Child relationships are a universal theme that has been used in poetry throughout a number of centuries. For example, ‘On My First Daughter,’ was written by Ben Johnson in the 17th century. In this essay I am going to compare how two poets explore these relationships in the post 1914 poems, ‘you’re,’ and, ‘Catrin.’ Both have the same themes of a mother and child relationship except that, ‘You’re,’ explores the mothers feelings prior to birth whilst, ‘Catrin,’ explores the reality of this relationship and the growing up of the child.
Even though the poems may be similar in theme; relationships, love, growth and change, they are different in many ways. ‘You’re,’ has a sense of anticipation and, ‘Catrin,’ has a sense of reality. In, ‘You’re,’ the sense of anticipation is used throughout the poem. For example the poet describes the baby as, ‘looked for like mail.’ This is a simile which supports the senses of anticipation in that when you are waiting for mail you are anticipating what is coming, good or bad. Another example of anticipation is, ‘like a well-done sum.’ Amongst the many other similes in this poem this one reflects the mother’s anticipation, contentment and satisfaction of having a baby, just like it is when you are contented and satisfied having got a sum correct.
Similarly, ‘Cartin,’ uses figurative language such as the extended metaphor, ‘red rope of love,’ which tie mother and daughter together. ‘Catrin,’ also has a sense of anticipation like, ‘You’re,’ in that the mother in this poem anticipates the child growing up and doesn’t want her to get hurt when she asks to, ‘skate in the dark for one more hour.’ The enjambment in this indicates the long struggle and the long anticipation that she has for her child, in other words the poet thinks skating is dangerous, and of course when it is in the dark there is even more of a chance of an accident happening, she is going into the unknown. In a similar way, the enjambment demonstrates that there is no stopping the child growing up into adulthood.
In both poems there is a sense of happiness and mystery, for instance in, ‘You’re,’ you can tell straight away that there a sense of happiness because of how it is related to, ‘clownlike,’ which establishes the mood. In addition the mystery is, ‘moon-skulled,’ which means that the baby is an alien creature, it is something the mother does not understand yet. On the other hand, in, ‘Catrin,’ the mothers pride is undermined by the struggle of confrontation. Her, ‘straight, strong, long, brown hair,’ indicates that her mother is proud of her strong character. Yet, on the other hand, ‘that old rope, tightening about my life,’ tells us that the ties of the rope indicate the struggle of mother and daughter relationship and that it is not always easy. The alliteration of the rope in this furthers my point in that it emphasises that mother and daughter don’t always get along and sometimes there are mixed feelings.
On the contrary, there are some differences between the two poems. In, ‘You’re,’ there is a sense of contentment with her child, and in, ‘Catrin,’ there is a sense of a confrontational mood. ‘In a pickle jug,’ is a metaphor for her womb, and is stating how her baby is safely contained and how the baby has not been born yet. Whereas in, ‘Catrin,’ there are two confrontations; in both of these confrontations the poet wants to protect her daughter. The, ‘first fierce confrontation,’ is the birth at the hospital where there is a tug of war amongst the, ‘red rope of love.’ This metaphor is for the umbilical cord and represents a tug of war and tells us that relationships are not always that easy. The second confrontation between the two is in the second stanza when the child grows up and wants to, ‘skate in the dark for one more hour.’ The mother is scared and wants to protect her daughter, but its not always the right thing, being young is meant to be dangerous, exciting and always taking risks. In the poem, ‘You’re,’ the mother has nothing like this to worry about yet, because she is talking to the baby in her womb. This sense of safety is emphasised by the simile, ‘snug as a bud,’ which in addition is a metaphor for life.
