Analysis of the Poem Autobiography

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Analysis by N. Mohsin
Autobiography, by Louis MacNeice

In my childhood trees were green
And there was plenty to be seen.

Come back early or never come.

My father made the walls resound,
He wore his collar the wrong way round.

Come back early or never come.

My mother wore a yellow dress;
Gentle, gently, gentleness.

Come back early or never come.

When I was five the black dreams came;
Nothing after was quite the same.

Come back early or never come.

The dark was talking to the dead;
The lamp was dark beside my bed.

Come back early or never come.

When I woke they did not care;
Nobody, nobody was there.

Come back early or never come.

When my silent terror cried,
Nobody, nobody replied.

Come back early or never come.

I got up; the chilly sun
Saw me walk away alone.

Come back early or never come 

In his poem 'Autobiography' The poet has used a set form in this verse of eight stanzas and each stanza comprises of a rhyming couplet followed by a haunting refrain, 'come back early or never come. ' which is repeated through out.  There is also an unvaried rhyme scheme that is maintained right to the end, eg: aa, bb, cc, dd, ee, ff, gg .  We may attribute this strict adherence to the rhyme pattern as being apart of his strict upbringing by his father.  And the deviation in rhyme in the final couplet ( which does not rhyme) also denotes his change of thought or decision to move on or break away. 

The poem itself starts on a bright tone which reflects the happy memories of his child hood days.

'In my childhood trees were green
And there was plenty to be seen.'

The use the colour,  green here paints a picture of well being and happiness.  Followed by the echoing sound of the refrain 'Come back early or never come' This refrain which also carries a sinister warning with it, seems to haunt the poet even in later years so much so that even when the flashback of the happy memories come to his mind the echo of 'Come back early or never come ' seem to haunt him. 

'My father made the walls resound,
He wore his collar the wrong way round.'

The poets father was a reverend and religion was followed very strictly in the home.The second stanza seems to suggest that the fathers strict orders were heard all the while like an echo and Louis Macneice didn't seem to be too happy with this upbringing.  'the collar'here is refers to the collar worn by the clergy also referred to as the clerical collar. In this stanza however, Louis Macneice chooses to describe it as being 'worn the wrong way round' which we may perceive as suggesting how wrong the writer, felt strict adherence to religion was.  

'My mother wore a yellow dress;
Gentle, gently, gentleness.'

Louis Mcniece lost his mother who took I'll. He speaks of his mother very fondly, repeating the word gentle, to reinforce her kind, warm and soft nature. He uses colour imagery once again, in this instance - 'yellow'  suggesting her warm nature. We may also conclude from this that it suggests her illness- yellow being a colour that is associated with  illness.  The repetition of the word gentle in different forms also seems to suggest that just referring to her as being gentle wasn't enough and so he goes on to express it better by modifying the word and ultimately settling for 'gentleness' which probably describes her best. 

'When I was five the black dreams came;
Nothing after was quite the same.'

He is precise when he refers to his age when the change in his life came about owing to the loss of his mother thus denoting the immense impact it had on the boy. Once again using colour imagery -' black' suggesting dark and cloudy times.  'nothing' - sets a negative and hopeless tone to his future after this great loss. 

'The dark was talking to the dead;
The lamp was dark beside my bed.'

The poets  repetition of the word 'dark' in this stanza shows us how cloudy his life was in the absence of his mother.  He could...
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