Notes on Poem Childhood

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In this poem, the poet, Markus Natten wonders when and where he lost his childhood. In this quest to find the moment he grew up, Markus highlights the innocence and faith he lost even as he gained rational individuality.

Adolescence is usually a confusing time for a child who is unable to immediately come to terms with the physical, hormonal and psychological changes in his or her personality. He no longer feels like a child but is not quite ready to call himself an adult either.

In the poem, 'The Rainbow', William Wordsworth claims, 'Child is the father of man'. Markus seems to be echoing this thought as he underscores how in our childhood innocence lay our ability to appreciate the simpler aspects of life and thus, the child can teach the adult how to appreciate things the latter often takes for granted.

The refrain:
The refrain of any poem is/are line (s) that repeat at regular intervals throughout the poem. The refrain often carries the central message of the poem. The two lines which do so in this poem are: When did my childhood go?....

Was that the day!
The first line (which is a question) identifies the central theme of the poem, that is, the attempt to identify when exactly the poet lost his childhood. The second line begins with a question word but ends with an exclamation. Hence, it is no more a mere question. Rhetorical in nature, this line brings out the poet's sense of realisation.

Stanza - wise interpretation:

Stanza 1:
The poet wonders when he lost his childhood. He muses that perhaps it was the day he realised that the concepts of Heaven and Hell, he had been taught of since his youngest years, had no standing in the light of the day. Geography textbooks did not give the location of any such place. Education made the poet question his faith and look at the world much more rationally. The poet realisesthat he might have lost his childhood when he gained this rational outlook.

Stanza 2:
In the second stanza, the poet recalls the time when he realised that the adults around him did not practise what they preached. They told the poet to be loving and caring, however, they were themselves argumentative, violent and discourteous. Their behaviour was a far cry from the love they sermonised about and advocated so reverently to the child. Thus, the child lost his faith in the adults around him, whom he had so far, trusted without question. Their latent hypocrisy became evident to the growing child. Perhaps, says Natten, that broken trust was one of the major steps towards adulthood. Notice, that this is perhaps, the longest line of the poem. Markus Natten is a genius at putting punctuation to use. The length of this line and the difficulty to recite it in one go, indicates that this is perhaps the biggest loss the child has suffered.

Stanza 3:
As he grew up, the poet realised that his mind was unique, could form its own opinions and could take its own decisions. He gained a sense of individuality which set him free from the prejudiced opinions of others around him. His own experiences shaped his thoughts now and he realised that this might have been the time he lost his childhood innocence completely.

Stanza 4:
In the final stanza, the poet changes his question. From wondering at what point in time, he had lost his childhood, the poet now wonders where it went. The last three lines may be interpreted in two ways.

1.The poet claims that his childhood is nothing more than a long lost memory. He recalls his infancy and believes that his true childhood resides there, in that infant's face, and that innocence cannot resurface in this lifetime. 2.The poet believes that his childhood has become nothing more than a memory for him but has become the reality of some other infant. Innocence is a cyclical process where lost from one person, it travels to another, finding residence there. Thus, till date, adults can easily recall and seem to almost relive their own childhood,...