Spring - Language, tone and structure

Language and tone

The effect of the absence of definite and indefinite articles in stanzas one and two universalizes the scene and the children.

Stanza three then brings the universal into a personal focus on the child speaker and the lamb. It is only here that the speaker is openly identified as a child. This move to a personal focus is emphasised by the change in the grammar of the refrain. It is no longer impersonal ‘to welcome the new year' but ‘we welcome'; it stresses, too, the unity between child and lamb.

There is a preponderance of soft and liquid sounds – ‘little lamb', ‘lick', ‘pull', ‘wool', ‘kiss', ‘soft face'. These enhance the impression of tenderness and gentleness in the encounter between child and lamb.

Investigating language and tone

  • Insert the omitted definite articles in stanza one and the omitted indefinite articles in stanza two
    • How does this affect the poem?

Structure and versification

The poem is song-like with four rhyming/near-rhyming couplets with a final repeated refrain. The couplets are trochaic, in the manner of many nursery rhymes, with two stresses per line. This emphasises the child- nature of the speaker. The refrain changes to swift dactyls then iambic metre, which has the effect of consolidating the disparate elements of each stanza. The song form reflects the tone and mood of this celebration of burgeoning life.

Investigating structure and versification

  • Think of a nursery rhyme that has this pattern and compare it with the rhythm of the poem
    • What do you find?
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