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Hour

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English Literature

'Hour' (2005) is part of Carol Ann Duffy’s 2005 poetry collection Rapture. The collection presents the story of a love affair through a number of poems written in different styles – similar to a sonnet sequence, just without the sonnets. This work is characteristic of Duffy’s typical exploration of relationships beyond heteronormative and traditional conventions. In addition to love, in 'Hour' Duffy explores themes that include time and materialism.

Sonnet sequence: a group of sonnets written by one poet with a unifying theme or story.


Summary of 'Hour' by Carol Ann Duffy

Written In

2005

Written By

Carol Ann Duffy

Form

Sonnet

Meter

No set meter

Rhyme Scheme

A-B-A-B-C-D-C-D-E-F-E-F-G-G

Poetic Devices

Enjambment

Caesura

Simile

Metaphor

Personification

Frequently noted imagery

Nature

Materialism

Tone

Romantic

Key themes

Time

Romantic love

Meaning

Although time is the enemy of love, the emotion of love and the moments spent with a lover exist outside the limits of time.

Context of the poem ‘Hour’

Biographical context

Carol Ann Duffy is a Scottish poet. In 1983, Duffy won the National Poetry Competition and in 2009 she was appointed Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom, becoming the first woman to receive the honour since its creation in 1616. Her collection Standing Female Nude (1985) established her as a key figure in poetry.

Although Duffy typically subverts traditional expectations of relationships and romance in her poems, 'Hour' follows a more traditional form and structure. The poem itself has an intimate nature, as it represents a moment taken from Duffy's own life. However, the use of a traditional form indicates that Duffy is aware that the experience she is describing is essentially universal.

Literary context

The Love Poem’ is part of Duffy’s 2005 poetry collection Rapture, which contains a range of poems written in different forms and styles, following the story of a love affair. Rapture is a modern-day sonnet sequence. However, instead of being made up of sonnets, the collection consists of various poems of different forms, styles, and structures.

While Duffy's work usually uses techniques associated with modernism, 'Hour' holds many similarities to poems associated with romanticism. These similarities include a sonnet form and natural imagery.

Modernism: A literary movement that seeks to depart significantly from traditional forms, styles, and expectations of writing.

Romanticism: A literary movement present from the late eighteenth century to the mid-nineteenth century characterised by a celebration of the natural world, individual experiences, and an expression of emotion.

‘Hour’ poem analysis

Love’s time’s beggar, but even a single hour,

bright as a dropped coin, makes love rich.

We find an hour together, spend it not on flowers

or wine, but the whole of the summer sky and a grass ditch.

For thousands of seconds we kiss; your hair

like treasure on the ground; the Midas light

turning your limbs to gold. Time slows, for here

we are millionaires, backhanding the night

so nothing dark will end our shining hour,

no jewel hold a candle to the cuckoo spit

hung from the blade of grass at your ear,

no chandelier or spotlight see you better lit

than here. Now. Time hates love, wants love poor

but love spins gold, gold, gold from straw.

Title of 'Hour' by Carol Ann Duffy

The simplistic language of the poem's single-word title indicates the main theme of the poem, time. While 'Hour' has clear connotations of time and the passing of time, the simplicity of the title also creates a sense of ambiguity, as it does not tell us any more about the poem's content. This sense of ambiguity is reflected by the idea that love is outside the limits of time.

If you saw just the title of the poem before reading it, what would you assume the poem is about?

Form of 'Hour' by Carol Ann Duffy

'Hour' (2005) differs from Duffy's typical use of free-verse in her poetry. The poem is written in the form of a Shakespearean Sonnet, made up of a single stanza with an abab cdcd efef gg rhyme scheme. However, Duffy does not fully conform to the structure of a Shakespearean Sonnet as the poem does not use iambic pentameter, and is instead written without a set meter.

Iambic pentameter: a line (usually in a poem) that consists of five metrical feet, each foot is made up of one unstressed syllable followed by one stressed syllable.

