Different poems appeal in different ways and some are not really comparable. I wouldn't attempt to compare The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Eliot - a poem I enjoyed at the age of seventeen - with Milton's Lycidas, which I had to study (and also enjoyed) when I was sixteen. But examiners love to make people 'compare', and so I suppose it is a valid exercise to look in a critical way at two different poet's rendering of the same general theme. .
Here is a request for help with this that I received.
"I am a GCSE student taking english literature. I have been asked to write an essay comparing the two poems A Poison Tree by William Blake and You in Anger by James Reeves. I would greatly appreciate any ideas or tips you could give me for my essay. Thank-you.".
Here is what I said.
When you compare any two pieces of writing (or music or painting or drama or cake), you are going to be looking at similarities and differences. So here are some things you can look for in poetry.
What is the poem about?.
Poems are always about something, even if it's not immediately obvious. Dylan Thomas starts one of his poems with the line: "In the beginning was the three pointed star," and goes on to add more lines that build up in a rich and sonorous way to a poem that seems to be about creation. But is it? .
Sometimes poems have a hidden meaning behind the images used. You might ask yourself: What made the poets want to write their poems?.
Are the two poems you have to compare (I own to not having read either) expressing the same feelings, but differently? Is it love, bereavement, pleasure, or a social comment? For instance, poets speak about old age differently. They come at it from a different angle, with their personal voice.
T.S.Eliot said in one poem: "I grow old, I grow old, I wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled." W.B.Yeats said: "When you are old and gray and full of sleep." What pictures do they paint, or story do they tell you? Does the same picture - eg.