My task for this essay is to analyze a variety of poems all which consist of childhood memories and reminisces of the past. The poems are:

– The stolen Child by W.B Yeats (1886)

– Holy Thursday 1 by William Blake (1757 -1827)

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(Songs of Innocence)

– Holy Thursday 2 by William Blake (1757 – 1821)

(Songs of Experience)

– Casabianca by Felicia Hemans (1793 – 1835)

– The land of Counterpane by Robert Louis Stevenson

– I remember, I remember by Thomas Hood (1799-1845)

Each of the poems I am going to analyze relates to innocence, power, anger freedom and imagination. I am going to look at the themes, language, topics and the view on childhood by the poets. Each poem portrays childhood in different ways.

Starting with ‘The stolen child’ by W.B Yeats, the poem talks about misery, about how a child is being called by angles to heaven. W.B Yeats talks about nature, places in Ireland (as he was from Ireland).

Whereas Holy Thursday 1 is symbolic of innocence of children. The poem is like a song that is sung by children who are grateful to the rich people who provide them with a school. The bright colors are symbolic of the happiness and joy the children have. There are many words in the poem that relate to innocence e.g. multitudes of lambs, white as snow. Also noticing in the title it is ‘Songs Of Innocence.’

While in ‘Holy Thursday 2’ the title is ‘Songs of Experience.’ The poem has a slightly different name but the theme is contradictive of the happiness of the children in Holy Thursday 1. Holy Thursday 2 talks about the children of poverty who are ‘reduced to misery.’

Casabianca on the other hand talks about the role model a child should have, in this case the boys role model happens to be his father, who passes away. The adolescent should be dutiful to his role model. In most cases the role model happens to be a brave and heroic person i.e. a parent. Casabianca being the young boy about thirteen years old, son of the admiral of the Orient, remained at his post (in the Battle of the Nile), after the ship had taken fire, and all the guns had been abandoned; and perished in the explosion of the vessel, when the flames had reached the powder.

In The land of counterpane even though the poem is short it has great meaning, it is about the poet (Robert Louis Stevenson) who spent most of his childhood ill and in bed. He uses his imagination to keep himself occupied.

I remember I remember by Thomas Hood uses the imagination side of childhood, it talks about how a child would have liked to have died when he was younger because he was closer to heaven when he was a child.

I can see from the 6 poems, the theme is mainly based on innocence of a child, showing how whilst growing older a person starts to lose their innocence.

The language of the poems can be seen in many different ways, I remember I remember for example uses childlike language, by talking about memories of his actions as a child. I remember also uses reputation, this is effective as it is a good way of explaining ones self. Comparative themes are used e.g. Rich vs Poor, Earth vs Heaven, and Happy vs Sad.

In the stolen child the poet uses small amount of alliteration ‘wandering water.’ This helps the poems words to be more flowing. The last sentence of each stanza is the same in the Stolen child ‘ For the world’s more full of weeping then you can understand’ but the change is in the last stanza when the ‘human child’ has left the earth to be ‘with a faery hand in hand’ the last changes indicating he has gone.

In Holy Thursday 1 the words are filled with happiness to express the feeling of the children who are thankful. It also uses simile ‘wands as white as snow.’ Some words signify the children’s innocence ‘multitudes of lambs’ whereas the language in Holy Thursday 2 is bitter and angry.’ In a rich a fruitful land, Babes reduced to misery’ this shows contrast, that in a place that is fruitful the children are reduced and not recognized as they should be.

Casabianca uses heroic language, and the young boy is shown as the noblest character. It is in some ways melodramatic. Felicia Hemans talks about an experience of a young boy, she was not present at the incident but is showing how she imagines it to be. By doing this she has to pretend to be in the surroundings, to be able 2 describe the key features in her poem.

The Land of Counterpane uses alliteration in the first line ‘giant great.’ The language uses a lot of contract, how a hill is like a pillow? Dale is a low place in between mountain like a valley, using his imagination to create his own fairy tale can be seen when he uses the words ‘giant great’ Giant is symbolic of a character in fairy tale like jack and the beanstalk. Also the child can be a ‘Giant’ in other words central to everything, recognized and his presence to be known.

