Childhood

About the Author

Marcus Natten is a Norwegian poet.

Details of his life is very sketchy, so it is unclear when and where he was born. He wrote his lovely poem “childhood” when he turned twelve. The poem is a translation. One can imagine how great it would be in his

language.

Introduction

 Almost everybody thinks of their childhood with nostalgia. Childhood is a special period in everybody's life. Once gone, it can never come back. In this poem Markus Natten wonders. When he lost his childhood. He thanks of a few stages in his lifetime. When there was a change in his thoughts and perception of the world around him of course, he does not talk about the physical changes that came over him as grew up.

 

Summary

 

The poem Childhood begins with the poet pondering over ‘when’ was it that he lost his childhood. He wonders if it was the time when he crossed the age of eleven or the time when he started realizing that there is no real existence of heaven and hell as they could not be geographically located in maps.

He wonders if he lost his childhood the moment he realised that adults were not all they pretended to be or when he recognised that the adults, who spoke and preached of love, themselves ‘did not act so lovingly’.

The poet asks if he lost his childhood when he realised that he has a mind of his own or that he can choose his own way, guided by his mind now capable of producing thoughts and opinions that are different from other people.

The poet speculates as to ‘where’ his childhood disappeared. Though he is not aware of the day he lost his childhood, he knows that it has gone to some forgotten place, in an infant’s innocent face.

 

Central Idea

 

In this poem the poet thinks deeply over the question of his lost childhood. Childhood is a stage of innocence in which the child believes others and loves unconditionally. The poet has tried to identify some stages of his life when his thoughts and perceptions of the world changed. The poem describes the first step to maturity or loss of childhood when one is able to think logically and rationally. Forming one’s own opinion and not getting influenced by others is also a sign of maturity or loss of childhood.

The poem also hints at the hypocrisy prevalent in our society, where people pretend to be nice to each other but in reality, they do not like each other.

 

Explanation

 

Stanza 1
 

When did my childhood go?
Was it the day I ceased to be eleven,
Was it the time I realised that Hell and Heaven,
Could not be found in Geography,
And therefore could not be,
Was that the day!

 

Word Meanings:
 

go – end
ceased to be – stopped being
realised – understood

 

Explanation:

 

The poet wonders when he lost his childhood. He reflects that perhaps it was the day when he crossed the age of eleven. Maybe it was the stage when he realised that the concepts of Hell and Heaven, about which he had been taught since “his childhood, did not exist in reality. Geography textbooks did not give the location of any such places. The poet realises that he might have lost his childhood when he gained his rational outlook due to getting educated.

 

Stanza 2
 

When did my childhood go?
Was it the time I realised that adults were not all they seemed to be,
They talked of love and preached of love,
But did not act so lovingly,
Was that the day!

 

Word Meanings:
 

seemed – appeared
preached – taught
act – behave
lovingly – with compassion or love for others

 

Explanation:

 

in this Stanza, the poet reflects that maybe the loss of childhood occurred when he was able to see through the hypocrisy of adults. These people followed double standards, actually following, and preaching different standards of behaviour. They told the poet to be loving and caring; however, they themselves were argumentative, violent, and discourteous. Their behaviour was a far cry from the love they sermonised about and advocated so reverently to the child. Perhaps, says the poet, recognising broken trust was a major step towards adulthood.

 

Stanza 3
 

When did my childhood go?
Was it when I found my mind was really mine,
To use whichever way I choose,
Producing thoughts that were not those of other
people, But my own, and mine alone
Was that the day!

 

Word Meanings:
 

really mine – when not influenced by others’ opinions
whichever – any
producing – creating
thoughts – views, opinions coming from the poet’s mind

 

Explanation:

 

The poet asks the same question again and again but with different options. He is trying to guess when he actually lost his childhood. Perhaps, it was the day when he realised that his mind could think independently, forming his own opinions and being able to take his own decisions.

He gained a sense of individuality, which set him free from the preconceived opinions of others. His own individual opinions and experiences shape his thoughts now and he realised that this might have been the time when he lost his childhood innocence completely.

