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A Description of the Morning

A Description of the Morning is a poem true to the title. The lines of the poem, 18 in number, do nothing but describe a morning in the town as an impersonal observer sees it. Devoid of any preamble or imposition of ideas, the narrator flatly shows us the happenings around. Using colloquial words and an abundance of images, the narrator presents a vivid description of a morning. But due to the events he picks and the words he chooses to describe them, a reader may sense that the narrator is being partial by selecting only the darker aspects of the society to present. And this sense helps the reader recognize an undercurrent of satire in the poem. This poem is Jonathan Swifts portrayal of a typical morning in London during the early 1700s. When first reading the poem it seems as though Swift is trying to describe the daily grind of the morning. However, the poem is not as black and white as it sounds. It describes the different working conditions and social scenes of the people that live in this society. The characters in this poem are the workers: the two maids Betty and Moll, an apprentice, a coal vender, chimney sweeps, creditors, and bailiffs. Instead of working together to try and change their society, these characters are laboring day after day. In some cases they are creating more work for each other. All of these tedious daily routines blend together to form one long morning. The repetition of the work being done brings about an underlying theme of life cycles. Children are learning how to work at a young age to eventually fill the role of the laboring adults. Nothing is being done to try and change this society. The cycles are prevalent throughout the poem and there seems to be no end in sight. Swifts poem is written in third person. Jonathan Swift has written his poem in third person in order to a show a general, wide perspective of the actions and/or work which specific members of the public are taking part in, during the early morning hours. His poem is no way personal or emotional and most probably all of the people he writes about, he has never met just things he has seen or even figures of his imagination. Jonathan Swifts poem is also in present tense, as he uses this tense to show that corrupt and evil events are happening everyday in London. If he used past tense, the public could have misinterpreted it and thought that the events do not occur any more. Swift focuses his detail on incidents around London and chooses mainly workers starting their jobs. He focuses on the poorer people such as maids and chimney-sweeps and corrupt people the lordship and the turnkey. Jonathan Swift wants to publicly mock and insult the people which he includes because of their sinister and evil morality which wants to tell readers about, such as the turnkey who lets his flock of prisoners out at night to paid in return. Or he ridicules poorer workers by exaggerating and glamorizing action, for example, Moll, the woman who was mopping the floor, was described to be doing it with dextrous airs, as if she performing elegant task. Swift dives straight into the poem with harsh, sharp sounding words in the first line by using the noun hackney-coach which sets the tone of the poem before the main content starts. He carries this pessimistic mood through to the next line by adding the adjective ruddy to the sunrise in London. This word is commonly known to describe the colour red, yet it also has been used as a euphemism for the adjective bloody. This euphemism subconsciously and cleverly feed the reader negative feelings about the setting. Now that Swift has set the tone and setting of the poem he delves into describing a maid named Betty who, in the poem, has flown from her masters bed where the reader 1

suspects that the master has committed adultery and she has left the room early enough for no one to notice or find out about the shameful sin which the two of them engaged in. Swift gives detail in the following line that Betty, the maid, cunningly left the masters bed in order to also discompose her own. He uses these characters in the poem as metaphor for to represent the way he feels London is as a whole; corrupt. To stress on the immoral actions which are being described, Swift uses sibilance when the maid softly stole to her bed. The repeated ss used here fit perfectly into the scene creating a sly and scheming tone to poem. An apprentice comes into the next two lines and Swift describes him as slip-shod. This adjective tells the audience the apprentice is careless. But continuing to the next line in the poem he gives the detail on how the apprentice is lazily, but yet again cunningly, spreading the dirt and, as quoted from the poem, the apprentice sprinkled round the floor. These adjectives and verbs such as slip-shod and sprinkled could be taken as satirical language as Jonathan Swift ridicules the apprentices efforts to clean the floor by exaggerating and embellishing verbs. For example, sprinkled is quite a delicate and elegant verb, however cleaning the floor is a rather unpleasant and ugly job. This sarcasm is again employed into the next line of the poem. Swift elaborates how Moll cleans the floor by using the verb whirled when explaining how she is moving the mop. This exaggerates and mocks the insignificant task and describes it as a dainty and charming chore. In order to embellish on the mockery he carries on describing the way she is performing the errand, as if she is performing a dance, as he writes in the poem that she mops the floor with dextrous airs. Without being too severe and obvious this is an ingenious way of ridiculing the people included in the poem. Swift once again in the next line repeats this device of satirical language when the youth are doing one of the worst jobs in the poem, sweeping dirt into the gutter of the roadside. He does this by mocking their broomy stumps and conveying the gutter in a metaphor, the kennel-edge. The next two lines which Swift includes in his poem are about a small-coal man and a chimney-sweep who are both whistling. This brings a sense of joy and a cheery side to poem. However the two sounds contrast as the small-coal man whistling beautifully, each note hit perfectly, but chimney-sweeps whistling is described as a shrill, a high-pitched, earpiercing noise which in the poem drowned out the other cadence deep whistle. Satire comes into these two lines of the poem; the noun cadence is used to describe and compare how the small-coal man is whistling. This word is not normally used in this context which ridicules and dramatizes a poor workers whistle. A few lines later in the poem, Jonathan Swift shows the corruption and evil morality in London. This is accomplished by discussing how Duns meet at a Lordships gate. This gives a sense of suspicion that the debt collectors (who are usually thought as negative and sinister people) are giving the money which they have collected to this lordship which is both an immoral and corrupt act. I think this is included in the poem as a metaphor to represent Londons public in general. Swift advances his corruption theme and concerns by telling the readers about a turnkey or prison warden who is allowing his prisoners out of the jail at nights to steal for fees in order to pay the warden for the privilege of being aloud out. Swift describes the wardens prisoners as his flock who are returning in the morning. These specific words could be seen to relate to Biblical scriptures as many stories in the bible related to shepherds and their sheep which 2

is a similar comparison to the turnkey and his prisoners. Another negative, timeless verb is left on the last line of the poem. The verb lag was chosen and used by swift as children in general, from any time period, have and will dislike going to school which is why they would slowly lag behind any other pedestrians.