‘Vespers‘ is one of the many poems that Milne wrote utilizing the characters from his Winnie-the-Pooh stories. The “Christopher Robin” noted in the poem is the same little boy who is featured in the stories. This child was famously inspired by Milne’s own son. The poem’s lighthearted, and Milne does a wonderful job of depicting the mind and attention span of a child.
The first and last stanzas of the poem are identical. In them, the speaker describes what Christopher is doing and what he looks like. The perspective then shifts to Christopher, who beings his prayers before almost immediately becoming distracted by what he can see through half-closed eyes. He also thinks about the bath he had. Finally, he remembers to pray for every close to him, including himself.
Analysis of the Title of ‘Vespers’
Before beginning, ‘Vespers’ readers will likely wonder over its origin and meaning. The word refers to an evening prayer service in the Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and other churches. Milne chose the word as the title for his poem due to the fact that it focuses on a young child’s evening prayers. In juxtaposition to what one might first imagine when they hear the word “vespers,” Christopher’s prayers are far from serious. He often loses his train of thought only to remember that he’s supposed to be praying for someone.
Structure and Form
‘Vespers’ by A.A. Milne is a six-stanza poem that is divided into sets of four lines, known as quatrains. These quatrains follow a simple rhyme scheme of AABB, changing end sounds from stanza to stanza. There is no one metrical pattern that Milne uses throughout the poem, but the majority of the lines are written in pentameter, meaning that there are five sets of two beats (for a total of ten syllables) per line. But, there are many lines in which this pattern doesn’t hold true. For example, the third line of the first stanza, which has six syllables, and the third line of the second stanza, which has eight.
Milne makes use of several literary devices in ‘Vespers.’ These include but are not limited to enjambment, repetition, allusion, and caesura. The latter, caesura, is a formal device in which the poet inserts a pause in the middle of a line of verse. For example, line three of the first stanza reads: “Hush! Hush! Whisper who dares!” Or line four of the fifth stanza. It reads, “Oh! Now I remember it. God bless Me.”
Alliteration is a common literary device. It is a type of repetition in which the poet repeats the same consonant sound at the beginning of multiple words. For example, “head” and “hands” in line two of the first stanza and “beautiful blue” in line three of the third stanza.
Repetition is another familiar device, one that can be used with an individual vowel or consonant sounds, entire words, full sentences, or even a whole stanza. In this case, the poet chooses to use phrases like “Hush! Hush!” which are examples of the technique. Readers can also fund examples of anaphora, the repetition of a word or words at the beginning of multiple lines. For example, “And” in the fourth stanza.
Stanzas One and Two
Little Boy kneels at the foot of the bed,
Droops on the little hands little gold head.
The cold’s so cold, and the hot’s so hot.
Oh! God bless Daddy – I quite forgot.
In the first stanzas of ‘Vespers,’ the speaker begins by desiring a little boy, Christopher Robin, saying his prayers. Readers who are familiar with Milne’s work will recognize the name as an allusion to Milne’s main character from the Winnie-the-Pooh stories. The child is based on Milne’s own son. The stanza is quite simple, as are those who follow. In it, Milne uses imagery in order to describe Christopher dropping down to say his prayers. No one, his speaker says, should disturb him.
The second stanza conveys the child’s words to the reader. Here, he blesses his mother and his father while his thoughts drift to the bath he had “to-night.” This is a wonderful insight into the child’s mind and one that resembles a stream-of-consciousness style of writing. The final line of the second stanza is another example of a caesura.
Stanzas Three and Four
If I open my fingers a little bit more,
I can see Nanny’s dressing-gown on the door.
And I shut my eyes, and I curl up small,
And nobody knows that I’m there at all.
In the third stanza of ‘Vespers,’ the speaker, Christopher Robin, gets distracted from prayer and peaks between his fingers. He can see “Nanny’s dressing-gown” and is attracted to its bright blue color. When he sees it, he remembers that he should be praying for her too.
Once more, Christopher gets distracted and starts thinking about his nightgown and how it differs from his Nanny’s.
Stanzas Five and Six
Oh! Thank you, God, for a lovely day.
Droops on the little hands little gold head.
Hush! Hush! Whisper who dares!
Christopher Robin is saying his prayers.
The speaker, Christopher Robin, reasserts his prayer, directing his thoughts once more to God. He thanks him for the “lovely day” and finally talks himself into remembering that he’s supposed to bless himself. The narrator resumes control of the poem, and the first stanza is repeated at the end of the poem.
This lighthearted poem concludes with the image of Christopher Robin kneeling, thinking over his day, and how much he cares for his family members.
Readers who enjoyed ‘Vespers’ should also consider reading some of Milne’s other best-known poems. These include ‘Poem by Eeyore,’ ‘Waiting at the Window,’ and ‘The Friend,’ all of which are oriented towards young audiences. ‘The Friend’ is one of many poems that featured characters from Winnie-the-Pooh. It is a simple and humorous poem that discusses a speaker’s self-conscious perspective on his own reputation. The same can mostly be said of ‘Poem by Eeyore.’ Some other related poets include Edward Lear and Shel Silverstein.