Watching Tennis and A Subaltern’s Love Song
The themes and ideas are so similar that if one was to briefly explain
what both poems were about, you would think that they were exactly the
same poems. Yet what really separates these two poems is their
The form of a poem can be mainly observed by looking at and listening
to the poem. Rhyme scheme, verse length, and line length are but a few
examples of a poem’s form.
A Subaltern’s Love song is a relatively long poem compared to Watching
Tennis. It contains eleven verses, each of four lines length. There
are between ten and thirteen syllables in each line. As this poem
tells us a story and has a regular rhyme scheme, it is a narrative and
can be classed as a ballad. It contains rhyming couplets which show a
sense of control and harmony.
Watching Tennis is a less orthodox poem. It is a Petrarchan sonnet,
containing fourteen lines. This type of sonnet is divided up into two
verses, one of length eight lines; the other of six. John Heath Stubbs
has divided these two verses in equal lengths again. This results in
both halves of the poem containing different verse lengths. The first
two verses contain four lines, whereas the last two verses contain
three lines. The rhyming scheme too is unorthodox. The rhyming scheme
is in the form ABAB for the first two verses and although the first
two verses rhyme in order, the last two don’t. This shows how the
author is trying to create an image of loss of control and harmony.
Both poems have a very distinct style. A Subaltern’s Love Song has a
very strict and orthodox rhythm which emphasises the idea of how the
man gets closer and closer to his dream woman. The steady rhythm
occurs as a result of a strict verse length and rhyme scheme. “The
Hillman is waiting, the light’s in the hall, The pictures of Egypt are
bright on the wall.” Watching Tennis is a condemned poem. It has a
steady rhythm in the first two verses as he thinks about the woman and
gives us his thoughts. This smooth rhythm gives a sense of harmony as
he describes the woman and her grace. As the verse length and rhyme
scheme change, it adds an element of loss of control. This is because
the man is making love to the woman and the change in form results in
an unorthodox sounding poem. This helps visualize the man’s
nothing-to-lose attitude for love.
Another way Betjeman emphasises the fact that the man constantly
thinks of this woman is how he starts the poem with “Miss J. Hunter
Dunn, Miss J. Hunter Dunn” and ends the poem with “…Miss Joan Hunter
Dunn.” We can see that not only has he started and ended with the same
name, to emphasise his love, but he...