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To The Men Of England Analysis

Author: poem of Percy Bysshe Shelley Type: poem Views: 16

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Men of England, wherefore plough

For the lords who lay ye low?

Wherefore weave with toil and care

The rich robes your tyrants wear?

Wherefore feed and clothe and save,

From the cradle to the grave,

Those ungrateful drones who would

Drain your sweat -- nay, drink your blood?

Wherefore, Bees of England, forge

Many a weapon, chain, and scourge,

That these stingless drones may spoil

The forced produce of your toil?

Have ye leisure, comfort, calm,

Shelter, food, love's gentle balm?

Or what is it ye buy so dear

With your pain and with your fear?

The seed ye sow another reaps;

The wealth ye find another keeps;

The robes ye weave another wears;

The arms ye forge another bears.

Sow seed, -- but let no tyrant reap;

Find wealth, -- let no imposter heap;

Weave robes, -- let not the idle wear;

Forge arms, in your defence to bear.

Shrink to your cellars, holes, and cells;

In halls ye deck another dwells.

Why shake the chains ye wrought? Ye see

The steel ye tempered glance on ye.

With plough and spade and hoe and loom,

Trace your grave, and build your tomb,

And weave your winding-sheet, till fair

England be your sepulchre!


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||| Analysis | Critique | Overview Below |||

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Song To The Men Of England. P.B.Shelley. Appreciation by P.S.Remesh Chandran, Trivandrum.
A revolutionary is a person who causes constant changes around him wherever he is. In this sense, Shelley was a revolutionary poet. Song To The Men Of England opened up world\'s eyes to the torture, brutality and exploitation workers were subjected to in England during the time of her colonial prosperity and raised the question: Why can\'t we revolt?
Workers and exploiters are bees and drones in the bee-hive.
Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote each poem to celebrate and enjoy each particular tune as we can see in his Song To The Men Of England, Ode To The West Wind, To A Skylark, The Cloud and Adonais. He is considered one of the greatest poets in the English Language. And his influence on world literature is paramount. When we refer to him as a revolutionary, it does not mean he advocated merciless killing. In fact, he considered even animals as our fellow creatures, not to be slain for human food. It was after reading his works that the famous English author and dramatist George Bernard Shaw became a strict vegetarian. Here in this poem, Shelley is asking the Nineteenth century peasants and workers of England why they are not revolting against the landlords and production owners who are exploiting them to the last drop of their blood. In the Bee community, female bees do all the work and the male drones live by exploiting them. Shelley calls the workers Bees and the exploiters Drones which is apt.
Purpose of weapons fails when they are used against man.
Shelley\'s questions in the poem to the workers of England skilfully bring out their pitiful living conditions in the England of his times. He is asking them for what reason they plough the fields for the lords who are responsible for their poverty. For what reason with toil and care they weave the rich robes their tyrants are wearing, while their own children shiver in the dark without coal or cotton. From their birth till their death the workers feed, clothe and save those ungrateful drones, who in their turn would either drain their sweat or drink their blood. The Bees of England forge many weapons, chains and scourges which go straight to the hands of the tyrants to be used against them in it\'s time. Weapons were invented to assist man in his works but when used against man, their purpose fails and they become spoiled. Crititics have differed in their interpretations of this word \'spoiled.\' A weapon to become spoiled means, to become stained with it\'s maker\'s blood. Knives were invented for cutting away tree branches from the ancient man\'s path, chains were invented for lifting huge weights from the ground, and whips for taming wild animals. But when they happen to be used for throat-cutting, binding men together and for beating him, their purpose fails and they become spoiled.
Sacrificing a life, making riches and robes and arms for others.
The workers pay so high a price by living in constant pain, fear and poverty but even then, in spite of all their sufferings, at least their physical and spiritual needs are not got fulfilled. If not for fulfilling their basic animalistic needs, why should they labour from morning till night and from night till morning? Leisure, comfort and calmness are the spiritual needs of man. Food, shelter and the medicinal treatment of love are the physical needs of man. It is strange to note that Shelley, unlike many of the other poets of his times, has included love as a physical need of man, like food. The workers sow seed, but the harvest is taken away by the lords. They bring wealth out of earth through their work, but the riches are amassed and kept by the others. They weave robes for the others, but their own children have nothing to wear. The arms they forge also add to the armories of the oppressors. Thus Shelley convinces the workers of England and elsewhere that they are exploited to the extreme and that rising through revolutions is their right.
A poet\'s burning eloquence forcing the doors of England open.
We will normally expect that the poet, spreading such radical ideas will finally find his way to the London Tower, the English eqivalent of the French Bastille. But it was the era of the Industrial Revolution, closely following the English version of the Italian Renaissance. No workers\' revolution occured in England then or later as Shelley hoped and Marx predicted. Communism, the supreme theory of revolution was indeed born in England\'s soil, but Carl Marx fuming and storming his head in the British Museum for Thirty two years came to no use. Prosperity extinguishes revolutionary traits whereas poverty inflames them. But England in later years became the haven and world headquarters of revolutionaries in exile, due to the open door policy there. Shelley\'s burning eloquence in this song cannot be denied it\'s due share of influence in bringing about this change.
Shelley showed to the exploited workers that they have a right to rise in revolts. He encourages them to sow seed but let no tyrant reap; find wealth but let no impostor heap them. But his clarion-calls fell into deaf ears. Seeing the inertness of the English workers, towards the end of the poem, Shelley condemns them. By not revolting, they will have to finally shrink to their cells, cellars and holes that are supposed to be their residences, as the vast halls they constructed are all possessed by the privileged. Imagine a great massive elephant melting itself down and disappearing into the tiny pit of a sand-elephant; that is how the proletariat shrink. The great beast does not know it\'s capabilities. It is a pity to see them still wearing and shaking the chains they themselves wrought. \'The steel ye tempered glance on ye\', he says. Glance here has a dual meaning. He used the word in it\'s both senses: slip off from the hand causing a mortal wound, and have a quick look. The steel the workers themselves tempered ridiculingly laughs at them! If their destiny goes on unhampered in this manner, with plough and spade and hoe and loom, the tools of their trade, they will continue to build their tomb and weave their winding-sheet till their beautiful England becomes their vast sepulchre.
Dear Reader,
If you cannot access all pages of P.S.Remesh Chandran, Editor, Sahyadri Books & Bloom Books, Trivandrum, kindly access them via this link provided here: x

