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Childhood Through The Eyes Of Richard Aldington

Updated on January 10, 2010

Is Richard Aldington's view of childhood accurate?

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The bitterness. the misery, the wretchedness of childhood
Put me out of love with God.
I can't believe in God's goodness;
I can believe
In many avenging gods.
Most of all I believe
In gods of bitter dullness,
Cruel local gods
Who scared my childhood.

-Richard Aldington-

This is the first stanza from the poem Childhood by British poet, Richard Aldington. The entire poem is a walk through of the poet’s life and of the area he grew up in. It is a gray poem filled with gloomy, cold thoughts. It is one of the most honest, realistic poems I’ve ever read.

For anyone who had or felt they had an unhappy childhood, this stanza voices thoughts we may have been too shy or closed off to say. They are private thoughts, the ones that people reserve for therapy or a night of too much drinking. It paints a picture of an unhappy period in one’s life that was meant to be carefree and joyful.

Aldington begins with, “The bitterness. the misery, the wretchedness of childhood”. Though the poet stands before you an established, respected adult, you can’t help, but picture them as a short, mature looking child, cigarette hanging from their lips, a glass of wine in one hand. Do you take them seriously? Or do you laugh these words off as merely melodramatic? He finishes the sentence with “Put me out of love with God.” What could make one feel so deeply? You must read more.

Clearly, the poet’s childhood was full of unfair, unkind, depressing events. He is in pain, unable to look past the cards that have been dealt to him. He has lost his faith, unable to believe in a god who would allow him to be repeatedly wronged. He has known too many corrupt people (“avenging gods,” “gods of bitter dullness” and “cruel local gods”) to be able to believe in the loving God spoken about in the Bible.

We, like the poet, have known people who “scared my childhood.” This line groups together all of the bullies and unjust people we’ve ever met. They are the people who hurt us that our parents willingly let into our lives, believing them to be harmless. They are the people whose actions still give us nightmares to this day. We are cautious never to meet people like them again and promise ourselves to never let such people near our kids. When we think about these people, our own faith in Godseems to wane. Like the poet, we have to question why such a supposedly benevolent, all seeing being could allow such harm to come upon a child.

Aldington’s language is dark, his message simple. He allows us to see his life through his eyes which, in turn, makes us see our own. It is poems like this that makes us wonder if the world our grandparents’ speak of, that safe, lock free world, ever existed. The world is an imperfect place. Rose colored glasses are ultimately only glass.

To read more poetry analysis by this writer, please click on the link below.


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    • mayhmong profile image

      mayhmong 8 years ago from North Carolina

      I feel the same was as he does!? There is something definetely going on to write something like this?

    • LowellWriter profile image

      L.A. Walsh 8 years ago from Lowell, MA

      Thank you so much!

    • Frieda Babbley profile image

      Frieda Babbley 8 years ago from Saint Louis, MO

      Very nice essay. I'm going to have to find that poem. I recall his name, so I wonder if he would be in one of my Norton Anthologies? Will have to check. Beautifully written. Always a pleasure.