I Remember, I Remember by Thomas Hood is a poem dedicated to the nostalgic embrace of the memory of childhood. Hood idolises his ‘childish ignorance’, painting his memories with beautiful colours and images. Hood’s childhood was a time of great happiness, one which he is well aware that he cannot return to. The poem grapples equally with the idealisation of childhood, and the sorrow that it must end.
I Remember, I Remember is broken into four equal stanzas of 8 lines. The rhyme scheme is a consistent, with the 2nd & 4th, 6th & 8th lines of each stanza rhyming. Hood explores the joys of childhood, with the consistent rhyme evoking this jovial tone to reflect his idyllic reflection. You can read the full poem here.
I Remember, I Remember Poem Analysis
The first stanza begins the poem with the anaphoric line which continues to chime throughout the poem, ‘I Remember, I Remember.’ This line centralises the poem on the pronoun ‘I’. By elevating the self, instantly Hood is exposing to the reader an intimate memory, bringing the reader along for his nostalgic journey into childhood. The use of the present tense ‘remember’ also helps to create a divide within the poem. Hood is very much stuck in the present, he is ‘remembering’ the past and can never return. This is a point of sorrow for Hood, with him missing the ease of childhood life.
The sun is personified as a force for good within the poem. ‘He’ is presented as a friendly character which seems to do everything to a level of perfection. ‘Never came a wink too soon / Nor brought too long a day’. Even the light within his childhood nostalgia takes on a form of amicable affection.
There is a sense of perfect balance within this first stanza. The equilibrium between ‘day’ and ‘night’ is perfect, with seemingly even the hours of the day being better when Hood was a child. The complete idealisation of childhood is evident right down to the balance of day and night. The idolisation is obviously exaggerated, but this only shows further how much Hood mourns for his lost childhood.
The stalk change from idealisation of the past against the harsh reality of this being a period not lost is presented within the last two lines of this stanza. The harsh caesura after ‘but now,’ breaks the melody of the poem, shattering the illusion. This coincides with the end of the first stanza’s descriptions of childhood. The caesura represents the difference between memory and reality.
The stanza ends with an exclamation from Hood. He wishes that during that idyllic period he had died, so it would have never had to end. The harsh reality of the mourning man is stalk against the foregrounded beauty of childhood. Moreover, the link between the poet’s death and ‘night’ is archetypical to literature. Here, ‘night’ is representing death, classic to the symbolism of literature
This stanza of I Remember, I Remember focuses further on the harmonic era of Hood’s childhood. Hood focuses on two main images, the colours and the flowers of the period. The delicate flowers, seemingly ‘made of light’ are palpable due to their proceeding adjectives. The focus on ‘red and white’ to describe the array of different flowers gives the reader a sense of the beauty of the natural in this childhood memory.
Yet, the flowers within the poem are also presented as delicate. The presentation of being ‘made of light’ of course elevates the flowers to a beautiful spectacle. But, at the same time, it presents them as fragile and likely to fade or break. There is a fine light between the beauty Hood is thinking about and the reality of his life. Perhaps this polysemic description of the flowers reflects Hood’s own disposition. He can imagine the flowers and see them, yet there are not real, merely flits of light within his own depressing life. As death is characterised as ‘night’ in the first stanza, perhaps the only thing keeping him from death is the ‘light’ from his memories of childhood, his love for that era driving him to continue.
Whereas the first stanza breaks out from the memory with a harsh caesura, this stanza continues its idolisation. ‘The tree is living yet!’ exclamation compounds Hood’s sense of excitement. He sees a living reminant of the past he has lost. The memories associated with the ‘tree’ drive the narrative of the third stanza. Hood finds something palpable which triggers yet more memories of this idyllic period.
The perceived lightness of character Hood presents in this stanza is exemplified through his relation to flying. Hood relates his childhood to a bird, flying freely as he swings on his favourite tree. Word choices such as ‘rush’ and ‘fresh’ present the freedom of the period. Hood has no obligations and is representing his freedom through his association with the lightness with which he flies through the air.
Yet, the subtle shift back to the depressive present is evident through the past ‘flew’. Although still rejoicing in his memories, Hood is acutely aware that this period of his life has now come to an end. ‘Flew’ sets this period of childhood joviality strictly in the past. The sense of freedom he once had has now ended.
There is no harsh break, as there was in the first stanza, to trigger the slip back to the present. Whereas the caesura in stanza 1 showed the stalk difference between the two periods. This stanza instead simply just fades, instead of breaks intensely. It is almost as if the memory is quite literally draining out of Hood. The memory slips through his fingers as he is reminded of his current sickness.
Hood evokes contrast between the lightness of youth and the ‘heavy’ nature of the present. ‘So heavy now’ concisely compounds Hood’s sentiment throughout I Remember, I Remember into three words. He has lost that sense of childhood joy and freedom. ‘Now’ he is stuck, ‘so heavy’ and living only for a nostalgic break into the past. The tragedy in this poem is subtle, but continual. Hood mourns for all he no longer is.
After the depressive nature of the final three lines in stanza 3, the anaphoric first line in stanza 4 now takes on a haunting melancholy. This stanza ends with the sentiment that Hood is depressed to know he has not/is not dying. He wishes he were closer to heaven, indeed, closer to death. If he cannot return to his childhood idyll, he feels like he would rather die. The bitter melancholy that bubbles under the surface of the poem finally breaks here. This is how Hood feels, and there is nothing he can do about it.
The final rhyme of I Remember, I Remember compounds the general sentiment of the poem, ‘joy’ and ‘boy’ are linked, proving against the happiness of childhood. But, considering Hood’s disposition, the rhyme takes on a melancholic tone. Indeed, the two concepts are linked, but they are something alien to Hood. He can never return to his childhood, doomed to live in the present.