‘The Friend’ is one of several poems that A.A. Milne wrote featuring his famous characters from Winnie-the-Pooh. It is for these works and the major stories/books based on the characters that Milne is best-remembered. His son was famously the inspiration for the character of Christopher Robin and his stuffed animals, the inspiration for the other characters. In this poem, he includes an unnamed speaker, who could be Christopher, and Pooh.
Explore The Friend
Summary of The Friend
This short poem addresses the fear that all people experience that others think they’re “silly” or dumb. This stems from this particular speaker’s fear that he’s going to be asked a question that he doesn’t know the answer. Once he answers wrong everything, he thinks, is going to believe that he’s stupid.
In the second half of the poem, the speaker brings in “Pooh,” the famous character from the Winnie-the-Pooh books. He seems to know the answer to a particular question but the speaker says that it doesn’t matter either way. If Pooh answers then he’s the one who’s wrong, not the speaker.
You can read the full poem The Friend here.
Structure of The Friend
‘The Friend’ by A.A. Milne is an eight-line poem that is contained within a single stanza of text. These lines follow a simple rhyme scheme of AABBCCDD and are all of a similar length, made up of the same number of syllables.
This piece was aimed at a younger audience, therefore the sing-song-like rhythm of the lines is perfect. It is used to make the lines more pleasing to read as well as listen to. It also should help keep a child’s attention for longer. Milne also achieves this through the humorous nature of the content. There are fun words to hear and read, bordering on some of the more nonsensical verses that Milne makes use of in other poems.
Literary Devices in The Friend
Milne makes use of several literary devices in ‘The Friend’. These include but are not limited to alliteration, anaphora, and caesura. The first of these, alliteration, occurs when words are used in succession, or at least appear close together, and begin with the same sound. For example, “lots” and “lots” in line one and “answer’s always” in line three.
Milne also makes use of anaphora, or the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of multiple lines, usually in succession. This technique is often used to create emphasis. A list of phrases, items, or actions may be created through its implementation. For example, “And” at the start of lines three and four as well as six and seven.
Caesura occurs when a line is split in half, sometimes with punctuation, sometimes not. The use of punctuation in these moments creates a very intentional pause in the text. A reader should consider how the pause influences the rhythm of one’s reading and how it might precede an important turn or transition in the text. There is a good example in the last line of the poem. It reads: “’Cos if he’s right, I’m Right, and if he’s wrong, it isn’t Me”.
Analysis of The Friend
There are lots and lots of people who are always asking things,
And I know they’ll think me silly if I get the answer wrong.
In the first lines of ‘The Friend,’ the speaker begins by describing something that bothers him. There are always “people…asking things”. These things are fairly commonplace, like “Dates and Pounds-and-ounces” but the speaker worries over the answers. This is something that bothers him, it seems, on a regular basis.
He is scared about being embarrassed or seeming “silly” to those asking the questions. Like most children’s poetry, there is a moral at the heart of this poem that it is silly in itself to worry about these things as one can only do the best they can. Other people’s perspective can’t be controlled. But, there is also a humorous twist at the end that should make this short poem entertaining for children as well.
So Pooh and I go whispering, and Pooh looks very bright,
‘Cos if he’s right, I’m Right, and if he’s wrong, it isn’t Me.
In the next four lines of ‘The Friend,’ the speaker brings in “Pooh,” the famous main character from the Winnie-the-Pooh stories. He “looks…bright” to the speaker, a clear example of how one’s perspective on another can be different than their own. It is very likely that the speaker is worrying unnecessarily about being perceived poorly by those he meets.
Pooh is as worried as the speaker professed to be himself about know the correct answers to questions. The poem concludes in a lighthearted way with the speaker stating that whether Pooh is right or not in his answer of “sixpence” it doesn’t matter. Pooh’s reputation is on the line, not the speaker’s.