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Analysis of Five Poems by Franklin Adams

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Franklin Pierce Adams was an American poet and a columnist born in 1881 and died in 1960. Best known by his abbreviations F.P.A., he is famous because of ‘The Conning Tower’, a regular column in the newspaper and regular participation on ‘Information Please’ radio show.  As a prolific author, Adams belonged to ‘Algonquin Round Table’ club of the 20s and 30s. In 1903, Adams signed a contract with Chicago Journal and he wrote a humor column and weather column ‘A Little about Everything’. In 1904, he joined ‘New York Evening Mail’ and started working on the column "Always in Good Humor" that was mainly based on readers’ contributions. It is while working at ‘Evening Mail’ that Adams wrote one of his best famous poems’ ‘Baseball’s Sad Lexicon’ while paying tribute to ‘Chicago Cubs’. In 1914, Adams transferred his column work to ‘New York Tribune’ and it changed its name to ‘The Conning Tower’. In this essay, the discussion will analyze five poems as written by Franklin Pierce Adams in his column ‘The Conning Tower’.

While the First World War was in the offing, Adams served in the American army as a column writer and in military unit of intelligence. In the military, he introduced the column ‘The Listening Post’. However, in 1922, Adams moved in with ‘New York World’ and while here, his column featured there thus making the paper to merge with the ‘New York Telegram’ in 30s. He went back to his old working station by then known as ‘New York Herald Tribune’ until 1937. He later worked with ‘New York Post’ and this marked the end of his columns in 1941. While in operation, ‘The Conning Tower’ received contributions from renowned authors such as Edna Ferber, Dorothy Parker, Moss Hart, and Deems Taylor among others. ‘The Conning Tower’ led to a career formation as seen through James Thurber and Dorothy Parker. Parker engineered the publication of poems featured in the column ‘The Conning Tower’ as a tribute to F.P.A.

In almost all his poems, Adams employs numerous poetic devices namely imagery, metaphor, rhyme, simile, tone, and satire among others to pass his message to his readers or audience. For instance, in one of his poems, ‘A Psalm of Laboring Life’, the author employs metaphor to express his views concerning life. In stanza two, line one, the poem reads, ‘Life is phony! Life is rotten!’ In other words, the author compares the sufferings that people face everyday as rotten. Through a rhetorical question, the poet questions, ‘Why should you be picking cotton, Why should I be mining coal?’ This clearly indicates that the poet does not approve of the toil that individuals face everyday, all in the name of life. In a rather sympathetic and sad tone, the poet admits that sorrows in life do not end because someone is employed (Adams, 2004 p. 5).

In the poem ‘A Psalm of Laboring Life’, Adams is categorical that in life, all that individuals crave for is money. This portrays people as materialistic in everything they do. While employing irony, the poet asserts that although people work hard, the sad thing is that they are nearing their death everyday. This is in stanza four, line four, ‘But my heart continues punching Funeral time-clocks to the grave’. Additionally, the poet has employed repetition in some lines to put emphasis in his message. For instance, in stanza six, line three, ‘Strike,--strike in the living present!’, thus encouraging the reader or the audience not to give up in whatever they are doing (Adams, 2004 p. 5). The poem has a moral lesson to people never to quit in their everyday life because laboring is mandatory.

The second poem by Franklin Adams is ‘Again Endorsing the Lady’. In this poem, the poet mostly employs poetic devices of vivid description, metaphor and rhetorical questions to explore on love matters. The narrator in this poem had been double-crossed by his lover. In stanza one, line three, he wonders: ‘How Can Beauty Be So Fair?’ after rubbing shoulders with his love (Adams, 2004 p. 9). Through vivid description, the beauty of the girl in the poem is expressed, ‘the grace of her, the face of her—and oh, her yellow hair! And oh, the wondrous walk of her! So doth a goddess glide?’ Additionally, the poet employs a metaphor in the second stanza while describing the girl’s beauty, ‘fair as iscomache herself, the lapithanian maid; or brimo where at mercury’s side her virgin form she laid’. However, it is ironical that irrespective of her beauty, the narrator was not in good terms with the woman he loved most (Adams, 2004 p. 9). While describing her beauty, the poet has employed instances of over-statement to show the reader and the audience that the girl was indeed beautiful. He refers to the girl in the poem as a ‘goddesses whom erst the shepherd spied!’ in some cases, the poet has employed colloquialism such as ‘ye goddesses whom erst’.

