Do you agree? You should base your answer on a detailed examination of two of the following: ‘Senex’; ‘Indoor Games near Newbury’; and an appropriate poem of your choice. Perhaps it is true to say that the poem Indoor Games near Newbury depicts the painting of an unfilled longing for youth. The poem does indeed reveal almost a nostalgic longing for a time of young age – of blissful youth – where love is a wonderful innocence that is free from the cluttering troubles that adulthood brings.
This longing for youth may, in fact, be nothing more than unfilled, for it is here that the poet exudes a certain degree of wishful thinking; of a desire to relive the wonderful simplicity of what he has had. The poem is itself littered with light sexual innuendos: ‘that dark and furry cupboard’; ‘hard against your party frock’; and ‘the sheet’s caressing’ all radiate a ‘deep’ eroticism, with emphasis being provided to childlike delight in lexis suggested ever so subtly.Order now
Stanza four of Indoor Games near Newbury introduces a slight change in tone. ‘Love so pure it had to end’ connotes an idea of great significance – of being frightened by a burgeoning awareness of the child’s own sexuality. Here, Betjeman introduces a rather audacious rhyme scheme: “Love so strong that I was frighten’d/ When you gripped my fingers tight and”. The technique in which the poet rhymes the adjective “frighten’d” with the two words “tight and” evokes a kind of necessary bathos in the poem.
Consequently, comic undertones arise, thus stopping the reader dwelling on this idea of love as a serious reality, but instead more of a fantasised idealism. It is, therefore, indeed an unfilled longing for youth that is revealed to the reader, since the uncomplicated nature of love in youth; its ‘blessing’ beauty; and its ‘deep’ innocence; portrays precisely this. It is unfilled in the sense that the love present isn’t a strong reality, but more of a metaphorical dream that can never be filled unless it lasts for ever more.
The poem ‘Senex’ equally presents an unfilled longing for youth. A degree of self-jocularity is evidently present, with a critic claiming that Betjeman is ‘mocking the self that he is afraid he will one day become.’ Indeed, Senex is, in fact, a mocking satire on Actaeon – a mythology whereby a youth sees the naked goddess Diana. Betjeman paints vivid imagery with his diction, ‘and icy as an icicle’ being a prominent one. This is a nonsensical simile with connotations of the harshness of the winter season, which may also in fact be symbolic of the narrator’s life: he nears the winter of his life. Moreover, the phrase elegantly forces the reader to confront the apparent inability of the poet to come to terms with an appropriate simile, hence greatly exaggerating this terrible coldness of age.
The title of the poem itself, Senex, applies even greater emphasis to the very dichotomy between youth and old age; between the ironic coldness that exists between birth and death. The title is Latin for ‘old man’ – echoing a crude and somewhat satirical twist of fortune for this man. Betjeman craftily juxtaposes both the persona and nature of this man with Actaeon; he plays with language more specifically in stanza four, where a complex, triple rhyme is used to present the poet’s idea of perhaps a greater complexity to life, of layers of symbolic connotations of meaning that this man has. Though he may be old, he is in fact a man of burning spirit, for it through this very man that a soul of youth is present. Of course, the fact remains that he rides ‘on his tricycle’, reliving a life of exultant childhood.