Childhood is a wonderful time of life in which a child transforms to an adult; however it is something that is constantly explored in literature. Childhood is a fun time in which life is innocent. Childhood is the most beautiful of all life”s seasons. The poems “Half-Past Two” and “Hide and Seek”, present the perspective of a child and his life and will be explored in depth. The other three poems “Piano”, “Poem at thirty nine” and “Once Upon a Time”, state that an adult is feeling nostalgic, remembering his childhood. Whereas the poem “Mother in a Refugee Camp” is about a tragic life of a mother who lost her child.
The first poem is by U.A.Fanthorpe, the writer of “Half-past two”. The poem is spoken from the overview of an older man casting back on the moment in his childhood when he had a particular concept of time. The writer uses complex words to convey the child”s concept of time before his teacher told him to stay “till half-past two”, and this gives the influence that the boy cannot comprehend the “language” of time.
In this poem, the style is very much that of a child speaking talking to the author and thinking in his head, “he knew a lot of time : he knew”. The poem begins with “Once upon a” which is an opening of old fairytales of which the majority of them started by this way. In the first stanza, as the child is so young he did “something very wrong” but then carries on to say that he had forgotten what it was that he had done to deserve his punishment.
Composite words are used to exemplify how much divergent time means to the boy and the understanding of numbers, “onceupona” and “notimeforthatnowtime”. When the writer says “He knew a lot of time”, she is showing how the boy knew, different times: like “Tvtime” and “notimeforthatnowtime” but not, the time, and this leads to him escaping “into the clock less land forever”. The boy has split his day up into conservative categories to try to comprehend time and have been having anticipated composite words time like “schooltime”, teatime”.
Throughout the poem, the poet uses uppercase letters to indicate the significance of the teacher and the consequences that she has on him. When the boy does “Something Very Wrong” the writer uses uppercase letters to accentuate the importance of the event and the aftermath on the little boy. This is then repeated in the second stanza, and this reinforces the importance of the event. In the third stanza, Fanthorpe writes in the reflective voice of an adult but still uses a capital letter for “Time” to show how much it meant to him when he was younger.
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The writer uses literary devices, to show the immaturity of the boy at the time, for example he personifies the clock to show the boy does not understand the information given from it, “He knew the clockface, the little eyes. And two legs for walking. But he couldn”t click its language”. The last stanza of the poem it tells us about that finally, when he becomes adult he realizes that time was easy to learn..
The themes explored in “Half Past Two” are childhood experiences, reflection, isolation and abandonment. These themes are also explored in “Hide and Seek”.
“Hide and Seek” is a brilliant message hidden in the description of a childhood game. The poem starts with the confident and bold challenge of a child who has chosen a clever place to hide and is sure no one will be able him, “Call out. Call loud. I”m ready”, still in spite the fact that he could be uncomfortable or afraid; he takes comfort in the fact that no one will be able to find him.
Then he shows the feeling when screening, “The floor is cold”, which means he is petrified being in that toolshed, but it, is immediately over ridden by the thought that the children who are seeking the boy will be searching near the bushes. The poet advises the boy that he must be careful not to sneeze when and if they come searching for him in the tool shed as “You mustn”t sneeze when they come prowling in”.
The seekers do come “someone stumbles, mutters”, awing at the fact that the thought of victory has made the usually loud boys quiet and subdued. Listening to the series of rapid commands which follow the boy freezes, holds his breathe and shuts his eyes close hoping that they won”t find him. Sure enough, the voices fade as they move away not believing the boy would dare hide in the tool shed, as it was probably considered off limits to children.
Even when the boys move away from the shed, the boy does not come out, reveling in the fact that they will keep searching and wondering where he was, all the while marveling at his cleverness. A long time passes since they had departed and the boy grows uncomfortable, cold, stiff and suffocated, “your legs are stiff, the cold bites”. He then finally decides that it is time to reveal that he has won. He comes out of his hiding place and departs the shed, “Here I am, come up and own up I”ve caught you”. But to his disappointment he finds the garden empty and quite. All the children have given up and gone home, “The darkening garden watches. Nothing stirs.”
A few literary devices highlight and add color to the poem: Alliteration is used in the second line: “smell like the seaside”. Also in the end, a series of personified phrases: “The darkening garden watches.” “The bushes hold their breathe” describe the quite of the scene.
The poem is not just about a childhood game, but it is about life. The difficulties which the boy faces after deciding to hide in the shed are metaphorically used for the obstructions one has to deal with while walking down the road one chooses in life. But the boy”s determination to win and succeed enables him to be strong enough to overcome all these difficulties. Also, the other boys are the competitors which one has to deal with in life. They are described as “prowling” like as if they were predatory animals waiting to strike on their prey when it is unaware. Such are the problems life throws one”s way, but if, like the little boy, one has a predetermined aim in mind, and it is not difficult to pull through despite them.
This poem is just like “half past two”, where both poems shows the difficulties and loneliness in childhood.
Now, the third poem “Once Upon a Time”, was written by Gabriel Okara, who is a Nigerian poet.
The title of the poem, “Once Upon A Time”, has special relevance to the beginning of every fairy tale. It was probably chosen by poet, as the man in the poem expresses his desire to go, “back in time”, and regain his child-like innocence.
