Lesson video

In progress...


Hello, and welcome to today's English lesson, where we are going to be exploring Mary Robinson's poem "The Birth-day".

But before we begin, please make sure that you have something to write with and something to write on.

If you don't have that, you can pause the video here and go and grab it.

I'd also like you to make sure that you've put all distractions out of the way, so you can fully focus on today's lesson content.

So if you're ready and you have everything you need, let's get started.

So let's begin by considering our agenda for today's lesson.

We're going to begin with a review of Mary Robinson's life before exploring "The Birth-day" narrative in full.

Then we're going to crunch the poem and annotate it before considering Robinson's purpose.

So there's a lot to do this lesson, we best get started.

I would like you to use the symbols and pictures below to recall three important facts about Mary Robinson's life.

On the left hand side of your screen, you will see a prison cell.

In the middle, you will see someone with a star for their head, perhaps suggesting fame.

And on the right hand side, you will see a hand that symbolises revolution, a change in the world.

So pause the video here and note down three facts about Mary Robinson from last lesson inspired by these use of symbols.

When you're done, please resume the video.

Great, now you've had some time to complete that task, let's review the three key facts about Mary Robinson's life.

So firstly, we have the prison cell symbol.

Remember Robinson's husband went to prison because he owed a lot of money.

He went to a debtor's prison.

Robinson and her small child had to go there to live with him.

In the centre, we have the starhead, this is a representation of fame.

Remember Robinson was well known during her lifetime, not just for her jobs as an author and a poet and an actress, but also for her many romantic relationships.

And finally we have the hand symbol representing revolution and necessary change in our society.

Remember, Robinson was a key supporter of women's rights and also the fight for equality.

Well done if you got those correct, if you didn't don't worry, you can pause the video here and update your notes as necessary.

So as suggested we're going to use a good majority of this lesson exploring Robinson's poem "The Birth-day".

But before we can begin, let's consider some of those key images that she used.

We had those glaring eyes contrasting the closed, miserable, crying eyes.

We have an image of luxury, a symbolism of jewellery and perhaps riches contrasting the bare feet.

Why are they bare? They have no shoes.

Is it because they can't afford them? And finally, we have the shouting symbol contrasting the symbol on the bottom where this person seems like they're trying to talk, but they can barely get anything out, they end up simply sighing.

So the glaring eyes contrasting the crying face, we've got the diamond and riches contrasting the bare feet and we've got the shouting symbol contrasting the image below, someone being silenced and only being able to sigh.

Now these symbols are going to be important as we read Robinson's poem "The Birth-day".

And I would like you to look out for them in the corresponding stanzas.

So now we're ready, let's read Robinson's "The Birth-day".

So we're going to begin by reading "The Birth-day".

As we do say, I am going to paraphrase each of the stanzas to give you a better understanding of what Robinson is suggesting.

While we read, we are going to complete a task which is going to be crunching the poem.

This means by the end of reading the poem, we're going to have our own condensed version.

I will guide you through my chosen quotations from each stanza but if you feel that there is another word or quotation you would prefer to have in your crunched version, you're more than welcome to choose your own.

Okay, great, let's get reading.

"Here bounds the gaudy, gilded chair, Bedecked with fringe and tassels gay; The melancholy mourner there Pursues her sad and painful way." Now here we've got use of the word gaudy in the description of the chair and that means to be over the top and showy.

Now this image of this chair making its way down the street, bounding down the street, suggesting confidence and energy, completely contrasts the image of the melancholy mourner so melancholy means extremely sad and they're pursuing her sad and painful way.

So we've got a real strong contrast right from the start of the poem between what is going to become our upper class Countess and we'll meet her in the next stanza and those members of the working classes that surround her.

So I've chosen the word gaudy and the word melancholy from this stanza to include in my crunched version of the poem.

I think they contrast one another really nicely and that paves the way for the rest of the poem.

"Here guarded by a motley train, The pampered Countess glares along; There, wrung by poverty and pain, Pale Misery mingles with the throng." So here we're introduced to the pampered Countess and it is the Countess who is celebrating her birthday.

Now Robinson very deliberately describes her as being pampered.

