Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry: Explained, MISS PENELOPE LEITH, by WALTER CHALMERS SMITH

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry: Explained

MISS PENELOPE LEITH, by                 Poet's Biography

"Miss Penelope Leith" is a poem that depicts the life and character of an elderly woman named Penelope Leith, who represents the last remnants of an old-fashioned and traditional way of life in the Buchan region of Scotland. The poem explores themes of nostalgia, resistance to change, and the clash between old and new.

Provenance and Context:

Walter Chalmers Smith (1824-1903), a Scottish poet and minister of the Free Church of Scotland, wrote "Miss Penelope Leith" in the late 19th century. The poem reflects the social and cultural dynamics of the time, capturing the transition from traditional customs to the emergence of modernity in Scotland. It portrays a society undergoing significant changes, both in terms of social structures and attitudes.

Theme Analysis:

Nostalgia and Resistance to Change: The poem highlights Miss Penelope Leith's steadfast adherence to the traditions and customs of her time, symbolizing her resistance to the changing world around her. She clings to her old-fashioned ways, refusing to embrace the new fashions and ideas of the evolving society.

Clash between Old and New: Miss Penelope Leith's disdain for the "upstarts" and her loyalty to her old-world creed represent the clash between the established social order and the rising influence of new, upwardly mobile individuals. The poem explores the tension between tradition and progress, and the challenges faced by those who struggle to adapt to the changing times.

Poetic Devices:

Rhyme: The poem utilizes regular rhyme schemes, with a consistent ABAB or AABB pattern in each stanza. This contributes to the musicality and rhythm of the poem, enhancing the overall flow and structure.

Dialect and Language: Walter Chalmers Smith incorporates the use of the "quaint old Doric," the traditional Scots dialect, to capture the authentic voice and character of Miss Penelope Leith. This choice of language adds a sense of authenticity and cultural specificity to the poem.

Imagery: The poem employs vivid imagery, such as the descriptions of the Buchan landscape, the traditional customs, and the old-fashioned attire worn by Miss Penelope Leith. These images evoke a sense of nostalgia and paint a vivid picture of the world she embodies.

Overall, "Miss Penelope Leith" is a poem that explores the tensions between tradition and modernity, as well as the nostalgia and resistance to change in a rapidly evolving society. Through its use of rhyme, dialect, and imagery, the poem effectively captures the character of Miss Penelope Leith and the cultural context of its time.

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