the dictionary, childhood is, ‘the state of being a young human being below the
age of puberty or below the legal age of majority’. But, childhood is not only
about the age of a person, it is composed of many qualities that makes each
person’s childhood unique. These six poems are connected through the theme
childhood, and they explore it through different perspective as the poets have
experienced their own unique childhood.
The poem, Prayer before Birth by Louis MacNeice, was
written amidst World War 2. The poet in this poem articulates his fear of
threat to mankind brought by the war. He voices out his fear about what the
world’s tyranny can do to the innocence of a child. He uses a plethora of
poetical devices such as, alliteration, assonance, repetition, oxymoron and
epistrophe to enhance the truth of his poem. The punctuation implies that the
unborn child is in a hurry making pleas to God. The poem is divided into six
stanzas and each are slightly longer than the other to illustrate the growth of
the baby inside the womb.
In the first
stanza, the unborn child seeks protection from beasts like ‘bat or the rat or
the stoat’. The harsh and plosive sound of ‘blood’ and sibilant sound of
‘sucking’ conveys the horror of the world the child seeks protection from. The
child fears that the humans may intoxicate him with ‘strong drugs’ and ‘wise
lies’. The poet uses oxymoron, ‘wise lies lure me’, to convey the duplicitous
nature of the world, this contrasts with the poem If- by Rudyard Kipling. The poem discusses one’s own meaning of
life’s difficulties and one’s outlook on life for example, even if he or she is
lied about, he or she should not get caught up by the lie and should move on. The
sibilance sound of ‘sky to sing to me’ creates a soft hissing sound to create
contrast to ‘drugs dope’ in the previous stanza. The personification is used to
contrast with the child’s views of humans, emphasizing how the child wants to
stay one with nature and how nature is more human than human is themselves. The
poet also uses third person pronoun, ‘they’, to create an ominous feel. It
shows powerlessness, how people are exploited and used by the evil men. In the
final stanza, the poet ends with ‘Otherwise kill me’, stating that the child
would rather die than live in such a violent and depersonalized world.
The lines ‘I
am not yet born’ are repeated in each stanza signifying that even if the child
is not born, he is aware of the cruelty and darkness that prevails in the world,
this is like the poem If-. In that
poem, each stanza begins with ‘If you can’. This is a conditional word so makes
the reader feel that what’s coming isn’t a command but advice. The technique ‘O
hear me’, ‘O fill me’ gives the unborn child’s prayer more power and emphasizes
his emotions and portrays his fears vividly. In addition, it gives the poem a
The poem, Piano by D.H Lawrence, is a nostalgic
piece. It is a lyric poem reflecting the thoughts and feelings of a single
speaker as he listens at dusk to a woman singing a song that brings back his
childhood memories of sitting at his mother’s feet while she played the piano.
It has a rhymed aabb. The poet uses many poetic devices such as, imagery,
personification, onomatopoeia and metaphor.
Piano has three stanzas- the first in
present day, the second in the past and the last back in the present day. It is
similar to the poem, Hide and Seek by
Vernon Scannell, which is about an infamous game of hide and seek. The child
begins the game with great excitement and enthusiasm but, he missed out on the
opportunity of ending the game with his friends, resulting in being left
completely alone in the end. The poem only has one stanza with a plethora of
enjambment, this gives the effect of one big flow of thought without any pause.
Furthermore, Piano uses present tense
to bring the past to live and the lines in the poem are long adding to the
sense that memory is naturally flowing. In addition, enjambment is used to
emphasis how alive this image is in his head. Throughout the poem, the poet
uses many musical terms to increase the musicality of the poem for example, the
poem begins with ‘Softly’ a sibilant sound and in line 12 ‘appassionato’. Within
the poem the language used changes as the voice has flashbacks. When the poet
had a flashback, he used words like ‘boom’ and ‘tingling’. Similarly, the
language in Hide and Seek is also
child-like as the poet uses similes that compare the smell to the ‘seaside’.
The poet ended the poem with ‘I weep like a child for the past’ ironically, the
memory of childhood reduces him to the state of a child again.
The poem, Half-past Two by U.A Fanthorpe, reflects
the stress of a young child who was punished in detention for doing
‘something’, but did not understand ‘time’. He only understood times such as,
‘gettinguptime’ and ‘timeyouwereofftime’. In this poem, the young child becomes
a symbol of the innocence of youth in comparison to the harshness of adulthood.
The poet begins with ‘Once upon a schooltime’,
like a fairy story which is appropriate for the small boy’s childish language.
Then in line 4, ‘She said he’d done’, the poet uses capitalization and
portmanteau to convey that the teacher has power over the young child.
Furthermore, the poet emphasizes how the child enlarges the incident by using
hyperbole and repetition, ‘Something Very Wrong’. Throughout the poem, she uses
personification to show how a child conveys something to understand it such as
stanza 6, ‘He knew the clockface, the little eyes and the two long legs
for walking, But he couldn’t click its language’, the child compares a clock to
a human as he sees it. This is similar to the poetic techniques used in the
poem, In Mrs Tilscher’s Class by
Carol Ann Duffy, it is about the poet remembering her experience in the class
of Mrs Tilscher. School, and especially Mrs Tilscher’s class, was a place of
security and adventure. Throughout the poem, Duffy uses sensual and visual imagery
such as smell, taste, tactile, aural and visual. This helps dramatize the
child’s world, for us to visualize and experience. The full stops after each
incantation suggests a pause in which the child could imagine the exotic nature
of the place. The image of ‘the chalky pyramids rubbed into dust’ is the
dryness of desert. In
order for the poet to be able to express its tones, it uses many poetic
techniques. The poet uses enjambment, where most of the sentences are very long
whereas the stanzas are very small to emphasis the long, infinite, clock
ticking. She also uses neologism words to show the made-up words by the boy.
Furthermore, the poet uses divagation, the frequent use of brackets, shows that
the words he says have different meanings for him.
through the theme of childhood, many other themes are explored by the poets
such as, isolation, innocence of a child, reality and memory. They used a
variety of techniques in order to bring their own unique childhood to life. All
six poems, shows us many different perspectives of childhood and how each
person is different.