How each poem contemplates the theme of ‘place’
• Speaks about place in relation to identity and exile
In The Lost Land, Eavan Boland stands by Dublin Bay with nostalgia and melancholy as she imagines an exile that seemed to have happened in that very place. It is apparent that those people didn’t leave by choice but were separated from the home that they loved. The poem is not explicit about what happened and so brings forth many questions; who were those people? when did this happen? why did they have to exile? is this place also the author’s home?
• Purely evokes a sense of place
Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s The Herefordshire Landscape evokes a sense of place and invites the reader in. There is no attempt to shed light on a problem or social issue, and the poem is less about the people that inhabit the place than about the place itself. Rather, the poem is centred around evoking pleasant images, smells, and sounds of the rural Herefordshire.
• Makes a social comment about progress and place
In Slough, John Betjeman uses a very different tone from Browning and does make a social commentary. Slough is a depressing place so transformed by destruction and death that it is no longer suitable for humans, nature, or animals. I am not familiar with this place or its history, but I get the impression that it has been affected by a war-like event, possibly bombings. It could also be talking about human destruction via industrialisation, ‘…tinned fruit, tinned meat, tinned milk…tinned minds, tined breath.’