Ettrick: Imagery Paralleling Emotion
Annie Lausier, Wake Forest University

The poem "Ettrick" by Alicia Ann Spottiswood is filled with natural imagery that parallels the stages of the narrator's relationship with another person (or a group of people). While the events are simple (three different journeys down Ettrick), the descriptions of the surroundings and glimpses of human emotion evoke an overall understanding of the narrator's feelings about the relationship.

The first stanza of "Ettrick" takes place in the spring or early summer and evokes a feeling of joy and renewal. Everything is happy-including nature: "[t]he waters [are] singing, the sun [is] glancing" (line 3). There is "dew [on] the blooming heather," forming the imagery of a new day and new life (line 5). The feelings of the people parallel the environment; the narrator recalls that "[their] hearts were dancing" and "[their] voices rang out thegither" (lines 2, 4). The whole stanza emits the feeling of fresh happiness.

In the second stanza, everything is winding down-including the narrator's relationship. They are riding down Ettrick in the late afternoon of an autumn day and the setting is becoming more calm-"the day [is] dying, the wild birds calling, / [t]he wind [is] sighing, the leaves [are] falling" and the heather has faded (lines 8, 9, 11). The narrator and her companion(s) are "silent an' weary, but closer thegither," seemingly more grounded than their first ride down Ettrick, but also more tired. The second stanza reveals a change throughout from novelty towards quiescence.

The final stanza describes the narrator's last journey down Ettrick in the winter. Turbulence has arisen in the surroundings and in the relationship-and a feeling of finality lurks. On the last trip down, "the winds [are] shifting, the storm [is] waking, / [and t]he snow is drifting" (lines 14, 15). The cold, disorderly environment is synonymous with the tumultuous and separated relationship in which the narrator is involved. The narrator realizes that the relationship is ending; she describes that her "heart [is] breaking, / [f]or [they] never again [are] to ride thegither" (lines 15, 16). They have reached the final, rocky phase of their relationship and, for that, the narrator is sorrowful. The arrival of a harsh winter signifies the rough, distant point that their relationship has reached.

Throughout the poem, Spottiswood relates the setting with the narrator's relationship; both go through seasons of happiness, decline, and callousness. Time changes the relationship from budding to blossoming and finally to death. The powerful imagery created through the description of the environment enhances the true workings of the relationship during each stage. By making parallel the surroundings to the human connection, Spottiswood reveals more about the relationship's importance than had she simply described the life of the relationship.

Because imagery is such a pivotal element in "Ettrick," a multimedia presentation can be valuable in conveying the feelings expressed throughout the poem. Through pictures, layout, color, and sound, the poem can speak to a reader in a way that words on a page may not.

I tried to make the images used in the background of the presentation as true to the description of Ettrick as possible. I wanted to make three distinct forms of the same setting to show the contrast between nature's varying effects on a landscape. Photoshop proved to be a great help in enhancing the pictures to look more vivid (i.e., the summer picture) and more faded (the winter picture). Animation is also a significant part of my presentation. The movement of words can help keep a reader focused; it can also represent what is being expressed (i.e., "the leaves were falling" falls like a leaf would). Animations such as birds flying and snow falling help make the ideas of the poem more concrete. The presentation's actual images and animations physically show the ideas of "Ettrick."

The layout and the color scheme are also important in developing the mood that the poem evokes. Because each stanza contains many short phrases that are flashes of the different elements of the ride (i.e., "Our bridles were ringing, our hearts were dancing"), I present the poem line by line, and when applicable, phrase by phrase. The background color is a detail that helps set the tone of any presentation. I wanted to start the background color out a bright green, signifying the new life that is being experienced, and have the color fade smoothly to yellow and orange, to red and purple, to blue and finally to white, showing the bleakness and void in winter and in the narrator's heart. One of the pivotal characteristics of the color background is its gradual change of color; it can represent the small changes in something, such as nature or a relationship, that go unnoticed until the object has changed so much that it is noticeable. I used Macromedia Flash to create the color-changing background.

The incorporation of sound into a poetry presentation can enhance the poem even more. I tried to get pieces that conveyed the feelings of each stanza, season, and stage of the relationship. The song for the first stanza is from "Allegro" by Corelli. It has a quick, lively tempo that suits the happiness in the relationship and the feeling that comes with spring and summer. The second stanza employs "Partita #2 in d minor," 1st movement (Allemande) by JS Bach. It is a bit slower and represents a settling-down of sorts. The third piece is "Meditation" from the opera "Thaïs" by Massanet. It is slow and sad, symbolizing the loneliness felt in the relationship and during winter. I used CoolEdit to filter out the background noise of the recordings and AcidPro 3.0 to adjust the length and timing of each of the pieces to fit the Director presentation. However, I could not successfully synchronize the pieces with the stanzas; they are unfortunately too short for the presentation. I recorded my own voice reading the poem to make the reading of the poem smoother. I saved each phrase as a different file and plugged it into Director as needed. The sound as a whole brings an interesting and dynamic dimension to the poem.

To many, experiencing a poem can be enhanced by such elements as imaging, layout and sound. These devices can help an observer take something from the poem that he or she might have otherwise missed. Digital media can take all of these elements and create a multimedia wonderland that brings a poem to life and can evoke many feelings in an observer. Hopefully I have presented "Ettrick" in a way that makes the poem come to life for others as it did for me yet still preserve the meaning and integrity of the poem.

About the author...

The author's digital rendition of Alicia Ann Spottiswood's "Ettrick." (~3.6 MB)
Requires Shockwave plugin.

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