Evan Boland Essay

December 14, 2016 Politics

, but with a sense that it is up to us to do something about it. There is a sense of deep hurt conveyed in the last line of the second stanza: ???you dead??™. The first stanza has a sad, regretful tone while there is anger in the use of the word ???murder??™. The images of caring for a child in the second stanza are conveyed in a tone of tenderness. The second stanza contains a sense of urgency about learning from the devastating atrocity. In the final stanza, the tone is pleading and positive. The poet accuses us all of robbing his [Aengus] cradle, but speaks softly of healing. Yet the repetition of the word ???broken??™ seems to carry an immense amount of grief.
The Child Of Our Time was killed in a bombing in Dublin in 1974, such a public catastrophe ensures that this child was a victim of our time – in the real sense of the word and in the sense of the world that we live in. If we consider the title for a moment we can dwell on what a child should mean – life, love, enjoyment and a tomorrow but as we read on we see that this poem is speaking of the opposite. What is interesting to note is that Boland had not yet had her children when she wrote this poem and yet her feelings portray the feelings of mothers world-wide (in fact can anyone feel anything but remorse when contemplating the death of an innocent child). Boland begins the poem by mentioning a lullaby:
Yesterday I knew no lullaby
A lullaby is meant to be sung to a child to lull he/she to sleep, to bring peace and soothe the baby – yesterday (16 May 1974) a lullaby was unknown to Boland (alluding to her not being a mother yet) but today (17 May 1974) calls for a different kind of song and perhaps a lullaby that Boland was not expecting – such a dreadful lullaby that sent both babies to their deaths.
You have taught me overnight to order
This song, which takes from your final cry
Its tune, from your unreasoned end its reason
The child??™s ???final cry??™ is painful, confused and full of anguish; Boland feels that she must make a new song if only to alleviate the suffering of the child??™s family. Boland decides that she must make the ???song[???s]??™ reason from the child??™s ???unreasoned end??™. The word ???discord??™ is not used here for ease of rhyming, in fact the full meaning of the word discordant is: (of sounds) harsh and jarring because of a lack of harmony : bombs, guns, and engines mingled in discordant sound. Boland realises that something must be said about this incident and taking her poem??™s rhythm from the ???discord of your murder??™ she is able to voice her protests and concerns and even speak for the child who can no longer ???listen??™. Another note of interest is the word ???murder??™ – if we were to go off on a tangent and use a similar-sounding word like mother – what images do we get if we consider of the discord of the child??™s mother
Even though Boland writes about a public catastrophe her tone is not distant, yes it is formal but the reason for this lack of distance is due to the fact that Boland also writes about the death of one of her friend??™s children. The fact that Boland writes about the death of a child she has never known can account for the rhyme-scheme: they are slanted or half-rhymes and this prevents the poem from becoming melodious, given the subject-matter this is appropriate and quite intelligent on the poet??™s half. Boland brings us, the readers, into the poem in the second stanza and as in The War Horse, she feels that we are all at fault for something:
We who should have known how to instruct
With rhymes for your waking, rhythms for your sleep,
Names for the animals you took to bed,
Tales to distract, legends to protect,
It is we (the adults, community, the public) who have failed to create a safe environment for our children. Boland instructs us on how best to create this world: with songs, lullabies, names for teddies and bed-time stories. But the reality is that this world that Boland speaks of would vanish in an instant if threatened, much like the world of the children who died, either by bomb or by cot death. Even though the poet is speaking on behalf of parents here, we can assume that the parents of the dead child did instruct their son or daughter in this way, and if we were to speculate more we could say that such things came up in the conversations between Boland and the parents of the child who suffered the cot death. Thus neither circumstance is safe; be it the child who was killed in an unexpected manner via the cot or the child who was involved in the bombing – the fact that we cannot guarantee safety makes this poem all the more frightening. Political beliefs about Ireland are based on violence: it is obvious that the ???legends??™ that the bombers believe in do not ???protect??™ the innocent.
Boland mentions an ???idiom??™ – the lullaby and the fairytales would later give way to a particular language, a way of speaking that the child would inherit and retain as he/she grew up:
Later and idiom for you to keep
And living, learn
The child??™s right to life and speech, the natural course of events has been destroyed by a sudden, violent death. Boland is able then to see herself in the light of the dead child:
And living, must learn from you, dead,
To make our broken images rebuild
Themselves around your limbs, your broken
Image
Boland realises that we must rebuild our broken lives – as Boland mentioned earlier, her ideas of raising children through rhyme and tale were shattered when she discovered that all these things are worthless if we cannot ensure safety for our children – her world was shattered but only momentarily. It is the broken image of the child that inspires hope within the poet to begin to rebuild again. Boland finishes her poem with contemplating the way forward and she speaks of a new language:
…find for your sake whose life our idle
Talk has cost, a new language. Child
Of our time, our times have robbed your cradle.
The ???our??™ mentioned here implicates the poet and the reader in the child??™s death. Boland explores the relationship between the ???our??™, the ???we??™ and the ???I??™ – the public and private voices. Boland began with ???I??™ (she had no lullaby), in the second stanza she discusses ???We??™ and by the final verse Boland is searching for a new language to replace ???our??™ idle talk. It is important to note that nowhere does she discuss the real motives for the bombing – sectarianism or politics. In fact Boland mentions no place-names, no person??™s name nor does she attempt to explain the political circumstances of the bomb or the implications of patriotism. By using this type of poetic elusiveness, one act of violence becomes a symbol for every act of violence where innocent people are killed. But Boland does want us to take some sort of responsibility here – there is a need for the useless, empty talk to be replaced with a language which may prevent a bomb from exploding or a child from dying. Even though this child has been robbed, if a new language can be found then that child??™s death was not in vain.
Society needs to learn a new language if it is to change the minds of people like the killers who set the bombs in Dublin. Boland regards the beliefs of the a certain group of society (where there can be no political advancement in Ireland without violence) as evil, as causes of the ???murder??™ of the child. The bomb led to a child??™s death for no reason. Now society must learn from the death of this innocent child. Society must wake up to what it has done or what it has allowed to happen. Boland doesn??™t say we need new laws or more police. She says we need to get rid of stupid political slogans and ideas. We need to get rid of our ???idle talk??™, our false ???idioms??™ [Perhaps she is thinking of phrases like ???up the RA??™ and ???Brits Out??™]. She realises that we have all made the bomber who he is, with our attitudes and our talk. The dead child is the ???cost??™, the price paid for such idle talk. We need fundamental change. She doesn??™t talk of punishment. We need to think out new political ideas, based on caring for children, not killing them in the name of a political slogan or belief. We need to wake up and build new images to inspire us. Perhaps our images from history are the ???broken images??™ we need to re-make in a new way.
The final line of the poem is one of hope and prayer:
Sleep in a world your final sleep has woken
The initial image here is of the child awakening in a world where it will sleep peacefully and undisturbed – heaven Is Boland admitting that even with a ???new language??™ we cannot achieve a utopia in this world Or if we read it another way we could interpret it as the child??™s final sleep has woken the world up to an awareness of a need for change – the ???new language??™. Is Boland hoping for the child to be able to sleep in a world that has no violence or terrorism As in War Horse, Boland is not over-sentimental here, she may be angry or shocked but her feelings are certainly not down on paper. As a poet she uses the tool that makes her that, a poet needs language to be able to write poetry and Boland is hoping that this tool, this new language can bring about and end to the deaths of innocents.
The poet realises that it is the adult??™s job to teach the child, but in fact it is the child that has taught the adults a lesson:
And living, learn, must learn from you dead

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