So if we're pampered, it means we're being given complete attention, we're to some degree being spoiled, probably by luxuries, whatever that may be.

Now, the Countess while being pampered, glares along.

So it doesn't just mean she's looking at the people around her, but the use of glare suggests perhaps that she's being quite judgmental, perhaps disrespect of those around her, who are members of the working classes.

So in the next two lines, this image of the pampered Countess is completely contrasted by the image of the working classes that surround her, who are wrung by poverty and pain.

So wrung here means squeeze and twist.

And along with the phrase, Misery mingles, where the "M" is capitalised, so "M" Misery has been personified.

Robinson is suggesting that these working classes are completely defined by their misery, that is all that embodies them.

So while she is being pampered with complete luxuries, this contrast the images of the working classes who are completely defined by their poverty, their pain, and their misery.

So in this stanza, I have chosen the word pampered and the phrase Misery mingles because once again, I think those contrast really well.

"Here, as the blazoned chariot rolls, And prancing horses scare the crowd, Great names, adorning little souls, Announce the empty, vain and proud." So, here we've got this image of this blazoned chariot.

So blazoned we can look at it from two points of view I think here, blazoned means to display something, but it can also refer to a coat of arms. Now because our Countess is a member of the nobility, perhaps that is a coat of arms on her chariot to represent her social standing and we've got the image of these prancing horses scaring the crowd.

So there's a real sense of movement here as there was in the first stanza, as the chair bound down the street.

And Robinson suggests her criticism and her negativity towards the upper classes here, because she says that they are empty, vain and proud.

So if you're vain, it means you have a high opinion of yourself.

And so she is being critical of these rather confident yet judgmental members of the upper classes, which include of course, the Countess.

So here I have chosen the phrase scare the crowd because I think it echoes the superiority of the upper classes.

And also the phrase vain and proud because that is what Robinson is criticising about the upper classes at this moment in the poem.

"Here four tall lackeys slow precede, A painted dame in rich array; There, the sad, shivering child of need Steals barefoot o'er the flinty way." So in the first two lines four tall lackeys, so a lackey as a servant.

And so Robinson is suggesting that they are looking after her, they are being subservient to her, she is in the superior position here, and she's a painted dame in rich array.

So once again, it's suggesting that the Countess is sort of shrouded in luxuries and wealth that the working classes could only ever dream of.

And this contrasts, once again, the sad shivering child of need steels barefoot over the flinty way.

So if you're stealing, that means you're moving quietly.

So while the Countess is surrounded by the servants looking after her and she is appearing there as a painted dame in rich array, we've got the contrasting of image of the child side by side, who is sad and shivering and moving quietly barefoot over the flinty way.

This child has no shoes on their feet, they don't even have the basic necessities whereas our Countess has four servants to help her.

So we can see in this stanza really nicely, Robinson is contrasting the lifestyles of the upper and working classes.

It's also important to note how she uses the image of a shivering child.

Now, this is something that was prevalent in many romantic works as we know, childhood, youth and innocence was one of the key themes in many romantic works.

So what have I chosen? I've chosen here tall lackeys, because I think that symbolises really nicely the fact that the Countess has servants, she has people to look after her, it's an extravagance, it's a luxury to have people like this.

However, the child is sad and shivering and indeed barefoot, so these phrases really nicely contrast the differences between what the upper classes have in contrast to what the working classes have.

"Room, rooms! Stand back!' they loudly cry, The wretched poor are driven around; On every side they scattered fly And shrink before the threatening sound." So here, Robinson is detailing the fact that the working classes are told to stand back and to move in quite and a sort of threatening and an aggressive way they're being ordered, they're being told what to do, which suggests that they have no power in this situation, they have no control.

And here she describes them as wretched poor, so they're unhappy and they shrink before the threatening sound.

Now they're not physically shrinking, but metaphorically they feel small because they are members of the working classes and they are in a situation that they probably don't feel comfortable in surrounded by the luxuries of this Countess on her birthday.

And so that metaphorically makes them feel small and unworthy.

So here I've chosen the phrase stand back to add to my crunched poem.

I think it reflects really nicely how the upper classes were controlling the working classes and ordering them to behave in a certain manner.