| Posted on 2011-06-24 | by a guest

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Thanks to whoever posted the in depth analysis. It\'s nice to have a bunch of points of view in one place, even if it\'s not your own.

| Posted on 2010-09-21 | by a guest

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To be more specific he means that the bees of england are all the people, while the hard toiling, worker bees, are the common man, and the stingless drones, who are good for nothing and reaping the benefits of the workers labour, are the nobles.

| Posted on 2010-04-28 | by a guest

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This is true... am Learning this in Literature.... :D :D

| Posted on 2009-09-10 | by a guest

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hey sorry my mistake i meant the bees of england are the tyrants(the ruling class)who enslave the workers who shelly address as the men of england.the name of the poem even makes it obvious "Song to the men of england"

| Posted on 2009-08-18 | by a guest

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hey the bees of england are the rich upper class who enslave the workers who shelley refers to as the bees of england!!.

| Posted on 2009-08-18 | by a guest

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A short summary: This poem shows the message that shelly wants to put across.He wants the 'bees of england' (the workers) to become independant and not live under the surpressed rule of the 'tyrants'. He want them to understand that they don't need to serve for anyone and need not to be treated like slaves.
as the poem progresses the tone gets harsher.He starts to insult the workers.The images become smaller and smaller.In the end his frustration level rises so much that he tells them that all they are capable of is diggint their own graves.

| Posted on 2009-06-03 | by a guest

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Isnt it a massive coincidence that this guys essay looks exactly like the one at x hmmm?

| Posted on 2009-06-01 | by a guest

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I think someone spent too much time with his thesaurus!

| Posted on 2009-05-06 | by a guest

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The analysis written is poorly worded, not well written, and makes rather false points.

| Posted on 2009-02-11 | by a guest

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This guy is a fake he just copied sumthing from another wedbsite hes is a plagerist and block him at any cost thank you

| Posted on 2009-01-26 | by a guest

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there is no such poem like this! it is a fake poem!

| Posted on 2009-01-14 | by a guest

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damn do not listen to this guy about his in depth analysis on "To the men of England". He needs to learn how to write a paper....

| Posted on 2008-11-17 | by a guest

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must know that Percy Bysshe Shelly was ANTI-MONARQUIST!!! that's why this poem has this point of view; negative towards the rich people.

| Posted on 2008-10-28 | by a guest

.: In-Depth Analysis :.

