Am I able to analyse the structure and
devices used in the poem “Harmonium”
by Simon Armitage and apply this
learning to a series of comprehension
Read the poem to yourself
Simon Armitage returns to his hometown; he visits a church
and saves a church organ (harmonium) from being “bundled
off to the skip”.
Answer the following in your book.
1) I think this poem is about a family relationship
Poem consists of four stanzas of varying length
1st stanza – (short) describes the harmonium as it sits
waiting to be thrown out
2nd stanza – (long) a closer look at the description of
3rd stanza – (short) looks at the history of the
4th stanza – (long) describes how the instrument is
carried out of the church; also touches on
Armitage‟s relationship with his father.
Answer in your book: What do you think 2
short stanzas and 2 long stanzas can
symbolise about the particular family
relationship in this poem?
Poem uses colloquial (everyday, casual) language.
Including lots of puns – “sold for a song”: means sold for very
cheap, but of course, an organ also plays a song.
Metaphor is used to describe the choir
The harmonium is given human qualities
New language device: parallelism
A form of repetition where syntax is repeated
Example: And he, being him, ... And I, being me,“
This device is used to emphasise the relationship
between Armitage and his dad.
Answer in your book: Find one example of
personification in the poem and
explain/describe its effect.
Celebration of music
Preserving memory (of family or traditions like church)
How fathers have sons who will turn into fathers
-- generations upon generations
Answer in your book: In which other poem is a
father/son relationship presented? How is that
poem different from this one? Hint: perspective
Next: line-by-line analysis
The Farrand Chapelette was gathering dust
overall, a straightforward first line – tells us what‟s going on
Brand name of a harmonium
in the shadowy porch of Marsden Church.
“ch” sounds = consonance Armitage‟s hometown (conversational)
makes the church sound dusty
And was due to be bundled off to the skip.
colloquial language; means to be thrown out
Or was mine, for a song, if I wanted it.
pun: organ could be his for a very low cost, or was
available to play a tune.
Sunlight, through stained glass, which day to day
sunlight brings the saints on the painted window to life
could beatify saints and raise the dead,
Beatification is the Roman Catholic tradition of declaring that a
dead person‟s life was lived in a „holy‟ manner and thus, they
should be sainted.
Positive effect on the windows, but negative on the harmonium…
had aged the harmonium‟s softwood case
and yellowed the fingernails of its keys
The entire 2nd stanza and its description of the
harmonium could be a metaphor for what item that is
also often carried in a church?...
And one of its notes had lost its tongue,
and holes were worn in both the treadles
where the organist‟s feet, in grey, woollen socks
paints on overall dull image to match the harmonium‟s appearance
and leather-soled shoes, had pedalled and pedalled.
Answer in your books: How might the imagery of
“lost its tongue”, “holes”, “grey, woollen socks”
and “leather-soled shoes” relate to Armitage’s
But its hummed harmonics still struck a chord:
Start of a new stanza; “but” & “still” shows despite it being worn-out, harmonium
still has value pun; to strike a chord is to trigger one‟s
alliteration memory, or literally, to play a tune.
for a hundred years that organ had stood
Theme of tradition; familial or religious or community
by the choristers‟ stalls, where father and son,
first outright mention of the relationship he is speaking of
each in their time, had opened their throats
Generational gap rhyme
and gilded finches – like high notes –
beautiful songbirds to “end on a high note” is to leave with a pleasant memory
had streamed out.
4th stanza begins; about his father – becomes emotional and about mortality
Through his own blue cloud of tobacco smog,
with smoker‟s fingers and dottled thumbs,
the resin left on a thumb from smoking a pipe
Imagery is linked to the appearance of the old,
he comes to help me cart it away.
indicates a heaviness to carry; perhaps an emotional burden?
Only pronouns are used!
And we carry it flat, laid on its back.
And he, being him, can‟t help but say
that the next box I‟ll shoulder through this nave
heavy; cumbersome; difficult to deal with
will bear the freight of his own dead weight.
The father is acknowledging his own mortality. The son has
difficulty stomaching this conversation because it is reaching a
point of intimacy in their father/son relationship that has not yet
Sometimes, fathers and sons will “do” more and “say” less – the
intimacy in their relationship is reached by doing physical tasks
together. “Strong, silent type”
And I, being me, then mouth in reply
parallelism can barely get the words out
some shallow or sorry phrase or word
lack of precision in language shows he is too shocked by
his father‟s comment to even formulate a response
too starved of breath to make itself heard.
Armitage is clearly affected emotionally by his
father’s comment on the fact that the poet will soon
be carrying his coffin into the church. He links the
image of the harmonium with his feelings towards
his aging father, whose death draws nearer;
confronting this idea, the poet is so emotional that he
cannot express himself properly, he is overwhelmed.
Write 3 P-E-E paragraphs showing how
Armitage uses metaphor, personification and
symbols/imagery in his poem to describe his
relationship between him and his father?
For next Wednesday – you have a whole week!