continuous verb "gulping" conveys a desperation and urgency that is only heightened by the 'ing' ending. This desperation really seems to echo the couple's strained relationship, as if they are desperate to make amends, just as the earth is desperate for air.
  • Question 5

"...as if rolling weights down their bodies to their heads"

 

What do you think this simile means in the context of the couple's relationship?

 

CORRECT ANSWER
The simile conveys effortlessness
EDDIE SAYS
The simile of the swans "rolling weights down their bodies" conveys a sort of effortlessness, as if the swans can't even feel any weight. Think about why Sheers has used the word "weights". Every relationship is a struggle and has its ups and downs. Do you think the use of the word "weight" represents the weight of a relationship? And if so, look at how the simile portrays the swans "rolling" the weights down with little to no effort. Hardship in a relationship is portrayed as natural; its how this hardship is dealt with that's important!
  • Question 6

"they halved themselves in the dark water, icebergs of white feather..."

 

 

Fill out the table with the language devices that are present or not present in the quote.

 

CORRECT ANSWER
 PresentNot present
Adjective
Metaphor
Simile
Imagery of fire
Imagery of winter
EDDIE SAYS
Categorising the devices in quotes/sentences you pick out really helps to dissect what is used. It is a step towards thinking about WHY these devices are used and their intended impact.
  • Question 7

Looking at the same quote as the previous question, fill in the blanks with your choice of three words from the selection below:

 

Dark

Metaphor

Imagery

Contrast

Depth

Winter

Summer

Spring

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
The quote reflects many things - the contrast between light and dark hasn't really been discussed and definitely needs to be. The swans are presented as "white", whereas the water is "dark". Think about the imagery provided here- these light, bright and white swans cutting the dark water, standing out, visible. The swans inspire the couple! They are the bright point for the speaker of the poem and his lover; it is the swans who shift the perspective of the poem and reconcile the couple in question. It makes sense that the imagery presents them as white against the darkness of the water, highlighting them as important!
  • Question 8

"we moved on through the afternoon light"

 

 

Fill in the blanks with three words out of the selection below:

 

Contrast

Darkness

Metaphor

Symbolism

Pathetic fallacy

Motif

Theme

Enjambment

Simile

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
Look at the way the writer employs pathetic fallacy and contrast! There's definitely the sense that the couple are moving forward here. This moment of change occurs after the couple have watched the swans mate. All of a sudden, we, the readers, are bombarded with references to stillness, calmness, the idea of things being right. Think about this concept of light breaking through the darkness. It's definitely a motif (recurring theme) in the poem.
  • Question 9

Link the correct language device to the quote (all within the two last stanzas).

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
The last two stanzas contain a lot of imagery and reverse personification, which really indicates the power of nature on this human relationship. Ideas such as destiny, reconciliation and stillness/calm are present throughout the poem. Let's think about the impact of two language devices we haven't talked about yet. The sibilance (throughout the whole of the sixth stanza - go on and read it out loud to yourself and see if you can hear it) really reinforces a quiet, hissing and soft sound. It's up to you whether the poet intended the sibilance to be pleasant or unpleasant- and if so, why? Perhaps the pleasantness of the sibilance stems from mimicking the sounds of whispers, as if the two lovers are having a private conversation? Or maybe the sibilance is meant to be more unpleasant - a harsh hissing noise which suggests that things might not be as rosy as they seem? Think about the adverb "somehow". It seems that the speaker is a little confused about how him and his lover's hands have joined together. Does this emphasise the role of nature and instinct in the poem? This idea that whatever is meant to be will be? Are the couple meant to be together, do you think, just as the swans are?
  • Question 10

Last question!

 

Fill in the table linking a language device found in the poem to its effect.

CORRECT ANSWER
 Personification ("the clouds had given their all")Metaphor ("porcelain over the stilling water")Personal pronoun ("we walked")Continuous verbs ("settling" "stilling" "returning")
Shows the power of an inanimate object
Shows unity and directness
Shows immediacy and presentness
Shows a deep connection between one thing and another
EDDIE SAYS
Remember that each device used needs to be evaluated - what is the effect on the reader and what are the attitudes presented by the poet? Keep this in the back of your mind and be creative when you think about the different possibilities! For example: yes, a metaphor is used to link one thing to another, but it also enhances the depth of meaning. Personal pronouns enhance a connection between reader and subject, giving the poem a more direct and human tone; present continuous verbs have an ongoing and immediate effect; and personification gives inanimate/non-human objects more power and intent. Great focus, that's another activity completed!
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