"Gunpowder Plot" By Vernon Scannell
Write an account of a poem which deals with an unusual or unpleasant
aspect of life. Show clearly how the poet uses such elements as effective
words and vivid images to create something memorable.
The poem "Gunpowder Plot" was interesting as its title holds three
meanings. The author could have meant an allotment where gunpowder or
fireworks are stored or a plan involving gunpowder or just a story
about the usage of gunpowder.
The poem itself holds a double meaning, the first meaning and most
immediately noticeable is of the fun and excitement on Guy Falkes
night with children and woman running around shouting and screaming,
with fireworks exploding and filling the night sky with bright coloured
sparks. The second and more sinister meaning is that if war, when
explosions devastate and the children running around screaming are running
for their lives. That in war time these beautiful fireworks kill and injure
The man in the poem was in a war and being around the antics on a Guy
Falkes night bring back evil, unpleasant memories of war with people
dying. Later in the poem we learn that the man's brother had dies in the
war as the line reads : "I hear a corpse's sons -- 'Who's scared of
bangers!' 'Uncle, John's afraid!'
In the story the author uses a lot of comparisons, the first one we
come across is between fireworks and "Curious cardboard buds" where he
describes them as flowers that have yet to blossom and show their beauty.
Again later in the same verse he describes the fireworks as orchids, a
very beautiful flower that is very expensive, has a short life and it
used on special occasions, the same description can be used effectively on
The story contains great usage of onomatopoeia and alliteration, using
such words as frenzied whizz, fiery, blast which really bring the poem to
life. "Glittering golden grain", "Gulped by greedy flames" are two of
the main uses of alliteration in the poem, the first describing when
the firework explodes in the sky,the second describes the Guy that the
children have made to burn in the fire.
The sound used in the poem is mainly that of the fireworks as they
set off into the night sky making whizzing sounds and then the pop when
they explode. The other use of sound is of the woman running around
The use of colour is reserved for the fireworks, describing them as
magic orchids, with their "fiery petals" exploding and filling the
air with "glittering golden grain."
The smell of fireworks smell much like that of bombs as the base
chemicals are the same, when the fireworks are set off they fill the air
around their launch area with a bitter smell , a bit like rotten eggs,
this one of the main elements that help to flood the man with his memories.
The message the author is trying to get through to us is that even
if you try and lock away evil memories deep in your mind the right
combination of events sounds , smells, visions will bring them
flooding back into your thoughts. In the poem the night filled with
noise of explosions, lights shooting through the air,people running around
screaming unlocks the door to the evil memories of war which so over-power
him that he is brought back to a re-run of the war where he hears bombs,
mortars and the voices of people who died.