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Analysis of 'The Language Issue' Poem by Nuala NÍ Dhomhnaill

Summary of the Poem and Key Conflict

1. Submit a TPCASTT (either picture of annotated poem or table ) of one of the 4 poems in the assessment pack.

2. Explication of the poem (approx 1000 words in lenght)

3. A 1-2 minute recording of you discussing an element of the poem or a part of it that spoke to you. I chose "the language issue" among the 4 poems. If you write the script for me i will record myself reading the script.

I copy pasted the poem below : “The Language Issue” by Nuala NÍ Dhomhnaill, translated by Paul Muldoon: “I place my hope on the water in this little boat of the language, the way a body might put an infant in a basket of intertwined iris leaves, its underside proofed with bitumen and pitch, then set the whole thing down amidst the sedge and bulrushes by the edge of a river only to have it borne hither and thither, not knowing where it might end up; in the lap, perhaps, of some Pharaoh’s daughter.” I posted files for reference.

1. tpcastt : this is a tpcastt table

2. ppt4 : this is a ppt made by my english teacher which was used during the lesson

3. ppt7 : this is another ppt made by my english teacher

4. explication : this is the explication of the poem Thank you

The poem ‘the language issue’ literally explains the language problems associated with expressing certain ideas that may be significant to people beyond the borders of its origin.  In the poem, the narrator puts hope in the language of a fringe social group to express herself to the whole world. She remains hopeful that despite the language used in the poem being less common, the message in the poem shall have wide coverage. The narrator expresses this hope in the poem by symbolizing the poem's message as an infant in a proofed basket. There is no surety that the message will reach distant places, but the narrator keeps hoping to spread the messaging trend widely (Fitzsimons, 2020). In the poem, the narrator talks about the basket carrying the infant being picked by the pharaoh’s daughter, meaning the message will hopefully trend to the whole world as she hopes. The theme of the poem is faith, as it expresses putting hope in the face of uncertainty.  

The poem express the theme of faith is expressed in the poem when the author says that the basket carrying the infant is borne hither and thither and not making any movements, but in her faith, hope, the infant will land on the laps of the pharaoh’s daughter. The narrator means that even though her liberal message is conveyed through a less popular language, she is optimistic that no matter when her news shall trend to the whole world one day. The narrator has used a metaphor in her poem to explain how not being well versed with international language can lead to desperation due to limited choices ‘I place my hope on the water in this little boat of the language.’  This relates to the TPCASTT in the sense that the narrator has also used the art of symbolism in her poem by using a little boat and basket of intertwined iris leaves as the unpredictable success of the message in the poem. She also symbolizes good luck and fortunes with the basket carrying the infant landing in the laps of pharaoh’s daughter ‘in the laps, perhaps, of some pharaoh’s daughter.’

Use of Symbolism, Personification, and Juxtaposition in the Poem

In connection to the thesis, the narrator also uses personification in the poem. She puts human attributes on the water, saying that she puts hope on the water carrying the little boat and basket here and there ‘I place my hope on the water.’ In the poem, the narrator expresses optimism as she hopes that despite the challenge of the language, things will eventually work out mysteriously, and her messages of the poem shall be far-reaching. She hopes for success in the face of uncertainty ‘only to have it borne hither and thither, not knowing where it might end up, in the lap, perhaps, of some pharaoh’s daughter’ (Kiberd, 2017).  The poem physically points to the language's weaknesses in genuinely conveying what he or she truly wants to communicate by pinning his hope on water and in the small boat of language. In a figurative sense, it means expecting good and beneficial outcomes from a fragile, unpredictable future. The future is symbolized by the water and the little boat, which are both unsteady, unexpected, and mysterious. The basket landing in the laps of the pharaoh's daughter represents hope and good fortune in the face of a bleak and uncertain future. The river is depicted as having the human trait of lugging the basket around from place to place. In the expression process, the narrator shifted her attention from putting her hope on the water in the little boat to the imagination of a baby being placed in a basket of intertwined iris leaves and proofed underside being waved around by water.

The speaker in the poem uses the two scenarios in her poem to help relay more information to the reader on the importance of faith in uncertain circumstances.  The speaker in the poem places his faith on subtle, shifting wording that conveys his intended meaning. Similar to how a body can place a new-born in a proofed basket and throw it down the river, where it is tossed around in the water and taken in no specific direction. The narrator, on the other hand, claims that sometimes the basket is lucky and is chosen by the pharaoh's daughter. The narrator abruptly turns from talking about putting his hope in water in a little boat to talking about a baby being placed in a basket and tossed about in the river by the current. The narrator juxtaposes the two situations in order for the readers to fully appreciate the future's unpredictability and mystery. The tone changes as well, from pessimistic to upbeat. The narrator depicts the difficulties that one can endure (being tossed around on the ocean), but also depicts a desirable future in which the pharaoh's daughter is the one who eventually gets the basket. As a result, the narrator emphasizes.

The speaker also expresses herself to the entire world by using the language of a marginalized social group to offer optimism. Despite the poems less common vocabulary, she remains optimistic that the poem's message will reach a large audience. The narrator symbolizes the poem's message as a child in a proofed basket to represent this hope in the poem. Although there is no guarantee that the message would reach faraway locations, the narrator continues to hope that the messaging trend will expand worldwide. The narrator of the poem talks of the pharaoh's daughter picking up the basket containing the new born, implying that the message will hopefully spread over the world, as she wishes.


The author best expresses the significance of faith and proves that even though tomorrow is not known, better things can come unexpectedly. The metaphor used by the narrator in the poem is significant because it expresses how desperation leads to trusting the weakest decision. However, the narrator did not adhere to most aspects of poetry, such as the rhyme scheme. In my opinion, the poem best expresses the power of faith and optimism. The narrator has argued his thoughts and feelings most understandably by using scenarios for easy understanding by the reader. Conclusively, even at the point of limited choices, better things can come with or without expectations.

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