About the Poet
Edward Lucie-Smith, a British poet and art critic, was born in Jamaica in 1933 and graduated from Oxford University in 1954. He has lived in London since 1951, where he worked as an advertising copywriter (1956-66) and as an editor of books on art. Among his works of poetry are A Tropical Childhood (1961) and Confessions and Histories (1964). His important criticism includes Art in Britain 1969-1970 (1970), Symbolist Art (1973), American Art Now (1985), and Art Today (1977, rev. ed. 1995). He has also edited The Penguin Book of Elizabethan Verse (1968), British Poetry since 1945 (1970), Art in the 1970s (1980), Art in the 1980s (1990), and Visual Arts in the 20th Century (1996).
About the Poem
The poet is remembering his initial reaction to the news of his father’s death. He had just turned ten and realised that he could use his bereavement to gain a temporary release from bullying and a brief period at the centre of attention.
Death is a very common and natural event, although it may be very hard to cope with, especially if it involves a family member. Losing someone close to you is a painful and life-changing experience. But how does a child react to death? ‘The Lesson’ explores the mind of a ten-year old child who has just lost his father. He first hears of the bitter news from his school headmaster who bluntly opens the poem with the lines: “Your father’s gone”. Like any normal human being would, the narrator cries but it is not the tears of grief at losing somebody so important to a child as his father.
While crying, he begins to think: For there and then I knew That grief has uses – that a father dead Could bind the bully’s fist a week or two;”
These lines clearly indicate that this child is bullied at school, and that he knows that, out of sympathy, they would not pick on him.
What is the lesson that the child has learnt? He has learnt the lesson that each one of us learns at some point or