With what attentive courtesy he bent Over his instrument;
When we consider lines 1 and 2 along with the title, "The Guitarist Tunes Up," it's pretty easy to picture what is being described: the guitarist is bending over his instrument while he tunes it.
If you've ever tuned a guitar, or seen someone do it, it's easy to imagine the musician's head bent over the guitar as he listens carefully (with "attentive courtesy") to each note. If you have no idea what Shmoop is talking about, here's a picture—they're worth a thousand words, you know.
That word "courtesy" kind of sticks out. Courtesy is something done out of consideration for another person. It seems a little strange to be courteous to a guitar.
It's almost as if this musician is treating his guitar like a person. This guy must really like his guitar. Or he's crazy and he thinks it is a person. Either way, Cornford is using some subtle personification here to give us this sense.
You might have noticed something about the end words in lines 1 and 2: "bent" and "instrument." Yup, that's our old pal rhyme. Hope you like it, because it's going to stick around for the rest of the poem.
Not as a lordly conqueror who could Command both wire and wood,
Cornford uses a simile to describe how the guitarist attends to his instrument: "Not as a lordly conqueror."
This guy isn't the type to "command" the "wire and wood" that make up the guitar. He's not a tyrant—he's more of a listener. This is a two-way relationship.
The words conqueror and command stand out in these lines. These words bring to mind a certain type of figure. You know this guy, the macho, agro, perhaps military figure with a chest full of medals and no time for namby-pamby stuff like guitar tuning and listening to people.
Plus, those C-sounds make for some rather noticeable alliteration, wouldn't you say?