In the third poem by Franklin Adams ‘Ballade of the Traffickers’, the poet focuses mainly on the ever increasing cost of life. While repeating the wordings ‘up goes the price of our’ in stanza one, he explores on the increase in prices of bread and cakes.  However, the reader is reminded that irrespective of the increase in costs of food, ‘people must ever be fed; bakers must ever be baking’. In a rather sympathetic tone, the poet is categorical that ‘pay we the crowd that is taking all that the traffic will bear’ (stanza one, lines 7 &8). Far from the literal meaning of the poem, the poet is analyzing a society where the government burdens the ordinary people by increasing the cost of basic needs (Adams, 2004 p. 18).

Additionally, the second stanza in the ‘Ballade of the Traffickers’ portraysa society where humanity is explored by all and sundry. For instance, the poet is categorical, ‘trades people, ducking and draking, Charge you as much as they dare’. This indicates that not even the businesspersons have mercy on the people as they continue to hike the prices of the basic commodities (Adams, 2004 p. 18). Using a rhetoric question, the poet wonders why the executives make life expensive intentionally, ‘yet, though our purses are aching’. This shows that irrespective of increase in cost of life, people are still struggling with meager salaries.

The fourth poem by Franklin Adams ‘Bon Voyage-And Vice Versa’ explores the thematic concern of love and friendship. The poet in this poem has employed rhetorical questions and colloquial expressions to express the feelings of the narrator (Adams, 2004 p. 20). When the poem opens, the first two lines are evident of someone who has been abandoned by his lover Cynthia. ‘O Cynthia, hast thou lost thy mind? Have I no claim on thine affection?’ The narrator cannot bring himself to understand how his lover can substitute him with somebody else. While employing hyperbole, the poet expresses how the narrator is unable to sleep following the break up. Additionally, another hyperbole is evident in the third stanza where the narrator asserts, ‘the winds, when that they cease to roar, shall find me wailing on the shore’.  To emphasize on the agony meted on the narrator following the break up, the poet employs rhetorical questions in the last stanza ‘Where have you seen my Cynthia last? Has anybody seen my dearie?’ This shows that the heart of the narrator bleeds for his lover (Adams, 2004 p. 20).

Lastly, in the poem ‘How Do You Tackle Your Work?’ by Franklin Adams, the major thematic concern is hard work and success. The author begins with a rhetorical question, ‘How do you tackle your work each day?’ just to prepare the reader of the subject matter in the poem. However, the narrator is categorical that although people do work extra, they cannot accomplish more (Adams, 2004 p. 29). The poem is a wake up call for the youths in the society. This is evident in stanza two, ‘if you are afraid of yourself, young man, there’s little for you in store’. While exploring on success in the poem, the author employs exclamation mark to lay emphasis. The youths are reminded that success, ‘It is found in the soul of you, And not in the realm of luck!’ in other words, the poem is a word of caution to the lazy people in the society (Adams, 2004 p. 29). The poem is categorical that when people are encompassed with fear, it is impossible for them to work appropriately. Whenever people are working, they are supposed to handle their tasks ‘with a fear that is well defined; and grapple the task that comes their way’.

It is with no reasonable doubt that Franklin Pierce Adams is a renowned American poet who wrote many poems while working in different newspaper companies. In most of his poems, the author explores thematic concerns of love and friendship, human suffering, hard work, and success among others. In order to pass his message to the reader and the audience in a better way, the poet has employed poetic devices such as hyperbole, metaphor, irony, repetition, vivid description, and tones among others. The poet has portrayed high level of experience in the field of writing through his poems. He manages to expose the evils in the society and other important issues about humanity.

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