One of the main concerns of mankind has always been the idea of getting older and living the last years of their long lives. However time passes, and we inevitably enter the process of ageing. Nevertheless, getting closer to death also means starting the countdown of our lives: memories, feelings and thought are a constant reminder of what it has been our time on Earth. Several events that have marked our lives, such as our childhood, or maternity, now leave us fond memories.
The poems “childhood” by Frances Cornford and “My parents” by Stephen spender both have a speaker looking back in the time. They constantly recall past feelings, experiences or attitudes that were considerably important for them. However, they differ significantly in many areas such as the structure, the language, the imagery, the rhyme, the repetition, the tone and the rhythm of the poem. They both make use of different literature features in other to bring out their main intentions and ideas.
To begin with, the themes differ extensibly. The first poem explores a dual perspective on the ageing process. On the one hand, it is a child who watches “through the banister” and is “helplessly young”, but the whole poem is a memory- “I used to think”. One of the central ideas in the poem is the similarities and differences between the young and old, and how helpless we all are to stop the passing of time. The writer tries to let the readers get the perception of the mutual incompetence of a small child and a senile great-aunt.
We can get that on the line it says “I knew she was helplessly old, as I was helplessly young”. The second poem touches on a social division between the comfortable middle class narrator and local working class children. While the writer shows the local children as the ones who have freedom and physical presence, he portrays the narrator as the middle social class with education. Moreover, it also contains a yearning for something missed. Secondly, the readers can notice a difference in the structure of both poems. My Parents has got three stanzas while Childhood has only got one.
In Spender’s poem the reader can get, through its three stanzas that the boy seems to long for more than to offer forgiveness. Moreover, the use of tightly structured stanzas is a device the writer uses in order to depict the personality of this educated narrator, a boy who was well organized, and who knew what the limits were; he didn’t even dare to disobey them. Each of the three stanzas describes different situations; the first one shows the idea of having kids who were different to him, who were rough and messy. His parents prevented him from playing with children who treated him badly.
The second stanza reflects mostly the feelings the narrator had towards this group of untidy boys, the writer use the word “fear” to describe how these kids intimidated him with their appearance and their attitudes, he was afraid of their violent behaviour. In the final stanza, the narrator and the other children remain apart: “I longed to forgive them but they never smiled” this means that although they lived in another reality, he pretended he didn’t care about what they did, and he would forgive him; this clearly reflects matureness along the last lines. On the contrary, Frances Cornford decided to develop his poem in only one Stanza.
The simple structure and language of this poem effectively contrast with the serious message the poet is trying to convey. The first section vividly describes the physical features of old age, while the second centres around the moment of realisation about “My great-aunt Etty’s friend” and her rolling beads from a broken necklace. The writer uses short lines in order to create two different effects; in the first it serves to complete the childish observation before the epiphany in the poem’s second section, while the final short line provides the ambivalent conclusion.
Another thing to take into account is the way in which the couplets established in the early part of the poem, break up in the last four lines. This portrays the fact that he didn’t know much about what he was talking, he only believed in the idea that old persons had “wrinkles” just because they decided it on purpose, but at the end of it, he has noticed that there was nothing to be done against the ageing process but just accepting the idea that one day you would get old enough.
Therefore the poet leaves the readers a message: the inability of young and old to understand each other; this can be seen when the narrator says “i used to think that grown-up chose” their deteriorating characteristics. Even though the poem follows a regular rhythm, lines 4 and 10 are shorter. It is consider to me that this shows how he wants to make the reader emphasise on the nouns. In this poem both rhythm and rhyme are musical, so as to give a pleasant effect. Thirdly, there is other literary device which is clearly different.
The tone in “Childhood” is one of confusion. This tone reinforce the message the poet is trying to convey: the things the young and old people have in common, or the differences they present. Therefore it can be said that the narrator uses such tone in order to demonstrate how, throughout the poem, he realizes the confusion he had on his mind. In “my parents” the tone is of envy presented in most of the lines. The vigour of the children’s actions is emphasised by their rhythmic placing in the lines. In other words, it means the contrast between the different worlds.
Fourthly, both poets use a variety of metaphors, descriptions, images and similes in order to make their ideas and thought about the process of ageing, clear enough. What is more, they use specific language and vocabulary so as to illustrate in a more vivid way their feelings and memories. On the one hand, in the poem of Childhood, Cornford uses literary features in order to portray the behaviour of the narrator towards the idea of ageing. The writer uses a simile when the little boy says “veins like small fat snakes”, this means that the shape of the veins is compared to the form of a snake, which moves and expands.
Metaphor is another device the author chose to use; “Onyx beads had come unstrung” illustrated the fact that this old person was now deteriorating to the point of death. Therefore this necklace which represents her whole life was now all separated in different parts; his own body couldn’t do anything but just decaying. The writer also uses words such as “grope’ to describe and give the reader the image of this old woman’s’ incapacity to move, and “they chose them to be grand” which indicates that the speaker was very young, since he thought stiff backs, wrinkles, and veined hands were “grand”.
Last but not least, the poet uses euphemisms as the narrator says “going away”. This means that he is avoiding the concept of death, so as not to be interpreted as an aggressive word. On the other hand, Spender also makes use of different devices in order to emphasise the idea of a boy being bullied and the victim’s response to the other boys. The writer uses words such as “threw, ran, climbed” to describe the full action of the rough boys, while the narrator’s verbs are passive and weak- “feared, looked, pretending”.
He also uses similes such as “muscles like iron” so as to describe their physical presence, or “threw words like stones” to depict how rough he was treated by the rest. Another thing to take into account is the title, although it is also mention in the first line, we can get by it that the narrator was an overprotected boy. All in all, Spender and Cornford make great use of the literary devices, and could manage to express their ideas and concepts throughout the poems they wrote; both of them recall old feelings and thought which are portrayed all along the narration.