The use of a sonnet form highlights the fact that this is a love poem. Many poets, including Shakespeare, have used sonnets when writing love poetry. This literary tradition is employed by Duffy to express to the reader the power of love.

Do you think Duffy intentionally chose to not use iambic pentameter, despite writing her poem as a sonnet? Why do you think this is?

Poetic devices in 'Hour' by Carol Ann Duffy

Enjambment

Although 'Hour' (2005) isn't written in free-verse, Duffy still utilises the poetic device of enjambment. For instance, lines five to nine have enjambment throughout:

For thousands of seconds we kiss; your hair

like treasure on the ground; the Midas light

turning your limbs to gold. Time slows, for here

we are millionaires, backhanding the night

so nothing dark will end our shining hour,

Here the enjambment allows the poem to flow naturally from line to line, as if the narrator is lost in the moment, recalling each sense and memory.

The use of caesura across these lines enhances the effect of the enjambment, as the narrator appears to pause as they recall each moment, from the 'kiss' to how the 'midas light' appeared to turn their lovers 'limbs to gold'. These pauses emphasise each moment, indicating that the narrator is cherishing each small memory.

Enjambment: when a sentence is continued across one line of a poem to the next without a pause at the end of the line.

Free-verse: a poem which does not use a strict meter or rhyme scheme.

Caesura

Caesura is used in the poem to place emphasis on certain lines and phrases by breaking up the poem's rhythm. This device is most evident in line thirteen:

than here. Now. Time hates love, wants love poor

Here, the caesura creates a Volta in the poem. There is a shift from the description of the hour which the two lovers spent together, made up of small moments, to the more general concept of time being the enemy of love. The caesura and single word sentence of 'now' highlights this shift.

Volta: a turning point in a poem.

Language devices in 'Hour' by Carol Ann Duffy

Personal Pronouns

Duffy makes use of the repetition of 'we' to represent her and the lover as a collective unit. While the use of personal pronouns adds an intimate feel to the poem, they also create a sense of ambiguity. Considering that Rapture (2005), the collection this poem is part of, is about an affair, the anonymity of the poem adds a sense of secrecy to its intimate nature.

Simile

Duffy uses similes throughout the poem to evoke images of wealth. The association of the lover's physical attributes with 'a dropped coin' and 'treasure', indicates that the narrator perceives their lover and the feelings they hold for them as more significant than material goods or money. For instance, the simile:

Your hair

like treasure on the ground

idealises such a simple part of the lovers appearance. Their hair is 'like treasure', something the narrator is lucky to have found. Moreover, the use of enjambment emphasises the comparison, placing it on a separate line, creating a pause in the rhythm by doing so.

Personification

Toward the end of the poem, Duffy personifies time:

than here. Now. Time hates love, wants love poor

but love spins gold, gold, gold from straw.

By giving the abstract noun of time human qualities, Duffy highlights its impact on love, as it actively 'wants love poor'.

Duffy personifies love in these lines. Why do you think she does this?

Tone and imagery in the poem ‘Hour’

Tone of the poem 'Hour' by Carol Ann Duffy

The poem has a romantic tone, underpinned by its stylistic similarities to poems associated with the romanticism literary movement. Duffy's use of allusions to the natural world are particularly effective at creating a traditionally romantic style.

Imagery in the poem 'Hour' by Carol Ann Duffy

Nature

Duffy parallels the romantic tradition of using natural imagery in love poetry, for instance:

whole of the summer sky and a grass ditch

Through likening her lover and the time they spend together to the natural world, the narrator and lover's experience together transcends time and the material world of people.

Can you think of any traditional romantic poetry which uses natural imagery? For instance, Shakespeare's 'Sonnet 18'.

Materialism

A semantic field of material imagery is evident in the poem; 'dropped coin', 'flowers or wine', 'limbs to gold', 'jewel hold a candle', and 'no chandelier or spotlight'.

Semantic Field: a group of words which are related to each other.

The use of material imagery may make an analogy to the lover:

the Midas light

turning your limbs to gold

The imagery may also refer to that which the lovers should reject:

not on flowers

This imagery shows that the love between the two characters is both equal to and greater than the material riches of the world. This contributes to the idea that the emotion of love and the moments spent with a lover can transcend the boundaries of time and reality.

