Rising Five Poem
Rising Five by Norman Nicholson starts as a simple poem which becomes a lot deeper and more complicated. It begins with the innocent remark of a four year old to the poet. This comment about the boy’s age makes the poet think about how everyone contemplates their future.
The first verse describes an emphatic four-year-old boy who is indignant because someone called him four. He sees things differently, “I’m rising five’, he said, ‘not four”. He has a chubby face with fat ‘toffee-buckled cheeks’ and ‘little coils of hair un-clicked themselves upon his head’ giving the impression of him stamping his foot and tossing his head. He is cross because he has been called four when he believes he can sound more important by being called ‘rising five’. This is where the word ‘rising’ from the title begins to repeat at the end of every verse. This theme carries on through the poem although it becomes more complicated. The comment is an innocent one typical of all young children but it makes the poet think about how it is not only young children who jump ahead but also older people in all stages of their lives that do this. The boy is in the earliest stage of his life which is the bud of his life.
Verse two describes where the man and boy are standing in a field during late spring. It is an imaginative verse about the energetic speed of the vegetation’s growth crammed into a couple of months as ‘the cells of spring bubbled and doubled’. Around them, everything is bursting with fresh vigorous life, buds spread open their leaves and petals, crinkly and immature as each ‘shoot and stem shook out the creases from their frills’. Everything is lush. Every tree is ‘swilled with green’ as they swirl and move around in the wind. This is like sea weed swaying under the sea. Some of the phrases used in this stanza have good examples of alliteration such as ‘Shoot and stem shook’ which describes the way the plants tossed and turned in the wind as they grew. There are also good examples of onomatopoeias such as ‘Bubbled and doubled’ which imitates the speed the plants grow and ‘Buds unbuttoned’ gives the impression or buds popping open. They both describe their respective nouns well partly because of their similar sound to what they are describing.
In this review lines eighteen to twenty-three are the third verse. In the third verse it says, ‘the dust dissected tangential light’ this describes angular tunnels of light beaming across the field with tiny specks of dust dancing in the slanting light. At this point the poet realises that all people look ahead and anticipate what is going to happen to them next. The poet then makes a mockery of this saying, ‘not day, But rising night; not now, But rising soon.’ This shows the time of day is early evening. To simplify the quote he says that it is rising, rising-night or it will soon be rising night. Here he continues the repetition of the word rising and takes the theme of the poem on to the next step narrowing down its meaning.
The poet thinks about spring leading into summer and children growing up and compares the two, the child being young and the bud being new with adult being old and the fruit being rotten.
The last verse in Rising Five is the most important verse; it is the punch line of the poem. The first line explains ‘the new buds pushing old leaves from the bough.’ This is referring to children like buds being born and older generations like dead leaves. The bough of the tree is like a timeline. New buds always grow on the ends and old leaves fall off. The child at the start of the poem is desperate to sound older and more important then he is. He is already anticipating the next year of his life. The last verse of this poem reflects on how much humans anticipate the next stage of their lives. Youths are desperate to be adults and do more adult things. Norman Nicholson says, ‘We drop our youth behind us like a boy throwing away his toffee-wrappers’. Toffee-wrappers are unimportant so they get thrown away just like people rushing through youth and throwing it away. Then they realise how important it was. It was the time to grow up in.
Like a growing and dieing flower people rush their lives away. Then they try to catch up with the next stage of their life. People in the bud of their lives rush to be in the flower of their lives and then from the flower of their lives to the fruit of their lives and so on, ‘We never see the flower, but only the fruit in the flower; never the fruit but only the rot in the fruit’. People want to be an adult when they are children and when they are adults they worry about old age rather then living life for the moment. Then when they are ‘old aged’, they worry about death and forget to make the best of what they have. The poet writes ‘We look for the marriage bed in the baby’s cradle’ People worry about a child’s marriage when he cannot even walk. After this the poet says, ‘we look for the grave in the bed; not living, But rising dead’. All three of the places mentioned in the last two quotes, the cradle, the marriage bed and death are resting places during different stages of life but people cannot rest in them because they are too worried about the next stage of their lives. Finally people’s whole lives have been spent worrying for nothing because when they are dead there is no ‘next stage’ to their life.
In conclusion to my analysis Norman Nicholson’s poem Rising Five is about people rushing away their lives. It is an analogy of human life and its generations and the cycle of a bud growing into a flower then a fruit and then the fruit rotting. The poem starts off as a descriptive and simple poem but the further on you read the deeper and more depressing the poem becomes. Norman Nicholson makes the reader of Rising Five live in the present rather than worry about the future.