Childhood is a formative period in life, and memories from that time often affect adults in later years. Childhood memories leave a permanent mark upon one’s heart. This is the case in U.A. Fanthorpe’s “Half-Past Two”, D.H. Lawrence’s “Piano” and “My Parents kept me from Children who were rough” by Stephen Spender. All of these three poems are reminiscences of each poet’s childhood.
All poems follow a central theme of childhood and relations with adults. However, each poet tackles a more personal matter. There are variations in the themes and conflict that arouse in each poet’s life. D.H. Lawrence’s “Piano”, deals with a theme of manhood and identity, and the insecurity his memories bring about. This is evident when he says,
“Of childish days is upon me, my manhood is cast”
This tells the reader how Lawrence is unable to reconcile the man and the child in him as he feels each one contradicts the other. He faces waves of emotions and tries to close the doors to his past in order to try and be a grown up man. In addition, a theme of security and blissful love flows through “Piano”, as “hymns in the cosy parlour” create a pleasant image of comfort. By Contrast, “Half-Past Two”, deals with a theme of ‘time versus timeless moments’, as Fanthorpe escapes “into the clockless land of ever, Where time hides waiting to be born.” This depicts how the poet faces a setback due to his obliviousness to the significance of time. The poem suggests a theme of sadness and regret, as the poem gives the impression that the poet feels reified and insignificant. This is indicated in the following line,
“She slotted him back into schooltime.”
Whereas, “My Parents kept Me from Children who were Rough” explores the theme of Childhood bullying as Spender “feared more than tigers their [the bullies] muscles like iron”. This association with animals tells one how brutal the bullying was and suggests physical pain. Moreover, it appeals to the reader that the poem also runs through the theme of loneliness, as it seems like the poet wished to belong when he “longed to forgive them [the bullies].”
Furthermore, each poems structure helps reveal more information about the situation and the poet. For example, one notices a sum of eleven stanzas in “Half-Past Two”. Each stanza consists of three lines each. This is a consistent pattern. This may reveal that the poet’s life was very organised. For further proof, the different aspects of the poet’s life or day, was divided into chunks, such as “TVtime, Timetogohomenowtime…”Etc.
The various stanzas may also represent the many blocks his life was cut into. Fanthorpe also uses an Enjambment structure, which portrays the running of many thoughts in the child’s mind and his confused, nervous state. On the other hand, D.H.Lawrence uses more uniformity in his poem, as it includes three stanzas of four lines each, alongside regular syllable counts. This structure matches to the security and harmony of the poet’s memory. The poem consists of rhyming couplets, which further put focus of the musical and joyous childhood experienced by Lawrence. The rhythm is upbeat, coordinating with the musical quality of the poem and relating back to the title, “Piano”. Similarly, Stephen Spender of “My Parents kept me…” makes use of three stanzas with four lines each. His structured stanzas may symbolize how he was always forced to follow rules and control himself from many things. It may also hint the lack of freedom and the poet’s controlled life, which is a key message depicted in this poem. The use of free verse highlights the lack of restraint of rough boys, as they were “lithe” and “they threw mud” at the poet, yet “they never smiled” or asked for forgiveness.
In addition, in the poem, “Half-Past Two”, one can detect a tone of regret and fear, along with strings of confusion. This is conveyed in the lines,
“He was too scared of being wicked to remind her.”
This tells the reader that the poet resents not asking what time the teacher had meant towards the end of the poem, and hence resents his fear and suggests how the poet was submissive. A thoughtful and disappointed mood is hinted in the poem. Whereas, “Piano” carries a more musical and joyful tone, which is evident in the following line,
“And hymns in the cosy parlour, the tinkling piano our guide”
This tells us how a happy mood surrounded the situation, along with warmth and love. The words ‘cosy’ and ‘tinkling’, creates a very merry mood. However, towards the end a tone of regret and nostalgia can be found. On the other hand, Spender expresses a contrasting tone, such as one of jealousy and melancholy. An embarrassed and lonesome mood is further built up. This is apparent in the line,
“And their jerking hands and their knees tight on my arm.” Moreover, a tone of admiration can be detected. This line shows physical pain, however the poem also mentions emotional pain.
Each poet explores a variety of different techniques and they all play around with the language and style, to emphasis on their message. In “Half-past Two”, Fanthorpe begins some words in capital letters, such as “She”, “Very Wrong” and “Time”. Etc. This tells us how significant these things were in his life. For example, time was something “he couldn’t click its [time] language”, and “She” refers to his teacher, which he feared and obeyed fervently. The beginning starts off with, “Once upon a schooltime…” Generally, this is a beginning of a fairytale, and hence these words remind the reader of how young the poet was then and how long ago this was, yet how much impact it still carries in the poet’s life. The poet uses an paradox when he says, “Into the silent noise his hangnail made…” which creates the impression the silence was so vast that it ate his head up and how it was complete peace, focusing on his lonely self and aloof situation.
Lines 16-18 uses a great amount of imagery, comparing a clock to a real human. This highlights the childish mind and how he felt the clock and time were a foreign language, which he couldn’t grasp and hence this isolated him from the world.
Moreover, in “Piano”, the poet gives it a very musical and emotive touch. The poet uses various onomatopoeia, such as:
“boom of tingling strings”.
This helps the music come alive to the reader and creates a melodious effect, emphasising on the importance of music the poet’s life and the happiness it brought about. In addition, in the last verse, Lawrence uses a metaphor and simile in the following line,
“Down in the flood of remembrance, I weep like a child for the past.”
The word ‘flood’ implies a quick gush of lots of thoughts concerning the author’s past which comes flooding back to him. The simile suggests how he is deeply affected by his childhood.Lines 5 and 6 confronts with the fact that the poet tries to fight his memory, because it seems childish, yet he ‘weeps’ to go back. This claims how he is insecure and trying hard to be grown up as his tears are a threat to his manhood and emphasises the power of his memory.
The figurative language in “My Parents kept…” helps highlight the poem greatly. Firstly, the poet uses a number of comparatives such as similes and metaphors. For example:
“…who threw words like stones and who wore torn clothes”.
This simile tells us how harsh the language was and the hard and great impact it had on the poet. “Torn Clothes”, reveals the class differentiation. This sentence almost sounds like an admiration, hence focusing on how the poet was inspired by the rough boys.
The metaphor, “salt course” in line 7, depicts how the boys were so vulgar that they were like salt on a wound. This creates a great image and emphasises just how cruel these boys are and how devastating it was for the poet. The alliteration in the poem, “climbing cliffs”, explains how great a deal this activity was for the poet, as he was obliged to live a very restricted life. It tells us how important and meaningful such daring tasks were for the poet. Furthermore, the direct association to the title in the opening line creates a wonderful effect. It hints subtle accusation towards the poets parents, and how his controlled life was the cause of his bullied and lonely childhood. The poet “longed to forgive them”, as he secretly wanted to fit in with them and feel like he belonged somewhere, however didn’t have the chance.
In conclusion, all three of these poems connote the importance of childhood years. The contrasting themes help emphasis how childhood years are a blend of several different situations, which leave great impacts on one’s life. All three poets have been very successful in depicting their memory, that had the deepest effect on them; their style and imagery highlight just how significant these reminisces are. Overall, childhood is a period of happiness, remorse and a collection of various other feelings.