Rapture has a religious significance – it is supposed to be the time when the living and the dead ascend into heaven to spend eternity with god. This poem, Rapture, isn’t about that, but rather uses it as a tool. The idea of the rapture has led to the term becoming synonymous with great pleasure. After all what greater pleasure could a person have than spending eternity in heaven with god? Therefore this poem is about extreme pleasure, or at least parts of it are!
Form and Tone
The poem presents itself in one single stanza but is effectively a sonnet as it contains fourteen lines. It seems to be a classic Shakespearean sonnet with the rhyming pattern ABABCDCDEFEFGG. It also ties into this tradition by being written in iambic pentameter. The poem, as is commonly the case with sonnets, is a love poem of sorts.
Thought of by you all day, I think of you.
The poem opens up with a very thought provoking line, which is ironically about thought. The narrator makes an assumption about the other person, the person who is effectively the subject of the poem. They assume that their subject is thinking of them and as a consequence they think about them right back. We don’t know as yet if the narrator has a good reason to make this assumption so right from the off we see Duffy creating questions which is a way of drawing in a reader and getting them to invest.
Bird song is a classic piece of symbolism. In fact it is so classic it could almost be considered a cliché. Duffy of course would know this and I think she uses it here with just a pinch of irony. Perhaps then the birds are not symbolic at all and the narrator is just taking in the scenery! Either way this is a nice nod to romantic poetry drawing on nature to evoke certain emotions, in this case love.
Duffy uses a beautiful description here referring to the clouds as a prayer of rain. This is a nice nod to the poems religious title and actually in itself is quite a clever collective noun for clouds. The end of the line is enjambment and this helps the poems pace, although it is an enjambment line it does not dismiss the rhyming pattern.
It seems here like Duffy, or rather the narrator, is being dismissive of the “heavens” previously they referred to them as being “uncared blue” and here it is clear that they do not associate the sky with heaven, “not paradise” the negativity continues by stating the endless nature of the sky. In a strange way this almost creates a lack of hope. The poem is called rapture which invokes an image of being pulled up into the heavens but this imagery seems to negate that idea.
Here it is perhaps revealed why the narrator is feeling negative. I don’t think this line is the narrator addressing the “heavens” but they are once again addressing the poems subject. They want to know why they have drifted. What is interesting is that the narrator clearly feels partially responsible. They don’t say “why have you drifted” they say “why have we drifted” this subtly points to a shared responsibility.
This is an interesting subversion. With the previous line ending how it did the suggestion would appear to be that the narrator had drifted apart from their significant other but here it is suggesting that they have both drifted from themselves. Suggesting they have become different people. I would suggest that the tone is such that the narrator clearly doesn’t feel that this is a positive thing. Claiming that they stay trapped in time is interesting and causes a mixed message. How can you drift whilst trapped? The two ideas seem to conflict one another and this helps to create an underlying tension. It gives the impression of uncertainty.
This quite dramatic. Once again this helps cement the idea of the rapture in our head. However I think any hint at religious undertones are almost irrelevant. I think this is supposed to point to the idea of a situation that has become really mundane. Queuing evokes the idea of waiting. It sounds like the narrator and their significant other are in a real bind if that is how dull things have got! This is another enjambment line.
Once again this line helps to cement the previously introduced notion of a really monotonous life. The narrator seems to be crying out for excitement. What is interesting is in the second part of this line the narrator almost “breaks the fourth war” by addressing the fact that this is a poem. Or at least there is a suggestion of this.
This is quite skilfully done as the narrator uses the word assonance to prove their point but also uses assonance in the line. Clever stuff! I think what is trying to be said here is that they try and break with the norm to attain bliss, but up until this point it doesn’t seem to have been working!
Here is where the poem almost turns on its head. It is interesting that Duffy chose to make this transformation midway through a couplet. I wonder if this is deliberate and contains a sort of symbolism. Perhaps her way of saying that love can act at any time. Once again nature is used but here it seems to have far more positive connotations.
Clearly there is a massive transformation and the tone of the poem has changed dramatically. It is at this point in the poem we start to understand why it is called rapture. Speaking of which note once again the reference to heaven.
Once again the narrator breaks with convention by acknowledging the fact that this is a poem. I think the suggestion in this line is that their lovers kiss and that feeling of love almost negates their previous words. For me at least this creates an image of pearls falling from a string.
Once again the sky is referenced but the change of tone changes the view of the sky. Here the sky is still described as large but there are suggestions of it being a network joining places together. Perhaps a metaphor for how the narrator is now joined with their lover?
Desire and passion on the thinking air.
The change in perception is echoed here. The air is given sentience! And this is all possible because of the feeling of love. Perhaps the insinuation here is that love is like oxygen! (Maybe Duffy is a fan of the band Sweet!)
About Carol Ann Duffy
Carol Ann Duffy is a renowned poet hailing from Glasgow in Scotland. However she was raised in England where she spent the majority of her young life. She was interested in poetry from a young age and so it was perhaps no surprise when she became a poet. Her poems often cover contemporary issues. She frequently writes in the first person and utilises strong characterisation for her narrative voices. This is the case in this poem. Her work is often studied in schools in Britain, partially because her poetry is so engaging but also because she is the UK’s poet laureate.