According tothe dictionary, childhood is, ‘the state of being a young human being below theage of puberty or below the legal age of majority’. But, childhood is not onlyabout the age of a person, it is composed of many qualities that makes eachperson’s childhood unique.
These six poems are connected through the themechildhood, and they explore it through different perspective as the poets haveexperienced their own unique childhood. The poem, Prayer before Birth by Louis MacNeice, waswritten amidst World War 2. The poet in this poem articulates his fear ofthreat to mankind brought by the war. He voices out his fear about what theworld’s tyranny can do to the innocence of a child. He uses a plethora ofpoetical devices such as, alliteration, assonance, repetition, oxymoron andepistrophe to enhance the truth of his poem. The punctuation implies that theunborn child is in a hurry making pleas to God. The poem is divided into sixstanzas and each are slightly longer than the other to illustrate the growth ofthe baby inside the womb. In the firststanza, the unborn child seeks protection from beasts like ‘bat or the rat orthe stoat’.
The harsh and plosive sound of ‘blood’ and sibilant sound of’sucking’ conveys the horror of the world the child seeks protection from. Thechild fears that the humans may intoxicate him with ‘strong drugs’ and ‘wiselies’. The poet uses oxymoron, ‘wise lies lure me’, to convey the duplicitousnature of the world, this contrasts with the poem If- by Rudyard Kipling. The poem discusses one’s own meaning oflife’s difficulties and one’s outlook on life for example, even if he or she islied about, he or she should not get caught up by the lie and should move on. Thesibilance sound of ‘sky to sing to me’ creates a soft hissing sound to createcontrast to ‘drugs dope’ in the previous stanza. The personification is used tocontrast with the child’s views of humans, emphasizing how the child wants tostay one with nature and how nature is more human than human is themselves.
Thepoet also uses third person pronoun, ‘they’, to create an ominous feel. Itshows powerlessness, how people are exploited and used by the evil men. In thefinal stanza, the poet ends with ‘Otherwise kill me’, stating that the childwould rather die than live in such a violent and depersonalized world. The lines ‘Iam not yet born’ are repeated in each stanza signifying that even if the childis not born, he is aware of the cruelty and darkness that prevails in the world,this is like the poem If-. In thatpoem, each stanza begins with ‘If you can’. This is a conditional word so makesthe reader feel that what’s coming isn’t a command but advice. The technique ‘Ohear me’, ‘O fill me’ gives the unborn child’s prayer more power and emphasizeshis emotions and portrays his fears vividly. In addition, it gives the poem amournful tone.
The poem, Piano by D.H Lawrence, is a nostalgicpiece. It is a lyric poem reflecting the thoughts and feelings of a singlespeaker as he listens at dusk to a woman singing a song that brings back hischildhood 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 inpresent day, the second in the past and the last back in the present day. It issimilar to the poem, Hide and Seek byVernon Scannell, which is about an infamous game of hide and seek. The childbegins the game with great excitement and enthusiasm but, he missed out on theopportunity of ending the game with his friends, resulting in being leftcompletely alone in the end. The poem only has one stanza with a plethora ofenjambment, this gives the effect of one big flow of thought without any pause.Furthermore, Piano uses present tenseto bring the past to live and the lines in the poem are long adding to thesense that memory is naturally flowing. In addition, enjambment is used toemphasis how alive this image is in his head.
Throughout the poem, the poetuses many musical terms to increase the musicality of the poem for example, thepoem begins with ‘Softly’ a sibilant sound and in line 12 ‘appassionato’. Withinthe poem the language used changes as the voice has flashbacks. When the poethad a flashback, he used words like ‘boom’ and ‘tingling’.
Similarly, thelanguage in Hide and Seek is alsochild-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, thememory of childhood reduces him to the state of a child again. The poem, Half-past Two by U.A Fanthorpe, reflectsthe 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 becomesa 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 andportmanteau to convey that the teacher has power over the young child.
Furthermore, the poet emphasizes how the child enlarges the incident by usinghyperbole and repetition, ‘Something Very Wrong’. Throughout the poem, she usespersonification to show how a child conveys something to understand it such asstanza 6, ‘He knew the clockface, the little eyes and the two long legsfor walking, But he couldn’t click its language’, the child compares a clock toa human as he sees it. This is similar to the poetic techniques used in thepoem, In Mrs Tilscher’s Class byCarol Ann Duffy, it is about the poet remembering her experience in the classof Mrs Tilscher. School, and especially Mrs Tilscher’s class, was a place ofsecurity and adventure. Throughout the poem, Duffy uses sensual and visual imagerysuch as smell, taste, tactile, aural and visual. This helps dramatize thechild’s world, for us to visualize and experience. The full stops after eachincantation suggests a pause in which the child could imagine the exotic natureof the place. The image of ‘the chalky pyramids rubbed into dust’ is thedryness of desert.
Inorder for the poet to be able to express its tones, it uses many poetictechniques. The poet uses enjambment, where most of the sentences are very longwhereas the stanzas are very small to emphasis the long, infinite, clockticking. 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 thatthe words he says have different meanings for him.
In conclusion,through the theme of childhood, many other themes are explored by the poetssuch as, isolation, innocence of a child, reality and memory. They used avariety of techniques in order to bring their own unique childhood to life. Allsix poems, shows us many different perspectives of childhood and how eachperson is different.