Poetry review

Explore the worlds of three of the poems you have studied which tackled the theme of childhood and show how the language and the tone are used to convey this matter.


Poetry is like little fragments of colored glass put together to give an aluminous picture; my little fragments are themes from childhood. That golden innocent age we all passed through. “Piano” by D. H. Lawrence is all about the magical time of childhood. Also, “My Parents Kept Me From Children Who Were Rough” is one of the memorable poems about that spectacular age by the great poet Stephen Spender; and, of course, we can’t forget “Half-Past Two” by the dexterous poet U. A. Fanthorpe which takes us back to our fear of time when we were children.

“Piano” is about that innocent time of our lives and the enchanting world of music, and accordingly, the title is found to be quite simple and apt. It serves as a good signboard to the melodious soft mood of the poem. As for “My Parents Kept Me From Children Who Were Rough” points directly to the subject of the poem. I understood instantly what this poem is about and it fits the poem. Lastly we come to “Half-Past Two” which has a title so suitable but doesn’t tell u the poem. Lawrence, in “Piano” uses the present tense to show how vivid these childhood memories are in his mind. His usage of the regular rhyme takes us to the soft melodious theme with him. Unlike the first poem, Spender, in “My Parents Kept Me From Children Who Were Rough”, doesn’t keep any rhyme and his poem looks like the physical appearance of these bullies: short, stout, and muscular! In contrast with the first two poems, Fanthorpe here, in “Half-Past Two” uses the 3rd person to narrate even though it’s his own biography and it consists of 3-lined stanzas to suit the narration of a kindergarten child.

Lawrence starts his poem, “Piano”, by taking us to the relaxing mood of music and the romantic scene of the “dusk”. The singing of the woman, he was imagining to be singing to him, takes us and our poet to the pathway of the deeply engraved memories in his metaphorically-described mind, “down the vista of years” to the earliest station of his childhood. He sees himself as “a child sitting under the piano” at his mother’s feet as she played the piano. His mother, who “smiles as she sings” to her baby, overwhelmed him by all the maternal love and security that any baby can feel in his mother’s presence. Lawrence skillfully engages both our hearing and feelings with his alliterative phrases like “smiles……sings” and “Softly…….singing” with which he wraps up his poem with a sense of nostalgia to childhood. He tries to convey to us the echoing sounds around him with words as “booming” and “tingling” from his point of view as a child and how he relished it. The onomatopoeia in these words is quite impressive making us hear the musical echo with him. I could easily imagine how he was magic-stricken by this enchanting world of music as he wrapped all my thoughts and emotions in a harmonical musical atmosphere. I could also imagine how his childhood memory was as vivid in his mind, as he was describing it with microscopic details. It is quite obvious that our poet is really yearning for all those magical childhood days. By supreme feat of dexterity he carried me along with him to the depth of his memory to relive his past days and I visualized him as a slave to a personified song that had complete control and “insidious mastery” over him. He touches my heart with the image he drew of his personified “heart” which “weeps to belong to his old Sunday evenings at home” where he used to sit with his family in their “cozy parlor” with the “winter outside”, around the “piano” as they sing the religious “hymns”. His description of the “cozy parlor” and the “winter outside” shows me how his family gives him feelings of warmth and security, which he doesn’t get outside were its cold and insecure. The poem is engulfed with overflowing of music, served by the onomatopoeia in “tinkling”. Lawrence aroused strong feelings of sympathy in me towards him, as he gave me the image that he was imprisoned in his days of manhood and the only thing he can do is “weep” for his childhood days. Lawrence ends his poem with his “manhood” which is “cast down the flood of remembrance”. Then he wakes up to the fact that he can’t change his “manhood” and that he can only “weep like a child for the past”. It moved me to the utmost extent to imagine how he cries helplessly, longing for those days that are nothing but “past”.

“My Parents Kept Me From Children Who Were Rough” is one of the most memorable poems written by Stephen Spender about the spectacular age of childhood. It consists of three stanzas and is carefully structured to represent an oppressive physical presence in Spender’s life. The repetition of the word “and” gives the impression that these “rough children” commit endless acts of abuse which are clearly remembered and described by the poet. We have to remember that children often keep the memories of incidents, whether pleasant or not, with them and these incidents shape their personalities. Through that title I can imagine Spender as a well brought up boy, who has strict parent which forbid him from playing or socializing with children from a lower statues. Unlike in “Piano”, where he was longing for his past, I can feel the blame the poet put on his parents as he “longed to forgive” and befriend those boys. Quite ironically, his parents made a prey out of him for the bullies to pick on. The poet visualized those hooligans with minutely details. I can feel what he felt when he described his pain when those ragamuffins threw at him the words that hit him “like stone”. I could simply see those bullies with their “torn clothes” and “their thighs showed through their rags”, which clearly shows the social difference between them and Spender. Their regular activities like “running in the street”, “climbing cliffs” and “stripping by the country streams” is not only out of question for Spender’s parents but for all parents. These activities would discourage any parent from letting their children playing with boys like that. It is quite understandable that these things would seem attractive to a little boy so I can clearly understand how he feels envy and how he yearns to join them. Poor Spender “feared” these “rough” boys with “muscles like iron” and “jerking hands”. Other then physical pain, he suffers psychological pain as the way his parents shielded him turned him into a helpless coward. He became the laughing stock of those cruel heartless bullies “who copied his lisp” and mocked at him sarcastically as they followed him “on the road”. The poet, at the end, conveys the social class difference as he admits that those “lithe” boys are just “like dogs barking at our world”. He separates his world from theirs with the “our” he uses, as his was a world of etiquette and good behavior while theirs was a world of vulgarity. I could feel his desperation as he “longed to forgive them” and join them but neither his parents nor the unfriendly boys who “never smiled back” would allow him to be a member of their world. The poem portrays two separate contrasting worlds – the poet’s world of civilization and ethics, and the bully’s world of vulgarity and crudeness.

