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Author:poem of Vernon ScannellType:poemViews: 22
My son aged three fell in the nettle bed.
'Bed' seemed a curious name for those green spears,
That regiment of spite behind the shed:
It was no place for rest. With sobs and tears
The boy came seeking comfort and I saw
White blisters beaded on his tender skin.
We soothed him till his pain was not so raw.
At last he offered us a watery grin,
And then I took my billhook, honed the blade
And went outside and slashed in fury with it
Till not a nettle in that fierce parade
Stood upright any more. And then I lit
A funeral pyre to burn the fallen dead,
But in two weeks the busy sun and rain
Had called up tall recruits behind the shed:
My son would often feel sharp wounds again.
Submitted by Andrew Mayers
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Structure and language
The poem consists of a single stanza [stanza: A group of lines of poetry that make up a unit - like a paragraph in a piece of prose; a verse. ] and has alternately rhyming lines. The poem is a narrative account, focused on the father's perspective of an accident involving his son.
Martial (to do with war) imagery and language dominate this poem, which may appear strange at first given the domestic subject matter. By bringing the two ideas together, Scannell is offering his opinion on each.
The nettles are personified as an opposing force. They are a , and are described using the metaphor [metaphor: An expression used to describe and/or compare a subject/action/person by the way it feels or what it resembles - eg 'sea of troubles', and 'drowning in debt' are metaphors. ]. Within the first three lines the nettles are presented as a violent and aggressive group of soldiers to reflect the speaker's need to protect his child.
When the speaker is taking revenge on the nettles the writer again personifies them, describing them as a as if they were soldiers standing to attention, cut down by his scythe. They are even given a (a wooden structure made for bodies to be burned on instead of being buried). Within , have been to replace the nettles, a reference to soldiers being conscripted (forced to join the army), but also communicating the idea of an enemy force that cannot be defeated.
The child is presented using emotive language, reflective of the compassion and sympathy the speaker feels for his injured son: . The alliteration [alliteration: Words strung together with repeated (often initial) consonants, eg 'Max made many men mad'. ] using the 'b' sounds suggests the swelling, painful injuries, and the child's skin is , a strong contrast to the language used to describe the nettles. The is another emotive description, implying the child is being helped to get over his painful experience by loving parents.
The father's reaction to the nettles is as violent as the nettles' stings. He explains the process of dealing with the nettles in a very careful, calculating manner: . First he selected his weapon (a scythe), then sharpened it; then he until . The father takes revenge in his strong desire to protect his son and punish those who injured him.
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