I remember, I remember uses a lot of childlike actions in the language context. The last two lines of each stanza indicate that he is ill, in his present life and the rest of the stanza is remembering his childhood.

Childhood in the pre 1914’s was much different from today’s society. Children in those times were more isolated than anything else and were not granted as much freedom as children of today’s society. In those times children more than often were neglected. Since then, times have evolved and children are seen and recognized as pure innocent human beings.

The Stolen child was written in a time where religion was a constant presence. Yeats said, “the place that has really influenced my life most is Sligo.” Yeats lived in Sligo in 1886 when the poem was written, the surroundings in which he was, had an effect on his writing.

In both Holy Thursday 1 and 2 the world is seen from a child’s point of view, but they also function as tales of adult experience. Blake did not attend school till the age of ten, he spent his youth roaming about London and the countryside on the edge of town.

Holy Thursday 1 written in 1789, and Holy Thursday written in 1794, were both effected by many urban developments altering the lives of all children, but the experience of changing childhood in the 19th century was closely linked to family and social background. The life of a wealthy child was very different from that of a poor child. Wealthier children throughout the Victorian period were made aware of the suffering of the poor through the moral and religious education they received at Church Sunday schools. Those more comfortably off were encouraged to help those less fortunate than themselves by donating their money and time to charity.

Casabianca Her work suffered from her restricted experience, as she relied too much on the impressions of others and often used stereotypic images. Still, she captured much of the culture of her day in her poetry.

The land of counterpane is about how Stevenson spent his childhood, his childhood was not at all like a typical child’s life. He suffered a bad sickness of lung disease. He spent most of his childhood sick and in bed. He was not able to attend a regular school because of his sickness. Yet he was very bright and a gifted storyteller. He was not so much aware of what was happening at the time, and does not have much affect on his writing.

I remember I remember was written in the Victorian era, from the poem the poet’s childhood was better then his present adulthood, meaning that childhood was quiet enjoyable experience, where there were no responsibilities and worries.

Each poet portrays childhood by using personal experiences, imagination, or personal accounts of others.

Starting with W.B Yeats, he was constantly moving around as a child, this effected his writing, he talks about various places in Ireland. It also seems as if he wanted to be taken away by angels at a young age, being ‘stolen.’ ‘The world is more full of weeping than you can understand,’ from this W.B Yeats is saying he sees suffering which other cannot see. There is constant reference to heavens, sky’s and nature. This is effective as it shows his awareness of the surroundings around him and material things are left out.

William Blake recognized the events of what was going on around him at a young age and was able to reflect upon them as he grew up, e.g. poverty, charity funded schools. The simile is effective as it makes the poem show comparative ideas of how innocence is still existent.

In Holy Thursday 2 innocence is a major issue, for a child to go through poverty at such a young age is not a good experience. The poems strong words are effective as it shows the emotion that he either saw or was feeling.

Felicia Hemans uses her imagination to visualize the experience of a young boy causing him to fall to death soon after his role model, his father departed. The young boy believed in his father so much he did not move from his post, until he could have his fathers command. His commanded post becomes a ‘lone post of death’. The language used was melodramatic, ‘a creature of heroic blood’. Although it is over dramatic it is effective, it shows the sentimental feeling the poet was having.

Robert Louis Stevenson uses short words, short lines and great meaning. This poem is effective as a whole. If one was to do research on the poem and the poet, you would find the childhood story of Stevenson.

Thomas Hood’s interpretation of childhood is also relating to his present life as an adult. The continuous reference to nature and innocence is effective as it shows emotions as a child and as an adult. The poet also flickers between the present and the past which brings about the point of the childhood being a major part of his life and now he is remembering it.

In conclusion I can see that childhood can play a major role in a person’s life as it is where life begins, and where a person begins to experience life’s lessons.


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