To what extent did these poems effectively construct the theme of childhood? Innocent. That’s what we were during the course of our childhood, before we became corrupt, greedy and stressful. The poems “Half-Past Two” (HP2) by U. A. Fanthorpe, “Piano” by D. H. Lawrence and “My Parents kept Me from Children who were Rough”(Rough Children) by Stephen Spender reminds us of how innocent life was when we were children. They reveal to us how arrogant we were lacking knowledge of the real world.
Through diction and persona, emotion and depth, the poems play on the nostalgic senses for our bittersweet childhoods. “Once upon a schooltime”, that is the first line of the poem “Half-Past Two” it immediately shows that it is narrative, almost as if telling a story to a child. The second line of the first stanza, “He did Something Very Wrong”, this emphasizes the childlike thinking, the guilt of doing “Something Very Wrong” the very simple minded child worrying about a simple thing.
Then the author’s voice comes in, as if stating a side note, “(I forget what it was)” this shows again the narrator and the persona in the story, an adult telling their tale. The next line, starting a new stanza “and She said he’d done Something Very Wrong” the capitalization of “She” shows the child understands authority and portrays the teacher in a very high position. The third stanza is entirely made up of the author’s persona, in parentheses “(Being cross, she’d forgotten She hadn’t taught him Time. He was too scared of being wicked to remind her. )”.
The word “wicked” shows how children can portray something that they think is very serious but in reality it isn’t. Notice that the word “Time” is capitalized, signifying the importance of it in the poem and the way the child sees it, as something important but unfamiliar. Fanthorpe uses a very effective style in portraying the child’s point of view. She mainly uses the compression of words. “Gettinguptime, timeyouwereofftime, timetogohomenowtime, TVtime” this shows how the child does not understand and comprehend time in numbers but rather in categories of specific events.
This also affects the reader’s image of the child; it makes the reader think the child is cute and innocent because of their lack of knowledge. Then Fanthorpe using the child’s eyes, describes the clock using personification and onomatopoeia, “He knew the clock face, the little eyes And two long legs for walking, But he couldn’t click its language”. The child knew what a clock was but having never being taught time he couldn’t “click its language”. Being a child he didn’t have an organized schedule, he knew the important times like getting up from bed or going to school “But not half-past two”, not numerically.
The seventh stanza starts off with “So he waited, beyond onceupona” indicating he was starting to get bored and was starting to daydream, drifting into his own world. “And knew he’d escaped for ever” this kind of escapism is hard when you grow into adulthood, always too busy always too stressful, but here he is escaping from reality, nothing can bother him anymore. Describing his environment, the author uses repetition creating a rhythm “Into the smell of old chrysanthemums on Her desk, Into the silent noise his hangnail made, Into the air outside the window, into ever”.
The words “into ever” again makes it sound like he’s escaping the real world. Suddenly in the ninth stanza, the child is brought back to reality, to the real world, back to the classroom where he was being kept in because he did “Something Very Wrong”. The italics in the stanza indicated the teacher’s dialogue. “My goodness, she said Scuttling in, I forgot all about you” this shows that the “Something Very Wrong” wasn’t that bad at all considering the teacher already has forgotten about him. The word “scuttling” is used showing that the teacher wasn’t really superior or scary at all.
Then Fanthorpe writes “So she slotted him back into schooltime” the compression of words technique is used again and it also shows how ignorant the teacher is of the precious innocence the child has, just casually “slotting” him back into reality as if he was an object that was misplaced and being put back in its rightful position. The last stanza, “But he never forgot how once by not knowing time, He escaped into the clockless land of ever” indicated that he only had experienced this once in his life, and it was so special that it was worth never forgetting.
This poem plays with the reader’s nostalgic emotions and provokes a lot of thought. It makes the reader think back on how innocent they once were not knowing time and having the ability to frolic carefree. HP2 creates a lot of imagery too; in each stanza you would be able to see snapshots of the content. The depth of the poem indicates that once we are old enough and sensible enough to obtain the concept of time we would no longer be able to escape it, we would be forever chained to time.