The two writers view old age very differently. One sees it as a time of sadness, loneliness and helplessness, while the other sees it as a time for excitement, happiness and individualism. In this essay I will compare the two poems and write about the ways they are similar and different and about how the poets view old age.
The voice of the poem ‘Old man, Old man’ is possibly of the daughter of the old man. Her style of writing changes from third person narrative to second person narrative. This shows us that during the poem the relationship of the old man and the daughter is getting closer. At the beginning, the writer uses ‘He’ but near the end she uses ‘You’. The language changes from a third person narrative to a second person narrative, this is due to the fact that they have become closer and now they have a better relationship that means a lot more to them now then before. There is also the using of Italics to differentiate the speech ‘I can see you’ and ‘I’ve lost my hammer’ to show speech. She also becomes more poetic whilst writing in a second person narrative. She uses words like, ‘cloud’ as opposed to ‘Black and Decker.’
Similarly the voice in ‘Warning’ is of a female, however it is written in first person narrative which later turns to second person narrative. The writer is switching from being an individual and using ‘I’ to being part of society and using ‘We.’ The voice in ‘Warning’ could be of the poet herself.
The tone of ‘Old man, Old man’ starts of being one of anger and sardonic which then turns to love, tenderness and pity. In the beginning she writes with a tone of sarcasm and anger;
‘Life long adjuster of environments,
Lord once of shed, garage and garden’
The words ‘Life long adjuster’ and ‘Lord once’ show that the old man once had authority and immense power. It also shows her anger and sarcasm and hate towards him. She comments on the fact that he is good with objects and she resents the fact that he is ‘not good with daughters’ (people). This sarcasm and anger turns to tenderness as she writes, ‘I love your helplessness you who hate being helpless.’ This oxymoron shows her new and developed love. Also when she says.
‘Let me find your hammer. Let me
Walk with you to Drury lane. I am only a cloud’
we can see her new developed love. It is also a contrast of objects, such as ‘hammer’ and ‘nuts and bolts,’ with poetic words such as ‘clouds.’ It’s apparent she wants to be there for him. She feels pathos for this old man, her dad. Her dad who was once, completely independent is now dependent on her.
Equally ‘Warning’ has a tone of sarcasm along with mischievous voice. In ‘Warning’ the writer has a rebellious tone, as she wants to make up for ‘sobriety’ of her youth. Therefore she writes
‘I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t suit me’
She is rebelling against image and caring about what other people might think. She also writes ‘And run my stick along the public railings.’ This represents a little child, as it is something that young people love doing, being noisy. It also reflects being able to do what you want and to not care about what other people think about you Her mood has a rebellious tone due to the fact she might have been deprived of her childhood desires. She seems to be recalcitrant against acting mature as well, as she says ‘ I shall sit on pavements when I ‘m tired.’ During the first two stanzas the poet writes in an excited tone, it is almost as if it is a list of things she wants to do. This changes later as it becomes more serious and she returns to reality.
The meaning behind ‘Old man, Old man’ is of losing authority due to old age and it is also about the negative side of old age. The writer shows during the poem how the old man who once was independent and in control has changed into a dependent and passive person due to his age. The old man who once had,
‘World authority on twelve different
Sorts of glue, connoisseur of nuts
is now ‘so obdurate’ in his ‘contracted world’ and is ‘living in almost dark.’ The writer also writes about the negative sides of old age such loosing eyesight and memory. She also looks upon old age as time for helplessness loneliness and sadness. This is reflected in her description of the old man and his life. She uses words such as ‘ramble,’ and ‘shamble.’ These words show us the negativity of the writer on old age.
On the other hand the writer in ‘Warning’ sees old age as not the end but the start of a new life. She sees it as a time for freedom, a time where you can be a capricious individual. She also sees it as a time for casting off the shackles and responsibilities of adulthood. The writerfeels you can ‘wear terrible shirts grow more fat,’ and no one will care. She sees all the good sides of old age, a time where she can do all the things she has been shunned from during her childhood as well as adulthood.
She wants to ‘run my stick along the public railings’, ‘gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells’ and wear things that don’t suit her. Therefore she sees old age as a chance to ‘make up for the sobriety’ of her youth. She feels she will get away with doing these things, as she will have natural excuses. People will ignore her mistakes and outrageous behavior due to the fact she is old. Hence she wants to rebel against images, saving money and acting mature. The writer sees old age as a time for excitement and therefore sees all the good sides of old age.
‘Old man, Old man’ has a formal and ordered structure. This reflects in the old man’s personality as like him the poem is set in it’s ways. There is a lack of punctuation between lines 7-18 as she writes a list, also as she is speaking, in an angry and mocking tone;
‘World authority on twelve different
Sorts of glue, connoisseur of nuts
And bolts, not good with daughters’
Due to the fact there was a lack of communication between them the writer has a lot of anger toward the old man, her father, and this is displayed in this quote.
The structure of ‘Warning’ changes from informal to formal. The writer starts of writing in first person narrative and then goes on to second person narrative, as the writer returns to reality. Just as ‘Old man, Old man’ lacks punctuation so does ‘Warning’. During the first stanzas the poet of ‘Warning’ lacks punctuation. This lack of punctuation reflects upon two things. Firstly she is excited and seems to be telling us a long list of things she is going to do, for example she wants to ‘wear purple with a red hat that doesn’t go.’
Secondly she is breaking the rules of punctuation, which again reflects the rules she wants to break when she turns in to an ‘old women.’ She also uses short sentences to shock and horrify us as she writes ‘And learn to spit.’ This really shocks us, as we do not expect old ladies to spit. The structure also becomes more rigid, formal and in a prison form. This happens because the writer returns to reality, ‘But now we must wear clothes that keep us dry.’ She returns to being a mature adult with responsibilities from almost like her second childhood and her childhood desires.
There are lots of contrasts and oxymorons present in ‘Old man, Old man’ the writer contrasts every day language such as ‘Black and Decker,’ with poetic language like ‘ only as a cloud.’ She also uses oxymorons as she writes ‘I love your helplessness you who hate being helpless.’ She feels that she can love him more now that he needs her and is a little less independent. The writer also uses interesting verbs such as ‘shamble’ and ‘ramble’ to make her descriptions strong and to depict pitiful old age. The writer also writes a list, which implies that she feels the old man gives more importance to objects than people. She also uses the pun ‘The man who did it himself,’ as in do it yourself kind of a person. This portrays that the old man is set in his ways and he takes mare pleasure in working with objects than people.
Similarly ‘Warning’ uses contrasts in the form of ‘sobriety’ and rebellion. She uses child hood desires such as wearing purple with red hats to contrast with mature behavior such as paying the rent and not swearing. There is also a contrast with luxuries and necessity as she writes
‘And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we have no money for butter’
This shows that she only spends money on what is necessary while she wants to spend money on luxuries as well. She uses oxymorons, as luxuries can not really be brought on a pension. She also uses objects, which we associate with old age such as ‘summer gloves’ and ‘satin sandals.’ These items are kind of a stereotype of old people. The writer also represents rebellious actions and behavior through objects such as ‘ I shall wear purple with a red hat’ this is rebelling against image and it is shown through the weird and funky clothes she is planning on wearing.
I have portrayed that the two poets have different views of old age and this is reflected in their poems. U A Fanthorpe portrays old age as a time for sadness loneliness and helplessness and this is reflected in her poem and the way she describes the old man and his small and lonely world. While Jenny Joseph views old age as a time of excitement, fun, individualism and a chance to do new and exciting things. She sees it as almost a second childhood except this time she doesn’t have many restrictions. This is reflected in her poem by the rebellious acts she has planned on doing.