At first look, it is quite obvious that Percy Shelley’s “Song—To the Men of England” is meant to be an empowering anthem for the workers of England. However, upon closer examination, it becomes quite clear that Shelley’s message may be a little more complicated than it seems. The poem possesses many confusing paradoxes. Its language and tone also takes a disturbing twist in the end. With all these mysteries, Shelley’s intentions no longer seem to be clear. However, when all the pieces are put together, one can see that the negative and cynical aspects of Shelley’s poem serve to make “Song—To the Men of England” not just a simple cry of empowerment but an urgent, stirring call to action for the workers of the country.

“Song—To the Men of England” is dominated by a paradox. It first arises in lines seven and eight: “Those ungrateful drones who would Drain your sweat –nay, drink your blood?” In these lines, the speaker refers to the lords of the workers as “ungrateful drones.” A drone is defined as a male bee that does no work and no harm for it is sting less. So this part of the message is good and encouraging for the workers. It undermines the power of their lords. It insults the lords and makes a mockery of them. However, the idea of the lords being harmless and lazy is immediately followed by a very disturbing statement: “[the lords] would drain your sweat –nay, drink your blood…”

This statement completely changes the tone of the message. The tone becomes a little bit more dreary and discouraging. The diction gives rise to a macabre imagery. Now not only do the lords have power to drain the sweat from the workers, but they drink the workers’ blood! The lords are being compared to vampires, which are immortal bloodsuckers who render their victims powerless and dead.

The same paradoxical idea appears throughout the poem. The speaker refers to the lords as “tyrants” in lines four and twenty-one, indicating that their powers are absolute. Yet, he calls them “stingless drones” in line eleven and “idle” in line twenty-three, rendering them powerless and ridiculed.

So what are the lords? How does the speaker want the reader to see them? Are they powerless, lazy drones? Or are they tyrannical, immortal vampires capable of sucking the blood and life out of their victims?

Solving another mystery of the poem can answer these questions. In the last two stanzas, the poem takes a dramatic turn. The speaker shifts from commanding the workers to work for themselves and overthrow their tyrants to commanding the workers to hide in their “cellars, holes, and cells” (line twenty-five) and to build their graves. The last stanza, in particular, seems to insult the workers and surrenders hope for them. It ends the poem in such a dreary note, telling the workers to “Trace your grave, and build your tomb, And weave your winding-sheet, till fair England be your sepulcher!” (lines thirty to thirty-two). Now, it seems as if the speaker has been insulting the workers all along! He tells them that they allow themselves to be bullied by lazy, harmless men so that they may as well just build their own graves. His language shifts from romantic and sensitive “wherefores” in the beginning of the poem to harsh, dark monosyllabic words like “With plough and spade and hoe and loom, Trace your grave, and build your tomb” in the last stanza. By doing so, the speaker delivers a hammering affect. As a result, the last stanza creates a sense of urgency and anger, making its message particularly stand out from the rest of the poem.

So has the poem been trying to empower the workers all along or has it been contemptuously criticizing them? The answer is actually both. Though the last stanza serves to offset the rest of the poem, it does not overpower the initial message of empowerment. Instead, it actually emphasizes the message.

Throughout the beginning of the poem, the speaker is really pointing out the way things are. He recognizes the absurdity and unfairness of things. Then, in the middle he tells the workers how it should be:
“Sow seed, -but let not tyrant reap;
Find wealth, -let no imposter heap;
Weave robes, -let not the idle wear;
Forge arms, in your defence to bear” (lines twenty-one to twenty-four).
And finally, the last stanzas come. The last two stanzas again tell the workers of how things are: “Ye see The steel ye tempered glance on ye” (lines twenty-seven to twenty-eight). Basically, he tells the workers that they are digging their own graves by giving power to their initially harmless lords. Here, commanding them to dig their graves is different from the commands he gave them in lines twenty-one to twenty-four, By telling them to dig their graves, he is simply telling them what it is to continue with how things are.

What is actually happening is a juxtaposition of two ideas: of how things are, how things should be, and how things are again. In this way, the poet successfully delivers an image, a message. He successfully shows the contrast between the two ideas by sandwiching one inside the repetitions of the other. The middle idea, lines twenty-one to twenty-four, which is that of empowerment, then becomes like a bright, red flower sticking out amidst a dark, dreary landscape of reality. Furthermore, the last stanzas delivering the final repetition of the initial imagery are so dark and urgent with a hint of insult that it stirs the emotion of the reader. A worker reading the poem would have been angered by the last stanza and be stirred to follow true message of the poem in order to prevent the ending from becoming a reality.

| Posted on 2007-10-07 | by a guest

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