‘Childhood’ by Markus Natten is a poem about the childhood of the poet. The poet talks about the transition of the poet from his childhood to maturity. As he matured, he forgot about the time when he started to think like adults. There is a hidden pain of the poet which hovers around the lines. In the end, his musing comes to a halt. He can see the innocence of childhood in an infant’s face. Although he is an adult now, the essence of childhood is always there in little children. Markus Natten can only get satisfaction by seeing those innocent faces, glittering in purity.
Summary of Childhood
‘Childhood’ by Markus Natten is a subjective poem. Thus, at the beginning of each stanza Natten constantly asks himself, “When did my childhood go?” He is confused about when he ceased to be a child. As an adult, he feels dejected to think about the loss of innocence in him. Those things which once amused him like the thoughts of “Hell and Heaven”, are now faraway dreams. Everything has changed around him. His parents don’t love him in the way they did before. The poet has become egocentric. He only thinks about himself, unlike a child. Presently, he is only left with his musings on childhood. He thinks childhood might have gone to a distant land. At last, he gets his answer after seeing an infant’s face. The sight gives him a sense of relief to think that it has gone nowhere.
You can read the full poem Childhood here.
Themes in Childhood
‘Childhood’ by Markus Natten comes up with the themes of childhood, hypocrisy, and egotism. A close look at each of the themes can provide a better understanding of the poem as a whole.
The title makes it clear that Markus is going to write about the theme of childhood. He touches certain aspects that make the conception of childhood clear. It is on the idea of childhood not about the biological timeframe which delineates the juncture between infancy and adolescence. The mental image of childhood is there in the poem. It is a thoughtless state in which one does not get involved in worldly things. The person stays detached and enjoys the moment “as it is”.
Next comes the theme of hypocrisy. The poet specifically focuses on adult’s hypocritical behavior with their children. When a child gets matured, parents start to treat them differently. They say a lot of things about love but in reality, they react otherwise.
At last, the theme of egotism adds a different layer of poetic imagination in the poem. Markus Natten talks about the psychological change in adults. Children remain less concerned about themselves rather they observe others. Kids immerse themselves in the thoughts not concerning their own. When the kid matures, his/her mind comes into action. It is alert all the time indulged in the service of the master.
Structure and Form of Childhood
‘Childhood’ by Markus Natten contains four stanzas. The first three stanzas have six lines in each while the last one has only four lines. The structure of the poem is suggestive of the subject matter of the poem. There is a regularity in the rhyme scheme in the first and last stanza. In the first stanza “eleven” in the second line rhymes with “Heaven” in the next line. Likewise “Geography” rhymes with “be”. In the last stanza, the scheme is different. “Go” in the first lines rhymes with “know” in the last line. “Place” and “face” in the second and third lines respectively rhyme together. As the poem follows a subjective perspective of telling things, it is a lyric.
There is another thing to point out here. When the poet talks about the things concerning childhood, the lines become longer. When he comes into reality, the lines shorten. The poet becomes rejuvenated when he thinks about the fascinating things of his childhood. For the monotony of mature life, the poet becomes sad. He falls short of words.
Sound and Meter of Childhood
‘Childhood’ by Markus Natten is in iambic meter. The metrical scheme of the poem suggests two aspects of the poem. Firstly, it points out the poet’s satisfaction when he talks about his childhood in the poem. Secondly, it is for emphasizing the words in each line. The poem is mostly composed in iambic dimeter, iambic trimeter, iambic tetrameter, iambic pentameter, and iambic hexameter alternatively. There is not a single sound scheme that dominates the poem. There are certain hypermetrical and trochaic variations in the poem too.
Poetic Devices in Childhood
‘Childhood’ by Markus Natten is significant in the use of poetic devices. The first and foremost literary device used in the poem is personification. The poet personifies “childhood”. He thinks that it has left and gone somewhere else. There is a refrain in the first and the last line of each stanza. The exception is only in the last stanza. It is actually for the sake of giving extra emphasis in the penultimate stanza.
