Armitage introduces the poem with an anecdote; this evokes a feeling of reminiscence. It contains very physical descriptions Shadowy porch of Marsden Church this establishes the setting for the reader and perhaps portrays Armitage as being entranced by the church; he appreciates very minute details. However, when describing the Farrand Chapelette, it was described using the idiom gathering dust which has a double meaning it was physically accumulating dust but also it was coming of age.
In addition, Armitage describes his ultimatum; it could be bundled off to the skip or could become his for a song this suggests the church organ is not in satisfactory condition as the idiom bundled of to the skip indicates it would have been thrown out. More importantly, Armitage explains how the church organ could be his for a song which is an interesting play on words as the purpose of the harmonium is to play songs but also this idiom suggests it could have been purchased cheaply which leads the reader to assume the harmonium has lost its functionality and is impractical, similar to the freight of his father.
In Praise Song for My Mother, Nichols uses You, a second person pronoun, which introduces a sense of intimacy and makes the poem very personal. This is followed by were, a past tense verb, which indicates the poem is addressed to someone who cannot hear her or maybe is no longer alive. This idea correlates with the concept of a praise song a traditional African tribute to someone no longer alive. Nichols describes her mother using a metaphor; you were water to me.
Water is regarded as precious, particularly in African culture but it is also an essential element of sustaining life which leads the reader to deduce the extent of the impact the mother has had in this person. The water is then described as deep and bold with regards to the mother, one can interpret this to mean the water is a large store of knowledge that cannot be accessed as physically humans cannot survive; it is very mysterious and also it shows the great expanse of her motherhood.
Fathoming derives from the Anglo Saxon era and means to embrace the water embraces many sea creatures and therefore sustains life which is essentially a quality of her mother. But it can also mean to reason out problems this relates to the idea of a store of knowledge. Armitage gives sunlight agency as it can beatify saints and raise the dead. This catholic connotation brings about positivity to the church as images of saints are lifted above ordinary people. However, this is contrasted by the destructive power of the sunlight as it weathers the aged wooden case of the harmonium and the fingernails of its key.
Armitage personifies the keys to draw a parallel with his dads smokers fingers. Further damage included one of the notes lost its tongue which means sound is lost. Armitage then paints an image of a traditional organist who wears grey, woollen sock. This inspires an idea of how old the harmonium and its battle with time. Armitage describes the motion of pedalling and uses repetition to support the onomatopoeic effect/. Nichols also uses repetition as she starts the second stanza with You were. This maintains the intimate and personal element to the poem.
She describes her mother as the moons eyes. Historically, the moon represents strength and an icon of femininity. By personifying the moon, it shows that whilst her mother may not be on walking earth, she is looking over her this adds a transcending aspect to her mother. References made to the moon are pull and grained which can suggest to the reader the gravitational attraction between mother and daughter is similar to that of the earth and moon and how her mother had suffered a lot through her life and was left scarred.
When using mantling, it evokes an image of being covered or wrapped up to protect. Moreover, Nichols lack of apostrophe in the third stanza, fishes, suggests her breakdown in emotion. The third stanza is different from the first two as here Nichols begins to list metaphors describing her mother. She once again makes the poem more personal through the reference of crabs leg/the fried plantain smell which is a delicacy central to her tradition. Furthermore, Armitage displays his emotions coming to a breaking point in the third stanza.
This is achieved through his use of but which indicates a shift in tone. He uses alliteration, hummed harmonics, to increase the pace imitating his release of emotion. Also there is an onomatopoeic aspect which denotes the sound. This allows the reader to appreciate how engaged Armitage is with the harmonium. His use of the idiom struck a chord has a double meaning it can mean to physically play a sound but more importantly it means to provoke an emotional response to something.
As the stanza continues, Armitage makes reference to father and son and is talking about him and his father this increases the feeling of nostalgia as it was him and his father who had sang as choir boys. It is in the fourth stanza where Armitages emotions become apparent. He makes very delicate comparisons with his father and the harmonium dotted thumbs. After this, Armitage how him and his father would cart it away in doing so, the harmonium is described as a valueless item. He personifies the harmonium by describing its back similar to how a person would be placed in a coffin.
Armitage mentions how his dad belittles his own death. His dad describes his body as freight which is monosyllabic and brings heaviness to the comical aspect of his dad. Armitage cannot respond to his dads cynical humour and has lost his tongue. This represents the difference in character between the two. In contrast to the sad mood conveyed in Harmonium, Nichols ends the poem with words of wisdom from her mother Go to the wide futures, she said. This reinforces the idea the mother is looking over her and is wise.