Israeli poet, Yehuda Amichai, is well-loved for his Hebrew-language poetry. ‘A Child is Something Else Again’ was translated into English by Chana Bloch. It describes the experiences of childhood, as inspired by the poet’s own youth and the power a child has to experience joy and innocence while also inspiring and enlivening their caretakers.
Explore A Child is Something Else Again
‘A Child is Something Else Again’ by Yehuda Amichai is a thoughtful poem about childhood and what children represent.
The speaker begins by describing the “instant” ways a child deals with life and expressions of emotion and opinion. This is followed by a stanza describing how “they” try to craft a child into a specific kind of person who accepts suffering, as Job did, as God’s will. The final two stanzas describe the power a child has as they grow, bringing new ideas into the future and giving their parents a reason to live.
You can read the full poem here.
Throughout this poem, the poet engages with themes of childhood and potential. Religion is also an important part of the text. They describe a child as filled with potential. They bring change and disruption to the future and evoke fear and love in their parents, who fired them, like a missile, into life.
Structure and Form
‘A Child is Something Else Again’ by Yehuda Amichai is a four-stanza poem divided into uneven stanzas. The first has four lines, the second: six, the third: three, and the fourth: six. The poem is written in free verse. This means that the poet does not use a specific rhyme scheme or metrical pattern in his poem.
The translation referenced below was completed by Chana Bloch.
Below is an analysis of the English-language version of ‘A Child is Something Else.’ This means that some literary devices seen in this specific version of the text are different than what appeared in the original Hebrew version. Consider a few of the literary devices used in the translation below. They include but are not limited to:
- Anaphora: occurs when the poet repeats the same word or words at the beginning of multiple lines. For example, in this English language translation, the word “in” is used twice in the first stanza, “A” repeated twice at the beginning of lines in the second stanza, and “to say” in stanza three.
- Alliteration: occurs when the poet repeats the same consonant sound at the beginning of multiple words. For example, “he’s humming” in line three of the first stanza and “delivers” and “death” in line five of the final stanza.
- Imagery: occurs when the poet uses particularly interesting descriptions. For example, “hearing footsteps in the wet pine needles” and “instant light, instant darkness.”
- Repetition: the use of the same literary device, word, phrase, image, or other technique in a poem. For example, the repetition of “instant” in stanza one and the use of anaphora throughout the poem.
A child is something else again. Wakes up
instant light, instant darkness.
In the first stanza of the poem, the speaker begins by using the line that later came to be used as the title of the poem. The poet wrote, “A child is something else again.” That “something” is described throughout the next few lines and stanzas.
The speaker spends the lines describing a child with beautiful examples of imagery. Children wake up from a nap and are “full of words.” They do not hesitate in their expressions of interest and curiosity. They speak when they want to and are filled with warmth and light in an “instant.” The word “instant” is a major part of this first stanza. The speaker suggests that children are “instant” in a way that adults are not. They are vibrant, full of life, and, as the rest of the poem suggests, the future.
A child is Job. They’ve already placed their bets on him
to say “You’re welcome” when the Lord has taken away.
The second stanza immediately presents readers with a metaphor. The speaker says that a “child is Job.” This is an allusion to one of the central figures in the Bible. Job is often described as representing innocent suffering in the Bible.
The Book of Job describes Satan torturing Job with God’s permission. He is tested brutally. His children, servants, and livestock all die. But, he continues to worship God. He covers Job in boils, but still, his faith remains. It’s this way of dealing with the world that “they” think is proper. The child must accept suffering as God’s will, “they” believe. But, the speaker’s use of language suggests he believes otherwise.
“They” refers to any adult future who attempts to control or teach the child. They are trying to craft him into their vision of who he should be. This means teaching him to say “Thank you” and “You’re welcome” to God when good and bad things happen.
These lines evoke the child’s future and how he “scratches his body / for pleasure. Nothing hurts yet.” He’s in a moment where he’s just discovering the world and what feels good. The pain of adulthood and the struggles of everyday life are yet to impact him.
Often, these lines are connected to the poet’s youth and his strict, religious upbringing. They are contrasted with the three lines of the next stanza.
A child is vengeance.
I launched him: I’m still trembling.
The third stanza sets up an example of juxtaposition. The previous stanza suggested that the child is being trained to say “Thank you” and “You’re welcome” at the correct times, fitting into an idealized image of how someone should act and behave according to religion.
Now, the speaker adds, a “child is vengeance.” He is a “missile into the coming generations.” The child is driving into the future, bringing change, determination, and “vengeance” to the world. Their youth turned them into the person they are today, as it did with the poet, and they come to the future with a power that’s incredible to behold, especially for adults who are used to thinking and behaving in a certain way.
The final line of this stanza is from the first-person perspective. The speaker says they “launched” the child (an allusion to the missile metaphor in the first line of the stanza). They sent the child into the future and are, likely, the child’s parents. The speaker trembles when they consider the child they’ve made the possibilities that this new life represents.
A child is something else again: on a rainy spring day
Child, Garden, Rain, Fate.
The fourth stanza contains an example of a refrain. The speaker says again that a “child is something else again.” This is followed by a colon, indicating that the speaker will describe what he means by the assertion of “something else again.” They are, he notes, a “rainy spring day” and the experience of “glimpsing the Garden of Eden through the fence.”
The experience of loving a child is represented by this glimpse at perfection and peace and is compared, in the next line, to “kissing him in his sleep.” This moment of peace is again equated to “hearing footsteps in the wet pine needles.”
A child evokes the feelings connected with each one of these experiences and the images presented in the previous stanzas. The child is at once both peace and fear.
A child, the speaker concludes, “delivers you from death.” They represent life and provide a parent, as the speaker has slowly been revealed to be, with a reason to live.
The final line is a collection of nouns. It reads “Child, Garden, Rain, Fate.” These words represent the images the poet has just conveyed through the previous four stanzas. The line ends the poem on a contemplative note that leaves readers considering a child’s impact on the world and on the people who bring him or her into it.
The speaker is a parent. They are likely the male child’s father and have insight into what it is like to grow up in the same way the child is, being taught through religion, experiencing new things, and coming to the world with powerful ideas.
The poet used repetition, anaphora, refrain, allusions, metaphors, and more within ‘A Child is Something Else Again.’ For example, the allusion to the Book of Job in the Bible.
The message of ‘A Child is Something Else Again’ is that children represent power, new life, and change. They can bring a new will to live into their parents’ lives, are teachable, and are “instant” in their curiosity and liveliness.
The tone is loving and passionate. The speaker has a clear admiration for the male child they spend the poem’s lines describing. But, they are also passionate in their descriptions of childhood and what “they” want for the child.
Readers who enjoyed this poem should also consider reading some related pieces. For example:
- ‘Childhood’ by Markus Natten – is about the poet’s childhood and his transition into adulthood.
- ‘Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood’ by William Wordsworth – is a beautiful and complex poem in which the speaker discusses emotions associated with time and aging.
- ‘Innocence’ by Patrick Kavanagh – describes the deep connection a farmer has to his land and the farmer’s immortal sense of being.