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Commentary on The Lesson by Roger McGoughRoger McGough the author of The Lesson is a well respected British poet who

is still writing poems and is a poetry performer today. His work has become so well recognized that he has received an O.B.E for his contributions to poetry from the Queen. McGough was born in Liverpool and attended school in the nineteen-forties and fifties during a time when corporal punishment was widely present in British education. The Lesson by McGough is a poem which exaggerates the theme of corporal punishment and is also a parody on people taking the law into their own hands in an environment which we can all relate to. The title, The Lesson is a play on words, the students are attending a lesson and the teacher is about to teach them a lesson they wont forget. The poem is all about how one teacher who is so frustrated by the childrens attitude that he decides to teach them a lesson, one that theyll never forget. In teaching this lesson he is trying to get the children to stop acting so boisterously. The way in which the teacher gets the lesson through to the children is in the form of capital punishment as opposed to corporal punishment. So instead of beating them with a cane he is throttling them with his hands, hacking them down with a sword, and shooting them with a shotgun. The poem sounds as if it is set in a present day English state school where there is little if any discipline, management, or control over the students. McGough never refers to the students as students or children. He always uses negative nouns for them, such as hooligans, latecomer, vandal, and those who skive. Even though the teacher is acting in an outrageous way and going round killing students, you still feel sympathetic for him because he has to manage a class of unruly, disobedient kids. This is reinforced because the headmaster of the school is on the teachers side. He popped his head round the door and nodded understandingly and tossed in a grenade.The poem is divided into quatrains where the second and fourth lines rhyme in each stanza. The first two stanzas are at a steady easy pace, but that changes from the third through eighth stanzas. In the third stanza the pace speeds up and becomes more intense as the action and violence starts. McGough acheives this by using verbs that would be found in a war, such as throttled, hacked and blasted. In the final two stanzas the pace settles down again, as McGough uses words like surveyed and shuffled both of which are slow actions. The sound of these words is more gentle than words like throttled. Alliteration is used in the poem quite frequently. Some examples of this are throttled, there and then, and garotted the girl, first come, first severed, fingers, feet, and silence shuffled. The alliteration helps the poem flow and links the words together and makes a connection between the words. The ss in the silence shuffled slow the poem down, and the f sounds in stanza four give a light airy feel. An interesting point about the poem is that it is really light and easy to read. It skips along well even though the content is dark and aggressive. The poem flows along easily because there is a constant rhyme scheme and the lines are short and use enjambment. Roger McGough has been very clever in this poem and uses lots of language tricks which helps the poem flow and makes for easy reading. An example of this is the pun on first come first served which he changed to first come, first severed. The use of deadly aim to describe the accuracy of the throw of the sword is a double meaning in deadly. Using continued with his game shows that the teacher is having fun doing what he is doing and doesnt care about the lives of the students. In describing the students dying with the simile like rubber dinghies when the plugs pulled out, the teacher shows his disregard for the students. When all the students are dying or dead the teacher waggled a finger severely and said now let that be a lesson McGough is shows that the poem is still light and is just a joke. In writing this poem Roger McGough has tackled the question of whether or not corporal punishment should be accepted and used in the school environment. He has made a joke out of the reality and exaggerated it to the point of which it is capital punishment instead of corporal. He has also shown what happens when somebody takes the law into their own hands. He has shown this in an environment that we can all relate to. The rhymes and play on words make the poem enjoyable and fun to read for the audience.