The poem tells of the conversation between what seems to be a father and son, where the father wants to learn from his son. The poem “Once Upon A Time” starts by the father telling his son how the people, or “they or , “used to laugh with their hearts” which means they used to enjoy and cherish their lives; they had fun.
He then moves on to say that now they only, “laugh with their teeth, while their ice-block cold eyes search behind his shadow” which tells us that that now writer talks about adulthood and they now do not have fun. They laugh mechanically and there is lack of communication like they are dead. This creates very negative, fake and false feelings and it is a very cold description. This affects the tone of the poem that now becomes sinister and bitter.
The portrait smile is a symbolic act of something that is not felt, but done purely for the sake of it. “homeface, officeface, streetface, hostface, cocktailface, with all their conforming smiles like a fixed portrait smile.”
“Goodbye” is an expression that means “see you again”. Its meaning has declined to “Good-riddance” which means “don”t come again or never meet again”. The poet wants to explain by this that everything is faked and is depressed of what he is done.
The speaker tells his son that he wants to relearn everything and be like him. The man distrusts even his mirror image, his reflection “for my laugh in the mirror shows only my teeth like a snake”s bare fangs. At last it then shows the man showing his regret as he says, “I want to be what I used to be when I was like you”, showing that he wants to be honest and truthful again. He regrets adulthood and wants to cherish his childhood life with fun and reality. This poem links to both “Hide and Seek” and “Half-Past Two”” as they both concentrate on childhood life.
The next poem, “Piano” by D.H Lawrence is about a person who feels nostalgic and regrets his past as he listens to a woman singing. The poem starts with the man hearing the soft singing of a woman. The man who was listening to the lady singing now thinks that it would be useless for her to continue on as he is already so affected by his memories that he is just physically present, his mind elsewhere, “Betrays me back, till the heart of me weeps to belong”. Without any thought of his adulthood, he bursts into tears remembering the blissful ignorance and innocence of his infant years. He starts weeping, thus bridging the gap between his past and his present “Of childish days is upon me, my manhood is cast”. In conclusion this poem concentrates at the difficulties of adulthood compared to joyous life of childhood. This poem is similar to the “Poem at 39”.
The fifth poem is “poem at 39” written by Alice Walker about a girl who feels nostalgic and remembers his father and his habits. She remembers as he was good in maths and accounts. She even cannot forget his cooking style, “He cooked like a person dancing in a yoga meditation and crave the voluptuous sharing of good food”. If his father was alive and there, he would have admired her multi-tasking abilities as suited to a woman, “He would have grown to admire the woman I”ve become”. The girl is sad, as his father is not around. He taught her to have fun with life, how to care of herself and about life. She shows a sense of gratitude for him; he was an inspiration for her life. It tells us that she has become the woman that her father wanted her to be. In the usage of literary devices, Walker has quite a large amount of symbolism. The first one is “tossing this and that into the pot; seasoning none of my life the same way twice” like her father used to.
These two poems “Once Upon a time” and “Piano” are based upon feeling nostalgic and remembering the past.
Finally, the last poem Chinua Achebe”s Mother in a Refugee Camp, paints a sad picture of a mother holding her dying son in her hands for the last time. It is about a mother who is now poor and lives in a refugee camp which is plagued, illness and sickness, in the camp. The mother loved his child so much that she was not ready to accept that he was dead by “the rust coloured hair left on his skull”. Her life was distorted as she saw her young child dead as “like putting flowers on a tiny grave”. “former life – a little daily act of no consequence”. Achebe depicts a tragic sense by comparing that prior to how life is now the things she once did were merely a routine act which was no important and had no consequences but is now contrasted with the present in which it is only a tragic memory. The phrase “daily act” suggests that before there was no fear – no consequence but now the only connection she has to the “formal life” is a memory which evokes pathos as we learn that before the woman could take care of her baby but all she could do now is to try to hold on but in vain as her child is dying. By mentioning their “formal life” also makes it seem like it was a completely different life ago that strongly contrasts to how it is now therefore intensifies the horrific image of how things of “no consequence” now means the world to the woman.
In conclusion, I would say that these all six poems “Hide and Seek”, “Half Past Two”, “Once upon a time”, “Piano”, “Mother in a Refugee camp” and “Poem at 39” share a theme of childhood and growing up and feelings of different writers towards it. “Hide and Seek” describes of a child playing a game with his friends and having fun, and eventually his friends leave him alone. This poem shows that the boy he is feeling abandoned and lonely; this is a part of childhood. Similarly “Once upon a time” tells that the past is better than the present; because there was love, sincerity and faithfulness in the past which was childhood. Now that in the present, everything has changed, this is now adulthood life. Hence the poet wants to relive the past. In a different perspective, “Half past two” is about a boy learning and understanding time. It is about a boy struggling with time in his childhood and now, in present when he is grown up, he is remembering it. The poems “Piano” and “Poem at 39”, are in which the writer feels nostalgic and wants to live his past back, thinking childhood was the most melodious time of life. Finally the last poem “Mother in a Refugee Camp” is feeling of a mother after his child died in a very young age. It is a very tragic poem about a mother who is in the trauma of her son”s death.