A World where News Travelled slowly

It could take from Monday to Thursday

And three horses. The ink was unstable,

The characters cramped, the paper tore where it creased.

Stained with the leather and sweat of its journey,

the envelope absorbed each climatic shift,

as well as the salt and grease of the rider

who handed it over with a four-day chance

that by now things were different and while the head

had to listen, the heart could wait.

The poem World Where News Travelled slowly is about how the world has changed with regard to transmission of news rather one to one communication.

The poet Lavinia Greenlaw has explained the slowness of communication process in the olden days in the first stanza. His explanation tells the reader vividly how the news was communicated from the sender to the receiver and his description of the news in the intervening period is interesting and at the same time quite critical.

The first line of the first stanza makes the reader understand the poet is quite cynical about the protracted time it took in the olden days for the news to travel – From Monday to Thursday.

The reader is given to think on the extent of time and resources the task consumed. By using ‘it’ to refer to the news at the very first reference the poet leaves in the reader’s mind, a sense of sharp criticism on the process of news delivery.

The reader is made to visualize the ideas- the ink is unstable, the character cramped, the paper tore where it creased –and appreciate the poet’s imagination of even the finest details.

The poet personifies ink –ink was unstable. The poet perhaps refers to the brightness of the imprint on the paper which gradually fades with time. The personified reference to the pen perhaps the ink has a will of its own and therefore it does not behave as we want it to.

The characters cramped – By this the reader visualizes a situation wherein the writer pours out his uncontrolled feelings and emotions whereby he is totally unmindful of the spacing between words

and this actually makes the letters looked cramped – the idea also leads to an analogy in the mind of the reader that the characters looked just how a small room is loaded with a large number of tiny tots.

The line –stained with the leather and sweat of its journey, the envelope absorbed each climatic shift- tells the reader about the sensitive nature of the envelope. The envelope is personified so as to perceive its travails en route. The leather is a synecdoche referring to the leather bag which contains the envelope. Though leather has been chosen for its endurance and smoothness, it has its gray side also- sometimes it leaves undeletable stains on the things it holds. As if that was not enough climatic differences also cause the envelope suffer wherein the varying moisture content in the atmosphere cause the envelope lose its original stiffness and texture.

The phrase salt and grease refers to the hard labour of the horse rider who is carrying the news from the sender to the receiver. The use of euphemism to refer sweat as salt and dirt as grease tells the reader what a tiring and hard task the rider is entrusted with. The reader is made to think that though the poet appreciates the hard labour of the rider, he does show him in poor light when he says that the rider also contributes his bit to the deterioration of the condition of the envelope.

In the end of the first stanza the poet brings in a fact which is quite ironical: He says by the time news the reaches its destination, the situation at the sender’s place is all different. The for day chances reinforces the thought that news delivery was incredibly slow in the olden days. The use of synecdoche head to refer to the receiver and heart to refer to the sender makes reading interesting: It makes the mind visualize how seriously he receiver puts his ‘head’ that is his mind to understand after had suddenly turned anxious on seeing the news envelope while the sender is waiting longing at his heart, to get know feelings of the receiver on reading the news.

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