Another important poetic device used here is an interrogation or rhetorical question. The poet incorporates it many times. There is a metaphor for “machines” in the third stanza. Here he talks about the mind and “producing thoughts” metaphorically. “That’s hidden in an infant’s face”, is an epigram. There are some other rhetorical devices like irony, palilogy, and anaphora in the poem. These are not less significant concerning the major figures. Each of the devices used in the poem helps the poet to make his idea clear.
Analysis of Childhood
When did my childhood go?
Was it the day I ceased to be eleven.
And therefore could not be,
Was that the day!
‘Childhood’ by Markus Natten begins with a question. The poet is not sure when he became an adult. It was when he was eleven years old. Then he realized that “Hell and Heaven” had no real existence in the age in which he was living. These are just the components of a child’s bedtime story. He stresses the word “Geography” by capitalizing it. It is a reference to the fact that at that time the poet started to familiarise himself with the rational world.
The poet uses the line, “And therefore could not be” for emphasizing that he could not freely roam in his imaginary world like before. There should not be any room for such childlike dreaming now. Time has changed. He is not a child anymore. The use of refrain in the last line highlights the poet’s transition into adulthood.
When did my childhood go?
Was it the time I realised that adults were not
But did not act so lovingly
Was that the day!
In the second stanza, the poet foregrounds the attitude of mature ones towards a child who has just become an adult. He had suddenly a realization that the adults around him were not behaving as they did before. When he was a little child, they pampered him. He got all the things when he wanted. The most important thing here is love. The poet says that with time their love had also changed. They thought it was inappropriate to treat him as a child. But they could not understand, the poet had just stepped into maturity. It was a long way to be like his parents. It was just the beginning. He still needed their assistance and foremost their love.
Adults cannot understand the mental happenings of a kid. They are not machines. There is no switch in a human heart which can turn on the mode of adulthood in a child. It is a process and processing of a human mind needs time. For them, it is a critical time. A lot of things start to enter into their lives and puzzle them daily. What they need is only love, to welcome the mental transformation with a patient heart.
When did my childhood go?
Was it when I found my mind was really mine,
But my own, and mine alone
Was that the day!
In this section too, the poet asks the same question to himself. The refrain used at the beginning of each stanza refers to an important idea. The state of childhood was an important thing in his life. As an adult, he laments the loss of innocence, imaginative spirit, and spontaneity of thought, when a child enters into manhood. Whatsoever, here in this stanza, there is a concept of self-awareness. It grows up in the mind of a child after stepping into adolescence. According to the poet, it made him aware of his own body and thoughts. The poet could not think like a child. He started to become self-centered. Thereafter, he lost the touch of purity which is always there in an infant’s soul.
Where did my childhood go?
That’s all I know.
In this stanza, the poet becomes practical. He accepts that he is an adult now. He can no longer think like a child and cry over the spilled milk. What is gone, is gone. Now he asks himself where the childhood had gone. It might have gone to a place where he cannot visit anymore. Suddenly, the truth appears in his mind. In reality, he is an adult but the essence of childhood is always there. In the heart of a child and the happy face of an infant, purity is glittering in its full luster. There is no reason to be sad. Those innocent faces brimming with the hope of a new day, are always there to cheer him up. “That’s all” he knows.
There are certain poems in English Literature that resemble the theme and subject matter of ‘Childhood’ by Markus Natten. Here is a list of a few of the works which can provide a better understanding of the “bliss of childhood”.
- Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood by William Wordsworth – In this poem, William Wordsworth at first laments the loss of purity and innocence as he became mature with time. Later he finds an answer which gives him satisfaction in being an adult.
- Child by Sylvia Plath – Sylvia Plath expresses her love for children and presents the reason for loving them so deeply in this poem.
- Children by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow – The poet’s love for children and their state of purity are celebrated in this poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
- Auguries of Innocence by William Blake – The same theme of loss of childhood and recollections of childish innocence are there in this poem by the famous romantic poet William Blake.
At PoemAnalysis.com, you can find the list of poems analyzed from Educational Syllabuses here. You can also find CBSE English Literature Class–XI “Hornbill” Poems Analyzed by our poetry experts.