‘Now We Are Six’ by A. A. Milne is a short thirteen line poem that is contained within one stanza of text. The lines are all relatively short, no more than five words. That is, except for the final line which stretches out to eleven. The syntax and content is quite simple. When these features are taken into consideration along with the title, it is clear that this piece was meant for a younger reader. Likely, someone who is the age mentioned in the title: “six.”
The rhyme scheme, as well as the meter, is quite consistent. The lines follow a rhyming pattern of AABBCCDDEEFGG. There is only one moment at which the sing song-like scheme changes, at the eleventh line. This is also where the meter, and the pattern of speech, change course as well.
In regards to the meter, every other line has either four syllables or five. There is the statement on the age, which contains four syllables, then the declarative statement about that age, which contains five. As previously mentioned, the pattern changes in line eleven. This is the point where there are two five-syllable lines in a row, then a seven-syllable and a concluding eight-syllable line.
This same point of divergence is connected to the subject matter as well. The speaker, who is clearly a young child, finally reaches their current age in the eleventh line of ‘We Are Now Six.’ They have no need to go further, nor are there any more years to count. From the content in the previous lines, it is clear that they were not satisfied at one, two, three, etc. It was not until they aged to their current year that they felt happy with who they are.
As is customary with A. A. Milne’s work, there is an element to the poetry which is only going to be truly accessible to an adult reader. In this case, it is the theme of identity and a search for satisfaction in that identity. This plays out very clearly in lines 1-10 of ‘Now We Are Six.’ The young child speaking is experiencing what every member of the human race goes through as they age, a process of seeking, learning, and hopefully becoming wiser.
There is a youthful ignorance contained within ‘Now We Are Six’ that is charming. This child is still under the impression that they will reach an age in which everything is perfect. They believe it is at “six” that they want to remain for the rest of their life. Perhaps at that moment they really believed that, but with the further shifting of time, landscapes, people, and attitudes they, along with everyone else aging, will come to realize that there is no one perfect year.
You can read the full poem here.
The poem begins with a series of short lines that describe a speaker’s life, years one-five. Each year things improve a little for them. They become more and more the person they are today. But, it is not until they reach six years old that they are content.
After turning six, they are happy to remain that age forever. The child speaker feels as if they are as clever and happy as they could ever be and see no reason to age any further.
Analysis of Now We Are Six
When I was One,
I was nearly new.
In the first lines of ’Now We Are Six’ the speaker begins by discussing two years of their young lives. The overall simplicity of the tone and word choice makes evident that the speaker is a young person. Their exact age is unknown but it is easy to hazard a guess considering the title, and conclusion, of the poem. They’re probably six, and reflecting on what they remember about being “One” and “Two” years old.
Whether or not they actually remember these years is beside the point, what this child does know is that these previous years of their life were unsatisfactory. They could not have been better than the days they are living now. The child states that when they were,
[they] had just begun.
There was nothing to them at this point, no real likes or dislikes. Nothing to care about aside from immediate pleasures. Their life was almost as simple the next year when they were “Two.” At this point, the child states that they were still “nearly new.” This year was pretty much the same as the previous one.
When I was Three
I was not much more.
The same pattern plays out in lines 5-8. Here, the speaker discusses ages three and four and why they were still unhappy during these days. The speaker says that when they were “Three” they were “hardly” who they would become.
This very young child has enough self-awareness to know they were developing into the person they are now at six years old. They are also aware of the fact that their current state of being was only barely developed at three. The same can be said about “Four.” Not much change occurred between these age, they were “not much more” than they were at three.
When I was Five,
I’m as clever as clever,
So I think I’ll be six now for ever and ever.
In the next two lines of ‘Now We Are Six’ the speaker states that when they were “Five” things started to improve. They were old enough to know what they wanted and how they wanted it. This helped them start to be “alive.” The speaker sees their internal personality as something that is truly developing from year to year. They do not give any details about their own life. This is a fact that allows this piece to be relatable to any young child.
This young boy or girl is especially self-aware though. Although they do still possess a youthful ignorance that gives a certain charm to the text. The next lines show that clearly. The speaker is happy now that they are “Six” years old. Now, they know that they are “clever as clever.” This is an interesting line. Perhaps something that the child is parroting back to their parents. It is clear this child has a personality that is quite strong.
The final line of ‘Now We Are Six’ is what makes this piece especially interesting, and entertaining for a younger audience. The child states that they are prepared to,
[…] be six now for ever and ever.
This young person cannot see their own life-improving anymore than it already has. They’re content to be “clever as clever” while still living the life of a child. ‘Now We Are Six’ is meant to entertain, but also with an older reader, instigate some internal investigation as to what could possibly constitute complete happiness. What age might one choose to remain forever? And what the consequences of that choice would be?