In the poem “we remember your childhood well” by Duffy is a poem about denial. The speaker appears to be a father reassuring his grown-up daughter that she had a happy childhood. The reassurances are not convincing, as if there is something to hide but the poem also makes us think of the real fears that fathers have for their daughters everywhere, that they will be accused later of some kind of cruelty. So they have assembled a record of evidence (pictures) to refresh the child’s memories. The child does not speak in the poem, but we do see his or her viewpoint, since the parent is denying or prove something wrong, things of which the child has evidently accused their parents of doing something.
Also in the poem “on my first sonne” by Ben Jonson is a poem about this outpouring of a father’s grief on the death of his young son, although written almost four hundred years ago, is so poignant that we can easily identify with the poet’s experience. The fact that the poem was written several hundred years ago means that the language is not always particularly easy to understand. We know from the title that the child that has died was the poet’s first-born son, so losing him must have been an especially painful experience.
The first line tells us that Johnson considered him to be the child of his ‘right hand’, showing the importance of the role that the child would have played had he grown to be older. The second line demonstrates the idea that the poet had huge hopes for his son. We begin to sense how religious a person Johnson was as he expresses the feeling that having such great hopes for his son was actually a sin.
Carrying on from “we remember your childhood well” the poem has a clear formal structure, the three-line stanzas have a loose rhyme scheme. The irregular metre is interrupted by many pauses, creating a slow and rather jerky rhythm as if they are disconnected statements. The most obvious unifying feature is the way each stanza opens with a declarative in a complete short sentence or main clause: “Nobody hurt you”, “Your questions were answered”, “Nobody forced you”, “What you recall are impressions” and “Nobody sent you away”. The last stanza also opens with a short sentence – but this time it is a question: “What does it matter now?”
“On my first sonne” the following line continues the religious theme, as Johnson considers that his son was actually lent to him by God: ‘Seven yeeres tho’wert lent to me,’ and we now know that the child died at the age of seven. Johnson believes that all life is a gift from God, and that he had to give his child back to God at such a young age. In line 5 Johnson pours out his grief in the phrase ‘O, could I loose all father’, he wishes that he did not have to take on the role of a father who loved his son so dearly, because it is painful to mourn for a child. However, the poet then goes on to say ‘For why / Will man lament the state he should envie?’ meaning that it is strange to grieve over death, as death is something that should be welcomed, something to look forward to. He explains this feeling in line 7 when he says that death is an escape from ‘worlds, and fleshes rage’, an escape from the turmoil and anger that we encounter throughout our lives. Then in line 8 Johnson says that even if there are no problems in life, death is at least an escape from aging, in other words old age.
This is a concise twelve-line poem with six pairs of rhyming couplets. The middle section, from line 5, is the most emotional one, but Johnson tries to be philosophical about his grief, seeing death as an escape from a troubled world. A calmer atmosphere pervades in the last four lines, where the poet is in positive mood, seeing his son as his finest creation. We know from the final line that he never wishes to feel such intense pain again if another family member was to die.
In “we remember your childhood well” the poem explores the gap between appearance and reality. In almost every case the father does not dispute that something happened that the daughter thought was bad. But the father claims that the daughter has misunderstood things or remembered them not quite as they were. Partly the explanation for this is that the daughter’s recollections are subjective “impressions” which are mistaken or false memories.
The father’s reassurance is unconvincing, for different reasons – such as the way he or she shifts ground: “That didn’t occur. You couldn’t sing anyway, cared less” or the way the father claims to know the daughter’s own feelings better than he ever did – “you wanted to go that day. Begged” and “people/You seemed to like”.
The ending of the poem is very upsetting, it appears that the child blames the parents for ruining her life, while they deny this: “nobody…laid you wide open for Hell.”
In comparison both of the following poems, “we remember your childhood well” and “On my first sonne” both represent father and children situations and how they handle the way the father’s feel about how their children act. The fathers both act the same way even though they have different situations. What I mean by that is that they both love their sons or daughters even if they did something they wish their children did not do or if they have lost them.