Nettles by Vernon Scannell

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The Poet: 

  • Quite a dark character
  • Lived through WW2
  • Lived through Cold War 
  • Joined the army at age 18
  • Addiction to dessertion 
  • One of his sons died at a young age
  • Another died as an adult
  • He writes a great deal about war and violence (in ways you would never think possible) and danger (even in every day world)

The Structure

  • ABAB rhymning scheme
  • Written in iambic pentameter 
  • Four quatraints (4x4 sets of lines), ABAB repeated four times, closely linked to sonnet form - he's breaking the rules like he did when he left the army 
  • Rhymn scheme - simple melodic poem to read.


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

  • End stop line in first line - punctation has a direct correlation between pace and meter, forces reader to slow down 
  • 'Bed'- in inverted commas, seems to be ambiguous, bed either means a flower bed or a place we sleep, forms a contemplation in his mind, unusal word of comfort the is be associated with something that causes discomfort
  • 'Regiment of spite', 'green spears' - metaphorical military imagry, link to violence, regiment is a collection of men, explain stingying nettles and how they stand up in his garden, they can cause harm, its a battle with them, the danger they impose, weapon like qualities
  • 3rd line - consonance, the T and Ds are very harsh letters which causes this line to sound very spiteful (some kind of anger and resentment towards nettles and own personal issue with military)
  • Military imagry reflects his own paranoia after leaving the army
  • 'My son aged three' - the possessive pronoun shows how he feels responsible for his son, foregrounds boys young age and therefore the son's vunrability and innocence 
  • 'sobs and tears' - upset, distressed

The boy came seaking comfort


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