And similarly, threatening sound emphasises this even more.

"Here, amidst jewels, feathers, flowers, The senseless Duchess sits demure, Heedless of the anxious hours, The sons of modest worth endure." So once again, on that first line there, Robinson is emphasising the luxuries that surround the Duchess, jewels, feathers, flowers, and then she describes her as being both senseless and demure.

So demure here means to be kind of shy and reserved, but senseless is a really interesting word because it's suggesting that she has no knowledge.

She has a lack of awareness as to the plight of the working classes that surround her.

Similarly, Robinson could be further critiquing her, further criticising her by saying, by being senseless she shows no real emotion.

Now, once again Robinson contrasts this image suggesting that the Duchess is heedless of all the anxious hours, the sons of modest worth endure.

So if you're heedless, that means new lack care, and you lack attention, which links with the idea of her being senseless, doesn't it? And she's completely unaware of the plight of the working classes and Robinson suggests that these members of society endure their life.

So if you're enduring something, it suggests that you're not happy with it, okay? It's something that you are just having to put up with and so she is suggesting that lives for the working classes is something that they just have to enjoy, they just have to suffer through it, they just have to put up with it.

So I've chosen the phrase senseless there 'cause I think it represents the Duchess really nicely and her lack of knowledge and contrasting that the phrase endure, because she is senseless as to the life the working classes must endure.

"All silvered and embroidered o'er, She neither knows nor pity's pain; The beggar freezing at her door She overlooks with nice disdain." And so really here Robinson's ramping up her critical tone.

She's emphasising again, the luxuries that surround the Countess all silvered and embroidered, but she's saying she, the Countess doesn't know, but also doesn't pity, doesn't feel sorry for the working classes pain.

And she uses this image of a beggar freezing at the Countess's door and that the Countess overlooks this beggar with nice disdain.

Now, disdain means that you're lacking respect.

And so we've got this contrasting image there that perhaps she's trying to uphold a more positive image of her as the Countess in the nice side of it so she doesn't appear too judgmental, but in reality, perhaps her glaring eyes that we were introduced to in the initial stanzas suggest her disdain, her lack of respect, her contempt for the working classes.

So I've chosen here that phrase, nice disdain for my crunched poem, "The wretch whom poverty subdues, Scarce dares to raise his tearful eye; Or if by chance the throng he views, his loudest murmur is a sigh!" And so here, the focus switches and the focus switches to a member of the working classes, a wretch and unhappy person who is completely taken over by that poverty.

And it says here that this wretch scarce dares to raise his tearful eye, or if by chance the throng he views, his loudest murmur is a sigh.

And so he feels that he's got no presence in this crowd of people and completely contrasting the loud barking orders earlier, where the working classes were told to stand back and to move, his loudest murmur, the loudest thing he can say is sigh, because he feels like he's got no voice in this situation and more widely as a member of the working classes, that he doesn't have a voice in society.

And so I've chosen that phrase, poverty subdues here, poverty quietens him, he's all consumed by it.

And the phrase sigh because it contrasts really nicely the threatening sound from earlier on in the poem.

The working classes feel that they have a lack of a voice.

"The poor wan mother, at whose breasts The pining infant craves relief, In one tattered garment dressed, Creeps forth to pour the plaint of grief." So once again, Robinson chooses to zoom in on a member of the working classes here, poor wan mother.

And he's suggesting that she's looking pale, she's looking ill, she's unhealthy and she's unhealthy because she's not being able to access the basic provisions, the basic necessities that she probably needs in order to survive.

And Robinson uses again, the image of a pining infant so that's a child who needs her mother or his mother.

So emphasising the youth and innocence that also exists within the working classes, suggesting that they do not deserve to be in this situation, society has put them there.

And know how Robinson describes this mother and the pining infant being dressed in one thin tattered garment, this completely contrasts, doesn't it? The luxuries and the pampered Countess that has come before and note how she creeps forth, completely contrasting the bounding nature of the Countess' chair from the first stanza.

There's no kind of confidence there, they know that they are inferior, they know that they are in a lower position.

So I've chosen that phrase there creeps forth.

