What is Nettles about?
Nettles is about a child (Scannell had six children) falling into a patch of nettles and seeking comfort from his parents. The speaker in the poem, after attending to his sons injuries- sets about destroying the nettles, only for them to return with the passing of just 'two weeks'.
Structure of Nettles
The poem consists of a single stanza and has alternately rhyming lines. The poem is a narrative account, focused on the fathers perspective of an accidnet involving his son.
What type of language and imagery is used?
Martial (to do with war) imagery and langue dominate this poem, which may appear strange at first given the domestic subject matter. By bringing the two ideas together, Scannell is offering his opinion on each.
Examples of martial imagery
The nettles are personified as an oppsing force. They are a 'regiment of spite' and are described using the methaphor 'Spears'. Within the first three lines the nettles are presesnted as a violent and aggressive group of soldiers to reflect the speakers need to protect his child.
- When the speaker is taking revenge on the nettles the writer agian personifies them, describing them as a 'fierce parade' as if they were soldiers standing to attention.
- They are given a 'funeral pyre' which is a wooden structure made for bodies to be burnt on rather then buried.
- Within 'two weeks', 'tall recruite' have been 'called up' to replace the nettles, a refernce to soldiers being conscripted, but also communicating the idea of an enemy force that cannot be defeated.
Examples of emotive language
The child is presented using emotive language, reflective of the compassion and sympathy the speaker feels for his injured son: 'White blisters beaded on his tender skin'. The alliteration using the sound 'b' sounds suggests the swelling, painful injures, and the childs skin is 'tender' this contrats the strong descpriton of the nettles.
The 'watery grin' is anouther emotive description, implying the child is being helped to get over his painful experience by loving parents
Describe the fathers reaction
The fathers reaction to the nettles is as violent as the nettles' stings. He explains the process of dealing with the nettles in a very careful, calculating manner: 'I took my hook and hones the blade'. First he selected his weapon, then sharped it, then he 'slashed in fury' until 'not a nettle.. stood straight any more'. The father takes revenge in his trong desire to protect his son and punish those who injured him.
Attitudes, themes and ideas
- The impulse for a parent to protet a child, using whatever means necessary, shown in the emotive language
- Inevitability of 'wounds' being felt through lif, whatever a parent may do to prevent it. The poem is about a parent realising that life will present children with hurtful situations, ones wich cannot be avioded or prevented.
- Martial imagery is used. References to war may suggest that the battle is futile. Whatever the father does the nettles grow back and his son will probably be hurt agian, just as wars continue to occur, however the attempts to end them.
- The manhunt- War and martial imagery in the context of a close relationship
- Praise song for my mother- Actions of a caring and protective parent