Infant Joy - Language, tone and structure

Language and tone

The effect of this poem is to produce simplicity by the repetition of a few key words – ‘sweet', ‘happy', ‘joy' – and words associated with these – ‘smile' and ‘sing'. The lines:

‘I happy am,
Joy is my name.'

succinctly express the unity in a child between its nature and its identity. The baby is joy. When this is followed by the speaker's wish for joy to befall him/her, it suggests that the speaker acknowledges that this joy is not guaranteed. The baby has entered a world in which its nature may come into contradiction with its experience.

Investigating language and tone

  • Try replacing the repeated words with a variety of other synonyms
    • What effect does this have on the tone and mood of the poem?

Structure and versification

The poem relies for its effects on the patterning with difference of very few words – ‘joy' occurs six times in twelve lines, ‘sweet' four times. Although there are two stanzas, each stanza actually falls into two matching halves. Phrases are repeated: ‘but two days old', ‘I call thee'. This gives the stanza a rocking-effect, suggesting a lullaby. The repetition of the closing line acts as a refrain and adds to this song-like quality.

Investigating structure and versification

  • Find a lullaby and examine its patterning.
    • Compare it with patterning here.
Related material
Scan and go

Scan on your mobile for direct link.