 

Stanza 4
 

Where did my childhood go?
It went to some forgotten place,
That’s hidden in an infant’s face,
That’s all I know.

 

Word Meanings:
 

forgotten – unremembered
hidden – concealed, kept out of sight
infant – small child

 

Explanation:

 

In this Stanza the poet changes his question. The poet now wonders where his childhood has gone. He reflects that may be his childhood has gone to an unremembered place.

The poet also says that childhood can be found in the innocent face of a child who does not have any pretensions and rationality and who trusts others unconditionally. In other words, a small child is full of innocence and there one can find one’s own childhood.

 

Poetic Devices Used

 

Alliteration: In this figure of speech, a number of words having the same first consonant sound occur close together in a series. For example. ‘Hell, and Heaven’, ‘that the day’, ‘my mind’, ‘whichever way’ etc. All these word combinations are used in this poem.

Antithesis: This figure of speech refers to the placement of opposing or contrasting ideas together. This emphasises the difference between the two ideas and adds interest to writing. It can be seen in the use of words Hell and Heaven.

Enjambment: This figure of speech refers to the practice of running lines of poetry from one to the next without using any kind of punctuation to indicate a stop. The example is in the second line of the second Stanza.

 

Textual Questions

 

I. Think it Out
 

Question 1. Identify the stanza that talks of each of the following.
1. Individuality
2. Rationalism
3. Hypocrisy

Answer: First of all, let us understand these terms.

Individuality is a person’s quality that makes him different from others or thinking for himself without following others’ thinking blindly.

Rationalism is a stage when an individual is able to analyse a situation using reason and come to his own conclusions.

Hypocrisy is a practice of engaging in the same behaviour or activity for which one criticises another. The poet has talked about the hypocritical behaviour of adults who preach something else and practise something else.
 

Individuality—stanza 3
Rationalism—stanza 1
Hypocrisy—stanza 2

Question 2. What according to the poem is involved in the process of growing up?
Answer: According to this poem the process of growing up involves many stages. Attainment of mental maturity can be seen as an indication of growing up.

When a person becomes logical, rational and is able to maintain individual thoughts, he is assumed to be grown up. A grown up can discriminate between reality and fantasy and between reality and hypocrisy.

Question 3. What is the poet’s feeling towards childhood?
Answer: The poet grows nostalgic about his childhood. He feels that childhood is full of innocence. A child is neither a hypocrite nor manipulative. He is free from all these wrong habits found in adults.

Dining childhood, he is not able to distinguish between truth and imagination or reality and fiction. The poet seems to suffer from a sense of loss in losing his childhood.

Question 4. What do you think are the most poetic lines? Why?
Answer: The most poetic lines in the poem are
Where did my childhood go?
It went to some forgotten place,
That’s hidden in an infant’s face,

These poignant lines explain beautifully what most adults feel. These lines take us back to the innocent world of an infant where the poet thinks his childhood seems to be lying hidden. Naturally, the pure and unadulterated childhood will never come back to us, though we can find it in an infant’s face.

 

Extract based Questions and Answers

 

I. Read the extract given below and answer any two of the questions that follow.
 

When did my childhood go?
Was it the day I ceased to be eleven,
Was it the time I realised that Hell and Heaven,
Could not be found in Geography,
And therefore could not be,
Was that the day!

 

Question 1. At what age does the poet think he lost his childhood ?
(a) After he crossed the age of eleven
(b) After he crossed the age of twelve
(c) After he crossed the age of ten
(d) After he crossed the age of nine

Answer:(a) After he crossed the age of eleven

Question 2. What did the poet realise?
(a) That hell and heaven are geographical places
(b) That hell and heaven are one and the same thing
(c) That hell and heaven are not any geographical places
(d) That hell and heaven are located on the Earth itself

Answer: (c) That hell and heaven are not any geographical places

Question 3. ………. in the extract means the same as discontinued
(a) Realised
(b) Therefore
(c) Ceased
(d) Stopped

Answer: (c) Ceased

II. Read the extract given below and answer any two of the questions that follow.


When did my childhood go?
Was it the time I realised that adults were not all they seemed to be,
They talked of love and preached of love,
But did not act so lovingly,
Was that the day!

