Nettles Analysis by Vernon Scannell

In this article, we are going to analysis the poem Nettles by Vernon Scannell.

About the Nettle Poem:

The poem "Nettles" depicts the speaker's son getting hurt when he falls into a bed of stinging nettles. The father in the poem tries to comfort his son, then goes and destroys the nettles, only to have them grow back a few weeks later.

The poem shows a parent's love for a child. It uses violent war imagery, Scannell himself having served in WW2, to show that however much they want to, parents are not always able to protect their children.

Analysis of Nettles:

Lines 1-4:
My son aged three fell in the nettle bed.
'Bed' seemed a curious name for those green spears,
That regiment of spite behind the shed:
It was no place for rest. With sobs and tears
The poem starts off simply explaining what happened in a matter of fact way.

The metaphors here compare the stinging using image associated with war, suggesting that they were sharp and dangerous, and also that this is the start of a war the speaker will fight with nettles.

The words 'sobs' and 'tears' emphasize how upset the child is.

Lines 5-8:

The boy came seeking comfort and I saw
White blisters beaded on his tender skin.
We soothed him till his pain was not so raw.
At last he offered us a watery grin,
The line 'came seeking comfort' tells us that the little boy turns to his father to make the pain go away, and the father feels responsible for trying to stop his son's pain.

Alliteration here emphasizes the pain of the injuries.

'Tender' This adjective emphasizes that the boy is young and easily hurt.

Starting the line with 'at last' tells us it takes a long time to comfort the boy. The 'watery grin' suggests that he is crying and smiling at the same time.

Lines 9-12:
And then I took my billhook, honed the blade
And went outside and slashed in fury with it
Till not a nettle in that fierce parade
Stood upright any more. And then I lit
 'billhook' = A circular blade.

The verb 'honed' tells us the speaker is getting his blade ready, showing he is preparing for a fight.

The words 'slashed' and 'fury' show how angrily and violently the speaker attacks the nettles that hurt his son.

The poet uses a metaphor again to compare the nettles to soldiers in a war. The adjective 'fierce' shows us how strong they were.

Lines 13-16:

A funeral pyre to burn the fallen dead,
But in two weeks the busy sun and rain
Had called up tall recruits behind the shed:
My son would often feel sharp wounds again.
 A pale of woos on which a corpse is cremated "Funeral pyre".


Here 'burn the fallen dead' the weather is personified, perhaps to emphasize how the speaker has no control over the weather that is allowing the nettles to grow again.

Again 'called up tall recruits' 'burn the fallen dead' the nettles are personified as soldiers in a war.

The last lines suggest that, however hard he tries, the speaker his not able to prevent his son from getting hurt, not just by nettles but by life in general.


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