This simple poem is divided into six stanzas of different lengths that are dedicated to a creative description of motherhood. The unknown author describes a mother who always has two little shadows at her side (representing her children who follow her everywhere). Rather than this annoying or frustrating the mother, their presence brings her joy that she’s happy to share.
Two Little Shadows Anonymous I saw a young mother With eyes full of laughter And two little shadows Came following after. Wherever she moved, They were always right there Holding onto her skirts, Hanging onto her chair. Before her, behind her— An adhesive pair. “Don't you ever get weary As, day after day, your two little tagalongs Get in your way?” She smiled as she shook Her pretty young head, And I'll always remember The words that she said. “It's good to have shadows That run when you run, That laugh when you're happy And hum when you hum— For you only have shadows When your life's filled with sun.”
Explore Two Little Shadows
‘Two Little Shadows’ conveys the joys of motherhood through the metaphor of two little shadows.
In the first few lines of the poem, the poet begins by having the speaker describe a young mother walking with two little shadows following her around. These shadows, which are no doubt her children, are everywhere she is all the time. Someone asks her whether this fact doesn’t at points irritate her, and she says no. The mother asserts that the shadows are just a reflection of the sunlight that having children brings into one’s life.
The main theme of this poem is motherhood. While the poem does not lay out ideas about motherhood clearly or in-depth it does allude to the nature of having children. They’re attached to their mother’s side at all times, something that to an outside observer may seem annoying or over-the-top. But, the mother in the poem makes it very clear that this isn’t the case.
Structure and Form
‘Two Little Shadows’ is a six-stanza poem that is divided into uneven sets of lines. The first stanza contains four lines, the second: six, the third: four, the fourth: four, the fifth: five, and the sixth is only a single line. The poem does not follow a specific rhyme scheme, but the poet does use rhyme in every stanza. For example, “there,” “chair,” and “pair” in stanza two, as well as “day” and “way” in stanza three.
Throughout this poem, the anonymous author makes use of a few different literary devices. These include:
- Enjambment: occurs when the poet cuts off a line before its natural stopping point. For example, the transition between lines one and two of stanza one as well as lines one and two of stanza three.
- Personification: can be seen when the poet imbues something non-human with human characteristics. For example, “With eyes full of laughter.”
- Metaphor: a comparison between two things that doesn’t use “like” or “as.” For example, the poet describes the children as “two little shadows.”
- Parallelism: occurs when the poet uses a similar structure in two lines. For example, “Holding onto her skirts, / Hanging onto her chair.”
I saw a young mother
With eyes full of laughter
And two little shadows
Came following after.
In the first stanza of the poem, the speaker begins by describing a young mother. They saw this woman with “eyes full of laughter” and with “two little shadows” following behind her. There is a clear example of juxtaposition in these lines, as shadows are generally seen as something negative and dark, while laughter is uplifting and joyful.
She’s happy with the two shadows following along behind her. The poem focuses on this dynamic for all of its stanzas.
Wherever she moved,
They were always right there
Holding onto her skirts,
Hanging onto her chair.
Before her, behind her—
An adhesive pair.
In the second stanza, the speaker continues on, saying that the shadows (as one would expect) followed along beside and behind her wherever she went. They were always there, “Holding onto her skirts” and “Hanging onto her chair.” Here, it becomes quite clear that the shadows demonstrate child-like attributes.
It feels likely that the shadows are children or are a memory of children. They are around her at all times, “Before her, behind her.” They are, the speaker adds in line six of stanza two, “An adhesive pair.”
It’s implied that not only are they sticking to the woman (likely their mother) they are sticking to one another as well.
“Don’t you ever get weary
As, day after day,
your two little tagalongs
Get in your way?”
The third stanza is only four lines long and is contained in quotes. The lines are delivered from the speaker’s perspective (or from a third person who the speaker is also observing). The woman is asked if she gets tired of having the “two little tagalongs” following her around day after day. They are always in her “way,” this person asserts.
In this stanza, the poet uses alliteration and consonance with the words “two little tagalongs.” The “t” consonant sound is repeated in each word helping to create a rhythmic phrase that adds to the musical sound of the entire poem.
She smiled as she shook
Her pretty young head,
And I’ll always remember
The words that she said.
The fourth stanza is also a quatrain (or composed of four lines). In this stanza, the woman replies to the inquiry about her children. The speaker also describes her as “pretty” and “young,” only adding a few details to the image that the reader didn’t already have access to.
The woman disagrees with what the person in stanza three asks her. She never grows “weary” of having the shadows nearby. She “Smiled” as she said it, indicating that she was not annoyed by the question or frustrated by having to answer it. She’s a good-hearted and optimistic person who, throughout this poem, is in a very good mood.
Stanzas Five and Six
“It’s good to have shadows
That run when you run,
That laugh when you’re happy
And hum when you hum—
For you only have shadows
When your life’s filled with sun.”
The woman says that it’s nice to have “shadows” around you that “run when you run” and that are happy when “you” are. They “hum” when you hum and are always there by your side, she says. This isn’t something that annoys her but something that bolsters her mood and, the speaker implies, is the reason that she’s in such a positive mood throughout the six stanzas.
The speaker concludes the poem by saying that shadows only exist when “your life’s filled with sun.” This turns the idea of shadows into something negative on its head. Instead, the shadows are recast as the results of something bright, warm, and positive. With this conclusion, readers are meant to walk away with a smile on their faces and with an optimistic idea of what it’s like to have children.
The main theme is motherhood. The speaker loosely describes the dynamic between a mother and her two children and, in the end, emphasizes the positivity that children can bring to one’s life.
The tone is questioning and positive. The speaker relays a conversation and the mother’s positive tone when it comes to dealing with her children all day.
The message is that while having children may seem like a burden at times, in reality, their ever-present nature is a reflection of the joy they bring to one’s life.
The author of ‘Two Little Shadows’ is unknown. The poem has circulated on the internet in various forums, poetry websites, and in mother’s day videos, but the author remains unknown.
Readers who enjoyed this poem should also consider reading some related poems. For example:
- ‘The Cry of the Children’ by Elizabeth Barrett Browning – a poem about how children struggled for survival during Browning’s lifetime.
- ‘Children’ by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow – a unique poem in which Longfellow explores the idea of children.
- ‘Mother to Son’ by Langston Hughes – contains a mother’s words to her son about the troubles he’s going to face in life.