 

Question 1. Who is ‘my’ in the above lines?
(a) ‘my’ refers to the poet, Markus Natten
(b) ‘my’ refers to the poet’s childhood
(c) ‘my’ refers to the poet’s friend
(d) ‘my’ refers to the poet’s father

Answer: (a) ‘my’ refers to the poet, Markus Natten

 

Question 2. Why is ‘I’ confused?
(a) Because ‘I’ do not seem to understand when he lost his childhood
(b) Because ‘I’ could not search heaven and hell in geography .
(c) Because ‘I’ is getting a lot of negative thoughts
(d) Because ‘I’ has lost his mind

Answer: (a) Because ‘I’ do not seem to understand when he lost his childhood

 

Question 3. Explain “But did not act so lovingly”.
(a) It means that children talk about love but their actions are not loving
(b) It means that adults talk about love but their actions are not loving
(c) It means that adults talk about love and their actions reflect the same
(d) It means that children talk about love and their actions reflect the same

Answer: (b) It means that adults talk about love but their actions are not loving

 

III. Read the extract given below and answer any two of the questions that follow.

 
When did my childhood go?
Was it when I found my mind was really mine, to use whichever way I choose,
Producing thoughts that were not those of. other people, but my own, and mine alone Was that the day!”

 

Question 1. Explain “my mind was really mine”.
(a) It means that his mind was influenced by others
(b) It means that his mind was not influenced by others
(c) It means that his mind was influenced by his parents
(d) It means that he was not confused

Answer: (b) It means that his mind was not influenced by others

 

Question 2. What did the poet realise?
(a) He realised that his mind belonged to his parents
(b) He realised that his mind was controlled by his friends
(c) He realised that his mind was controlled by his teachers
(d) He realised that his mind was his, and he had his own individuality

Answer: (d) He realised that his mind was his and he had his own individuality

 

Question 3. The poet ………. find an answer to his question.
(a) did
(b) did not
(c) can
(d) may

Answer: (a) did

 

IV. Read the extract given below and answer any two of the questions that follow.

 
Where did my childhood go?
It went to some forgotten place,
That’s hidden in an infant’s face,
That’s all I know.

 

Question 1. Where did the poet’s childhood go?
(a) It went to an unknown place
(b) It went to some forgotten or unknown place
(c) It went to a known place
(d) It went to the poet’s native place

Answer: (b) It went to some forgotten or unknown place

 

Question 2. Where does the poet think that his childhood is hidden?
(a) He thinks that it is hidden in a cat’s face
(b) He thinks that it is hidden in a boy’s face
(c) He thinks that it is hidden in an infant’s face
(d) He thinks that it is hidden beneath his face

Answer: (c) He thinks that it is hidden in an infant’s face

 

Question 3. The present tense of ‘forgotten’ is ……….
(a) forgot
(b) forgets
(c) forget
(d) forgets

Answer: (c) forget

 

 Short Questions and Answers

 

Question 1. What question does the poet ask again and again in this poem?
Answer: In this poem the poet is really confused. He asks the question again and again ‘when did my childhood go?’

 

Question 2. The poet has discussed two stages of life – childhood and adulthood. How do we differentiate one from another?
Answer: Childhood has been considered by the poet as a blissful period in one’s life, where a child trusts everyone.
Adulthood is marked by rational and creative thoughts, ability to perceive and differentiate and learn new things. In this stage of life, one also learns to be double faced and crafty.

 

Question 3. What did the poet realise when he crossed the age of eleven years?
Answer: When the poet crossed the age of eleven years, he realised that he had lost his childhood and had developed a mind of his own. He also found out the non-existence of Hell and Heaven.

