The Little Boy Found - Language, tone and structure

Language and tone

The alliterated L in the first two lines gives a flowing, open sound to the opening of the poem which works with the simplistic rhythm to suggest an easy optimism. This pulls against the meaning of the words which the alliteration highlights – ‘little', ‘lost', ‘lonely'.

God appears ‘like his father in white', suggesting something bright and pure, even angelic. The child's mother, by contrast is ‘pale'. She, too, is lacking in colour and is white. This term, however, evokes exhaustion, being drained of life and colour. Although this is appropriate to a mother of a lost child, it is also a disturbing idea. It is as though the child is handed over from a bright, life-filled power to one which is drained of life.

Investigating language and tone

  • Re-write the alliterated lines, replacing the alliterative words with others e.g. ‘small' instead of ‘little'
    • Do they have the same impact?

Structure and versification

The stanzas are quatrains rhyming ABCB, DEFE. The repeated ‘and's, plus the enjambement from lines 5-6, conveys the focussed action arising from God's intervention. However, the internal rhyme in the third line of each quatrain creates a predictable, simplistic rhythm. It is rather pat, too easy in its patterning. This reinforces the glib reassurance of the poem's overt message.

Investigating structure and versification

  • Try replacing the internal rhyme-word with a similar, non-rhyming word
    • What change in the effect of the rhythm does this produce?
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