"But ah! How little heeded here The faltering tongue reveals its woe; For high-born fools, with frown austere, Condemn the pangs there never know." So while this mother from the previous stanza tries to talk about her grief, no one cares, but ah, how little heeded here.

Little is acknowledged, they're not listening to her as her faltering tongue reveals its woe, reveals her sadness and her grief.

And these high-born fools are members of the upper classes and Robinson describes them as having a frown austere, so this kind of strict and harsh manner.

Now, if you were in a position where you were full of woe, sadness and grief, the last thing you want is to come against people who are strict and harsh.

You want people who are welcoming and warm, but they're not because they are judgmental towards the working classes and we can see this in Robinson's use of the phrase, condemn the pangs they never knew.

If you're condemning something, you're disapproving.

So they're disapproving of the working classes.

But as Robinson says, they never know, they've never known what it's like to live a life like this mother in her tattered garment.

So I've chosen that phrase here, condemn because it highlights really nicely and really succinctly the disapproving nature of the upper classes towards the working classes.

And that's something that we're going to look at in a bit more detail in our next lesson.

But finally, there's a change in tone as Robinson writes.

"Take physic, Pomp!' let Reasons say; What can avail thy trappings rare? The tomb shall close thy glittering day, The beggar prove thy equal there!" And so in all of these stanzas leading up to this, the final stanza Robinson has been highlighting and criticising the mistreatment and the judgmental attitude towards the working classes.

And now there's a switch, there's a change in the tone.

And what she's suggesting in these final lines is the tomb, so death shall close thy glittering day.

The glittering day is referring to the lives of the upper classes, full of wealth and luxury and jewels.

Death, the tomb will put an end to that and the beggar will prove thy equal there.

We will all be equal in death.

Death comes to all.

And regardless of your position in society when you're alive, we will all be equal in death, is Robinson's final statement.

So I've chosen the phrase tomb and chosen the phrase equal there to note that change in tone that change in thought as she becomes less critical and actually by the end of the poem, she's laughing at the upper classes.

She's saying, well, death will put an end to your glittering day because we will all be equal in death.

So hopefully you can see how Robinson uses these contrasting images throughout her poem.

The shouting face here representing the orders that are barked at the working classes, stand back, move, that threatening tone and this sighing face suggesting that the working classes can barely raise their voice, can barely raise a sigh.

They feel they've got no voice, they feel they've got no worth.

We've got the image of the jewelled Countess versus the child that steals barefoot over the flinty way.

She has luxury, she has more than she needs in life and there's a child that doesn't even have the basic necessities of shoes.

Once again, the image of the Duchess, the jewelled, crowned, pampered contrasting the working classes who were defined by their misery.

And for me, probably the most powerful image of her glaring eyes.

When we glare at someone, we're probably judging them.

She's judging them because she has a lack of knowledge and here we have this face representing the misery suffered by the working classes, due to that glaring judgemental attitude that the upper classes have of them.

They lack knowledge about what life is really like for the working classes and that informs their opinion of them.

And finally that image in the final stanza of death, the tomb and Robinson changing her tone, she's laughing at the upper classes by the end of the poem.

She's suggesting that the working classes and the upper classes will all be equal in death.

It will put an end to the upper classes glittering day because they will there be equal to the beggars.

So as we have read through the poem, "The Birth-day", I have chosen my important words and phrases to create a crunch, the condensed version of "The Birth-day".

Now I'm hoping that you have been writing down your own words and phrases.

Some of them might be very similar to mine and you should have a crunched version of the poem that looks something like this, okay? So we've taken each stanza, chosen one or two key words or phrases and crunched it down.

Now, if you need to, you are welcome to pause the video here and copy down my crunched version of the poem if you didn't manage to do it because you were listening really intently, but please make sure once you've copied this down, you resume the video.

Great, so now we should all have a copy of this crunched version of "The Birth-day".

We're going to use it and we're going to annotate it, so you can see I've taken the first sort of seven lines from the top here, and I'm going to show you how we can annotate it.

So when we annotating, we're just making notes around the text.

So the first word gaudy, I have said, it suggests over the top and showiness.

It represents the Countess and contrasts the poor that surround her.