“Half-Past Two” is one of t he cutest poems about the innocent part of our lives written by U. A. Fanthorpe. The title is young Fanthorpe’s way of disapproving of the detention his teacher gave him without telling him what is the “Very Wrong” thing he did, therefore not teaching him anything. The only thing that mattered to her was relieving her own anger that she forgot that the little boy has no idea about the time as he hasn’t been taught it yet. The poem opens with an attractive opening “Once upon a schooltime”, which serves to attract our attention and is, indeed, the way any child opens a story. As the other two poems, this poet has his childhood engraved in his mind and he recounts everything about this incident with minutely details. He remembers how he did “Something Very Wrong” and put his teacher in a “cross” mood which got him stuck into “staying in the school-room till half-past two”. The usage of capital letters in “Something Very Wrong” conveys the way the teacher talked cruelly and sternly to him. However, ironically the wrong he did was devalued with saying “I forget what it was” as he only remembers the fear being accused of the “Wrong”, but not what it is. This shows how the teacher failed to teach him anything and only scared the little boy. While being “cross” she expressed her anger by giving him a punishment which he didn’t understand and he yearned to tell her that “she hadn’t taught him Time” but “was too scared” of getting into more trouble for being “wicked”. The poet’s choices of the words “cross” and “wicked” and his personified visual image of the clock with its “little eyes” and “two long legs for walking” are indeed the typical vocabulary heard in primary schools. Upon hearing the words “Half-Past Two” he went over “all the important times he knew” but it wasn’t in any of them and that shows how it was of no importance 2 him since he doesn’t value the teacher who scared him. In contrast with his “timeformykisstime”, which was the time his grandparents showered him with all the love and care he needed, it’s of no wonder that he doesn’t value “Half-Past Two” time much. The poet takes us with him to the timeless world were he couldn’t “click” or speak the “language” of time. The onomatopoeia in the word “click” engages our sense of hearing to the utmost level. The loneliness and boredom are successfully conveyed with the repetition of the word “into” in the 8th stanza as he had no choice but to wait till the end of this predicament. The oxymoron he uses in saying “the silence noise his hangnail made” enables me to imagine the silence in the “school-room”. He depersonalizes the teacher using the word “scuttling”, which is an animal-like term, and doesn’t even name her and refers to her in 3rd person. The poet uses italics to express the teacher’s direct speech “my goodness, I forgot all about you”, which shows how the whole matter meant nothing to her. The poor boy’s torture was of no value to her. When dismissed he felt like a prisoner who is free at last, as he got back to the world of time he knew and understood. “He never forgot” this experience in which minutes seemed like “ever”. Fanthorpe portrays himself as a person who is lost in a “clockless land” “where time hides tick-less waiting to be born”.

The message of the poet in “Piano” is quite clear, no matter how old we are, no matter where we will be, we would never ever forget our childhood memories which live inside us as a happy magic world of fantasy. A period of life where all our feelings were happy. It takes us to the world of relaxation. It ends with a peaceful note that possesses the reader and makes him join the poet in his golden years of childhood. I enjoyed it immensely. Coming to our second poem by Spender, we can see that sometimes keen parents, who strictly keep their children away from any bad influence, could be blamed by their children as we see in the poem, the accusing tone of blame he points with towards his parents as he holds them responsible for what he has become. This brings the questions of-are those over protective parents wrong to keep their children from bullies like those? Are they turning their children into cowards and preys to those bullies?-into my mind. Finally, we come to the sweet poem “Half-Past Two” which the poet achieves success in arousing our sympathy towards him and portrays the fearful teacher which terrorized the small poor boy without teaching him anything as he didn’t know what was the “Wrong” he did. The childish phrases with its simple structure added to the sense of realism. “Half-past two” is a clear evidence of Fanthorpe’s skills in the choice of words and his knacks in drawing really vivid images, captivating of imagination and all our senses. Anyone who would read those poems would surely enjoy every single one of them.
September 10th, 2011 at 05:48pm