Which other famous Duffy poem uses imagery associated with materialism? Here's a clue: the poem opens with 'I give you an onion'.

Themes in the poem 'Hour'

Time

Time is a key theme in the poem, as Duffy highlights how love allows two people to escape temporal boundaries. The poem itself explores a single hour spent between the narrator and their lover. Whether they spend seconds, hours, or years with each other, they are able to make the most of a moment in time, thereby transcending its boundaries.

Romantic love

In line with Duffy's usual subject matter, the poem centres on the theme of romantic love. Not only does the content of the poem reflect this theme, with the use of language associated with unity; 'together' and 'we kiss', the theme is also evident in the poem's sonnet form.

The sonnet is a traditional form of poetry, used by the romantic poets of the 18th and 19th centuries. How does the form of the poem connect the two themes of time and romantic love?

Hour (2005) - Key takeaways

  • 'Hour' (2005) is part of Carol Ann Duffy’s 2005 poetry collection Rapture which presents the story of a love affair through a number of poems written in different styles.
  • The poem is written in the form of a sonnet, consisting of a single fourteen line stanza.
  • The poem follows an A-B-A-B-C-D-C-D-E-F-E-F-G-G rhyme scheme and uses poetry devices that include enjambment, simile and personification.
  • The poem contains imagery relating to nature and materialism and covers the themes of time and romantic love.

Hour

Duffy presents relationships and love in 'Hour' as something which can transcend the boundaries of time and reality. 

'Hour' is about a couple who spend an hour of time together. Within the poem, Duffy describes how the emotion of love and the moments spent with a lover can exist outside of time. She also explores the theme of materialism. 

'Hour' is written in the form of a sonnet.

Love is presented as a powerful emotion which is not affected by the limits of time.

'Hour' was written in 2005, and is part of Carol Ann Duffy's poetry collection Rapture.

Final Hour Quiz

Question

Which poetry collection is 'Hour' part of?

Show answer

Answer

Rapture (2005)

Show question

Question

What story does Rapture (2005) present?

Show answer

Answer

Rapture (2005) presents the story of a love affair through a number of poems written in different styles 

Show question

Question

What is a sonnet sequence?

Show answer

Answer

A group of sonnets written by one poet with a unifying theme or story. 

Show question

Question

What is the poem's rhyme scheme?

Show answer

Answer

ABAB CDCD EFEF GG

Show question

Question

Which of these themes is not found in the poem?

Show answer

Answer

Romantic love

Show question

Question

When did Carol Ann Duffy win the National Poetry Competition?

Show answer

Answer

In 2009

Show question

Question

True or False? Rapture is wholly biographical?

Show answer

Answer

True! In a 2013 Guardian Article, Duffy highlighted how all of the poems in her collection Rapture were wholly biographical.

Show question

Question

What is the form of 'Hour'?

Show answer

Answer

Sonnet 

Show question

Question

True or False? 'Hour' uses iambic pentameter 

Show answer

Answer

False! Although iambic pentameter is common in sonnets, 'Hour' has no set meter.

Show question

Question

Which literary movement does 'Hour' have similarities to?

Show answer

Answer

Modernism

Show question

Question

What does the title of the poem have clear connotation of?

Show answer

Answer

Time and the passing of time

Show question

Question

What poetic devise is used here;

For thousands of seconds we kiss; your hair 

like treasure on the ground; the Midas light

Show answer

Answer

Enjambment 

Show question

Question

What poetic devise is used here;

than here. Now. Time hates love, wants love poor

Show answer

Answer

Caesura 

Show question

Question

Which of these techniques does Duffy not use?

Show answer

Answer

Personal pronouns

Show question

Question

What is the tone of 'Hour'?

Show answer

Answer

Romantic

Show question

Question

What language is used to build on the poem's theme of romantic love?

Show answer

Answer

Language associated with unity; 'together' and 'we kiss'

Show question

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