 

Question 4. How did the poet conclude that Hell and Heaven were imaginary places?
Answer: The poet concluded that Hell and Heaven were imaginary places because Geography books contain names of places, but there is no mention of places like Hell or Heaven in these books.

 

Question 5. How did adults seem to the poet when he was a child?
Answer: As a child, the poet considered all the adults as an epitome of love and sincerity. He believed that their love was true, and they were ready to do anything for, their loved ones.

 

Question 6. Bring out the hypocrisy that the adults exhibit with regard to love.
Answer: As the poet grew up, he could make out the double standards followed by adults. He realised that though adults preached of love and talked of love, their behaviour was totally different and full of manipulation. They were all hypocrites who behaved differently from the way they talked.

 

Question 7. What did the poet notice about independent thinking? How important was this discovery?
Answer: The poet discovered that he was different from others and could think independently. He could have his own opinions without getting influenced by anyone else. This discovery was very important to him as it revealed to him his abilities for independent thinking and decision taking.

 

Question 8. What is the poet trying to convey when he says that childhood is hidden in an infant’s face?
Answer: The poet says an infant is really innocent as he trusts everyone and does not try to fool others. The poet brings out this fact by contrasting it with the behaviour of adults, who become manipulative and are hypocrites. As a person develops rational thoughts, his childlike innocence fades away.

Question 9. According to Markus Natten, when does the child become an adult?
Answer: Becoming an adult is a complex process which is associated with physical, mental, and social development. A child becomes an adult when he is able to live his own life and take care of his responsibilities individually. He also develops his own thought process, using which he can form his own beliefs and opinions.

Question 10. What is the poet’s feeling towards his childhood?
Answer: The poet regards childhood as a period of innocence. A child sincerely feels that he is free from all evils and that there is really a Hell and a Heaven. A child knows no hypocrisy. There is no difference between his thoughts and actions. In short, childhood is a state of innocence and purity of heart.

Question 11. How does the poem expose man and present him in true colours?
Answer: According to the poet, childhood symbolises innocence, purity, softness, and love. As a child grows up, these qualities start receding. Man adheres to lying, shrewdness, cunningness, and hypocrisy.

Adults preach about truth and honesty but themselves practise hatred and lying. The simplicity and honesty of childhood evaporates the moment man crosses the threshold of innocent childhood.

Long Questions and Answers

 

Question 1. Write an article in about 150 words about childhood and the process of growing up.
Answer:

Childhood
by Dhruvil Chauhan

When I was a child the world seemed to be a place of joy and happiness to me. There was nothing worth worrying about. Whenever I cried, somebody consoled me. When I did not like to sit alone, I was always in somebody’s arms. My mother always looked after me. These are my most cherished memories and I believe that looking at a child playing and enjoying childhood makes me somewhat nostalgic.

Childhood is free from cares. There are no duties or responsibilities on the shoulders of a child. A child only eats, drinks, sleeps, and plays. Thus, a child lives in the bliss of ignorance and innocence. As we grow in age, worries about studies, choice of profession, shouldering responsibilities etc keep haunting us. Tensions, stress, and worries become a part of adult life and the individual forgets to live a carefree life.

Question 2. Is independent thinking a step towards adulthood? If yes, then how? Explain with reference to the poem ‘Childhood’.
or
Markus Natten, though showing disapproval regarding the behaviour of adults, also raises a very important point, that of independent thinking and individuality. Do you agree that independent thinking and individuality make us what we are? Elaborate in the context of the poem ‘Childhood’.

Answer: Of course, independent thinking is a step towards adulthood. As a child, one is not able to make one’s own decisions and one’s thinking is always influenced and directed by adults. A child is so innocent that it is not able to distinguish between truth and imagination.

As a child’s thinking is influenced by others, it has no individuality. Moreover, it is prone to manipulations which lead to fickle mindedness. Independent thinking makes us what we are. It shapes our personality and we are known among people through what our mind thinks and what decisions we take.

If we want to stay away from evil people who try to influence our thoughts for their selfish purposes, then only independent thinking can help us. We cannot claim to be an individual if we cannot take decisions ourselves.

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