The structures of the two poems, again, have similarities and differences. ‘You’re,’ has two stanzas with nine lines in each, suggesting the nine months of pregnancy and the reflection of content and theme in the poem. ‘Catrin,’ has two stanzas also, the first in the past tense, and the second in the present tense. This distinguishes the continuing tie between mother and daughter in the two confrontations. In ‘You’re,’ the sentences are quite short, or force the reader to breathe because of the commas, ‘clownlike.’ This is created to add to the series of images. On the contrary, in, ‘Catrin,’ there are long sentences, with a lot of enjambment to maybe indicate a long struggle between the mother and child. For example, ‘the people and cars taking turn at the traffic lights,’ shows us that the alliteration means that as well as people turning at traffic lights, the mother is at a turning point in her own life, the enjambment re-enforces this.
In both poems there is use of alliteration to a great extent. In, ‘You’re,’ there is not as much alliteration as in, ‘Catrin,’ but the alliteration that is used, I think is quite effective. For instance, ‘my little loaf,’ emphasises that it is her baby that she loves. The metaphor in this gives the phrase even more effectiveness due to it reinforcing one of the main themes of the poem, contentment. The poem, ‘Catrin,’ has more alliteration in it. The most effective, I think, being, ‘first fierce confrontation.’ The alliteration here emphasises the pain in birth, and the child is the cause of that pain.
In, ‘You’re,’ there are hardly any verbs, but a series of images. Two of the main images in this poem are evolution and underwater life. ‘Thumbs down on the dodo’s mode,’ indicates thumbs down to extinction, like the dodo, and thumbs up to new life. Secondly, ‘gilled like a fish,’ is part of evolution in that the fish have gained gills over the years. This phrase ties in nicely with the second main image of underwater life. The gills show us that the baby is still in the womb because it is in the amitotic fluid; such as, ‘travelled prawn,’ which links to the shape of the foetus. However in, ‘Catrin,’ there isn’t a lot of complicated language and image after image as in, ‘You’re,’ there is simple language with careful use of alliteration. This simple language emphasises intense feelings, such as, ‘tightening about my life, trailing love and conflict.’ The alliteration backs up the mixed feelings and the ties and struggles of parent and child relationships.
The most effective metaphors in the poems I think are, ‘like a sprat in a pickle jug,’ and, ‘red rope of love.’ ‘Like a sprat in a pickle jug,’ is a metaphor for her womb and shows that the baby is safely contained in her mother, unlike in, ‘Catrin,’ where the child has to go out and explore the world and take risks. The second metaphor is one from, ‘Catrin,’ and is from the first confrontation. The, ‘red rope,’ is a metaphor for the umbilical cord, and the alliteration of this emphasises the blood, or maybe the passion that the mother has for her baby.
Both poems are directed from the poet to the baby using, ‘you,’ or, ‘your.’ In, ‘You’re,’ if you put you’re, the title, in front of every line then it makes sense, for example, you’re, ‘snug as a bud,’ and the poem has other phrases where the mother talks directly to the baby, ‘wrapped up in yourself.’ ‘Catrin,’ has many examples of the mother talking directly to the child. At one point the poet seems proud of her daughter, ‘with your straight, strong, long, brown hair,’ and is talking directly to her. The alliteration here shows the child’s strong character and that she is an individual, not like in stanza one.
You’re has another theme of new starts. When someone is born, they have, ‘a clean slate, with your own face on,’ which gives the individual a new identity, beginning and start. ‘Snug as a bud,’ indicates the change and growth and bud is a metaphor for life. ‘Catrin,’ on the other hand is about new beginnings, but also about growing up, the child doesn’t have its own identity, but in the second confrontation the child begins to become her own individual. Her, ‘defiant glare,’ indicates her attitude and the fact that she wants to, ‘skate in the dark for one more hour,’ means that she wants to start her own life, but her mother is becoming too protective of her child.
I think that women can relate to both of these poems, and the poets achieve this in different ways. They cover the themes of life, excitement, evolution, new starts, mystery, confrontations; relationships and the struggle that comes with love which many women experience when pregnant. Consequently, ‘You’re,’ relates to the baby being in the womb and the anticipation of the birth, which I think is the most effective theme in this poem. To sum up, ‘Catrin,’ I would say that to make relationships work you need to work at them and with all kinds of love, there comes difficulties. These poems may seem very similar on the surface, but if you look in more detail, they have many differences.