These two poems both tell the story of memorable incidents in the lives of children. ‘Hide and Seek’ describes the well known childhood game and ‘Half-past Two’ is a story about a school boy in detention who can’t tell the time. ‘Hide and Seek’ takes the form of a series of instructions on how to play the game interspersed with pieces of descriptive language whereas ‘Half-past Two’ is a narrative with some description.
In ‘Hide and Seek’ one participant in the game is telling another in the third person how to play. It begins ‘Call out. Call loud: “I’m ready! Come and find me!”‘ and this is followed by instructions such as ‘Don’t breathe. Don’t move. Stay dumb’ and ‘Push off the sacks. Uncurl and stretch.’ The end of the game is rather inconclusive ‘The darkening garden watches. Nothing stirs. The bushes hold their breath; the sun is gone. Yes, here you are. But where are they who sought you?’Order now
‘Half-past Two’ is written in the second person from the perspective of an adult looking back at the childhood experience of another child. This is shown in the second verse where the narrator refers to ‘She’, presumably the teacher, and the ‘Something Very Wrong.’ Also this is shown in the use of the phrases, which refer to time such as ‘onceupona’ and ‘timefors’. The child’s world is contrasted with that of the adult through their contrasting understanding of time.
The boy, who is the subject of the poem, has a very limited understanding of the concept of time. He does not know how to tell the time using the clock so he makes up his own words to name all the times in the day which are important so him, such as; ‘Gettinguptime’, ‘timeyouwereofftime’, ‘Timetogohomenowtime’, ‘Tvtime’ and ‘Timeformykisstime (Grantime)’. He tries to understand what the teacher meant by half past two but does not understand the clock’s language, both because he is quite young but also because ‘She hadn’t taught him Time.’ To try and help himself understand the clock face, he tries to personify it by giving it eyes and legs, to which he is able to relate.
The two poems express very different emotions. In ‘Hide and Seek’ the reader infers the children’s feelings as the game develops. So, for example, the child who is hiding is initially excited, then he/she experiences caution or anxiety whilst wondering whether he/she will be found and then finally triumph as he/she emerges with ‘I’ve won! Here I am!’ and disappointment at the fact that the seekers are nowhere to be found. The children who are seeking however are ‘getting more puzzled as they search all over.’ In ‘Half-past Two’ the narrator refers to the child being too scared ‘of being wicked to remind her and the author also implies boredom in the verse beginning ‘So he waited, beyond onceupona.’
The language of ‘Hide and Seek’ is much more expressive and descriptive than that of ‘Half-past Two’. Scannell makes several references to the senses. He describes the sacks in the tool shed where the child is hiding which ‘smell like the seaside’. He also refers to the dark as being ‘salty’. He cleverly uses personification as an aid to description in lines such as ‘Your legs are stiff, the cold bites through your coat.’; ‘The darkening garden watches. Nothing stirs.’ and ‘The bushes hold their breath; the sun is gone.’
He uses metaphor in the form of ‘this salty dark’ and simile ‘smell like the seaside.’ to improve the atmosphere’ In ‘Half-past Two’ Fanthorpe also uses the senses to help create an atmosphere for the reader. In the lines ‘Into the smell of old chrysanthemums on Her desk, into the silent noise his hangnail made’ she describes the world into which the child retreats to escape the boredom of his detention.
‘Hide and Seek’ and ‘Half-past Two’, although very different in use of language and structure, both vividly evoke memorable childhood incidents. The themes of the poems relate to one another because they both focus on an important experience in a child’s life. The experiences are given links in the way that they are both caused by the child being forgotten by the outside forces, which is either the teacher or the group of children.