Tenses when recounting and analysing a poem or a prose

Hi there, Should I write the substance of a poem In past tense or in present tense?

Here are a few lines of the poem owl:

  • Downhill I came, hungry, and yet not starved;

    Cold, yet had heat within me that was proof

    Against the North wind; tired, yet so that rest

    Had seemed the sweetest thing under a roof.

Here's the link Vintage Poetry: 'The Owl' by Edward Thomas - discourse by Frank McMahon - DIY Poets

Here's the substance written by me: Should I use past tense or Present tense?

  • The poet comes/came down a hill. He is/was hungry, tired and feeling cold. But he is/was not really starving. He could/can still relish a shelter under a roof, and have/had sufficient warmth within him to resist the cold wind. He gets/got food, fire and rest in an inn. He is/was protected from the darkness and cold that prevailed outside the inn. But he cannot/could not avoid hearing the sad note of an owl coming distinctly from a hill. The cry of the owl seems/seemed to remind him of those soldiers and poor people who have/had not been able to get food and shelter. So, although he gets/got food and rest, he cannot/could not enjoy himself.

I think past and present both tenses can be used but present tense is better. What do you think?

One more question, should I use past tense or present in answer to the following question?

  • Question: Describe the feelings of the poet on hearing the cry of the owl.
  • Answer:- The owl's cry was/is sad and piercing. It makes/made the poet ponder over the plight of the homeless poor and the soldiers fighting at the front. They have/had to starve and spend the cold winter nights in the open, under the sky. The poet feels/felt sad for the misery of those people. The owl's cry picks/picked his conscience. He cannot/could not enjoy his food and rest?

The question is in my text book with the above answer that is written in past tense. But I think present tense can also be used. What do you think? Which tense would you prefer?

I asked a similar a few days ago question where the members said it is conventional to use present tense in story telling

Here's the link.

 

My problem in this question is that in this poem "the owl" the poet used past tense through out the poem. So can I use present tense for the description  and substance.

 

Please don't mind I am asking this again so that I can understand it better.

Original Post

Hi, Subhajit,

This is just my humble opinion about your questions:

1. Should I write the substance of a poem In past tense or in present tense?

Well, it all depends. If the poem is in the past, like your poem above, then using the past tenses will be easier and better especially for beginners. However, if you are able to use the present tenses perfectly, go ahead. The most important thing is to convey your message correctly without making mistakes.

2.  I think past and present both tenses can be used but present tense is better. What do you think?

Strictly speaking, the present is preferred in literature whether the poem / novel is in the past or the present and that's because it creates vividness. However, you have to know that using the present is optional, not a must.

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I asked a similar a few days ago question where the members said it is conventional to use present tense in story telling

- Well, let me draw your attention to a simple fact: Doc V isn't a member here. He is a guest contributor, which means he is a highly-cultured native English speaker. I've read his opinion and I see that he has provided a perfect answer to your question. At least, you should have told him: "Thank you".

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