Nettles: Poetry and Son

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Nettles by Vernon Scannell

The poem ‘Nettles’ by Vernon Scannell revolves around a father’s perspective on an accident involving his son, through which the poet explores a father-son relationship, wherein the father tries to protect his son from the various difficulties in life. However, despite his efforts to shield his son from these problems, they will be a constant threat in life. The boy here is a metaphor for the army, with the nettles being an extended metaphor of recurring war. The combined effect of these metaphors throws light on the difficulties in life. The poet has crafted a title which aptly uses symbolism to depict the nettles as evil. A cursory reading of the poem portrays the protective instinct of a father for his beloved son, whom he tries to protect against all troubles in life. A reference into the author’s life tells us about his own involvement with army life, which is conveyed interestingly in the poem. There is an alternating rhyme scheme present throughout the poem. Enjambment is used to help make the poem sound like a story. The poem has a single stanza which shall be divided into, for analysis, four stanzas consisting of four lines each. The first stanza revolves around a description of the poet’s son falling into the bed of nettles in a garden. The poet aptly uses the word“bed”, a term often associated with comfort that ironically the nettles cannot provide. The “green spears”, a metaphor for the flower stalks, show his discontent with the latter, therefore portraying them as a weapon of destruction. A spear is a weapon of war and killing, inducing war and blood imagery. The poet’s interesting word choice in the description of the nettle bed as a “regiment of spite” portrays them as an enemy. The phrase “regiment of spite”, coming from archaic vocabulary, is used in the juxtaposition of the nettle bed with an opposing army in a state of war. Moreover, the poet paints the setting of the regiment as being behind the shed. This...
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