So there my notes that I'm making on the word gaudy.

Then I'm going to make some notes on the word melancholy.

It means extremely sad and it echoes the emotions of the poor and it contrasts the satisfied Countess.

So we're starting to think there in our annotations about the contrasting images that are used.

Then the phrase pampered suggests the Countess is the centre of attention, she's spoiled by those around her.

And I would then continue through the rest of my crunched version of the poem by annotating each of the words and phrases in turn.

So, your task is to do exactly that.

I would like you to annotate your crunched version of the poem as I have begun to do on the screen.

So I would like you to pause the video here and annotate your version of the crunched poem.

I would leave this screen up here to give you some ideas for your initial annotations, but then it's over to you.

Please make sure that you resume the video when you're done.

Great, now you've had some time to annotate your crunched version of "The Birth-day".

Well done.

I always love how my annotations look on the page, so I hope it was a really neat and really precise and you've produced something that you're really proud of.

So we're going to end today's lesson by considering Robinson's purpose in "The Birth-day".

What is her message? I've got three different analytical verbs here.

To criticise, so to be negative about something.

To expose something, so exposing something is like shining a light on it, to show people the reality and finally to educate, to teach people.

But what about? I would like you to pause the video here and have a go at completing each one of these analytical verbs.

What is Robinson trying to criticise? What is she exposing? And what is she educating? When you are finished, please resume the video.

Great, now you've had some time to consider each of the following.

I'm going to talk you through my ideas.

I think we can suggest that Robinson is criticising the disrespect and the lack of care the Countess and more generally the upper classes have for the poor, have for the working classes.

She's exposing, she's shining a light on the social divides that exist in 18th century society.

So the social divides, the divides between the upper classes and the working classes and that's going to form the focus of our next lesson.

And finally, she's educating society, more specifically the moneyed upper classes about the mistreatment of the poor.

She's probably hoping that they read this poem and they see that there are these really stark contrasting images throughout.

The luxuries that are afforded the upper classes versus the misery and melancholy life that are lived by the working classes that can't even afford the basic necessities as they go barefoot in their tattered garments.

And she's probably hoping through educating those members of society, they might change their ways and they might do something in order to help the working classes.

If you didn't get some ideas down for one of the analytical for verbs, you're more than welcome to pause the video here and take down some notes in line with my own ideas.

Please make sure that you resume the video when you're done.

And finally, your final task is to summarise Robinson's poem "The Birth-day" in one beautiful sentence.

I've given you some key words that you might wish to use.

Countess, upper classes, working classes, poverty, contrasting images, divide and 18th century.

You may not use all of these words in your beautiful sentence, but they will help you to guide your thinking.

So pause the video here and summarise Robinson's poem in one beautiful sentence, and please resume the video when you're done.

Great, let's have a look at an acceptable answer and a good answer.

Firstly our acceptable on reads, it is about the divide between rich and poor.

Yes, this person is correct.

The poem is about the divide between rich and poor, but they've used it at the start of the sentence rather than being specific that the it refers to the poem, "The Birth-day" and I'm sure you'll agree, they could have gone into a little bit more detail.

Let's have a look at our good answer.

Mary Robinson's poem, "The Birth-day", uses contrasting images of rich and poor to highlight the inequality that existed in the 18th century when Robinson was writing.

Great, we've got the fact that Mary Robinson was our poet, we've got the poems title, "The Birth-day", and have you noticed this person's using the positive, Mary Robinson's poem, "The Birth-day", they've given us that extra piece of information in a clear, concise, positive, uses contrasting images of rich and poor to highlight the inequality that existed.

Great, so this person has noted the techniques that Robinson uses to highlight inequality.

They could then if they were going to continue this into a paragraph, talk and zoom in on these contrasting images and analyse images from the text.

And then they've gone one step further by noting that this was during the 18th century when Robinson was writing.

Great, so you're welcome to pause the video here and make any edits to your own answer if you would like to, then once you're done, please resume the video.

Well done for all of your hard work and engagement during today's lesson, I hope you're becoming even more familiar with the Robinson's, "The Birth-day".

Please don't forget to complete the end of lesson quiz and I'll see you next time, bye.