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Rising Five by Norman Nicholson

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1 Rising Five by Norman Nicholson
A poem of life and death

2 The Title: “Rising Five”
This gives a feeling of smooth flowing endlessness (i.e. it goes on forever)‏. “Five” This number is an absolute number, representing limits. The title is contradictory as “rising” represents a form of infinity and “five” is a limited number, in this case the boy's age.

3 Stanza 1 Un-clicked themselves upon his head.
‘I’m rising five’, he said, ‘Not four’, and little coils of hair Un-clicked themselves upon his head. His spectacles, brimful of eyes to stare At me and the meadow, reflected cones of light Above his toffee-buckled cheeks. He’d been alive Fifty-six months or perhaps a week more: not four, But rising five.

4 ‘I’m rising five’, he said, ‘Not four’, Lines 1,2
The author starts off talking to a small child, the child is indignant that he is considered as being 4, when he is actually a little older. Hence, “rising five”, meaning soon to be five. This is a representation of how children (and often adults also) commonly like to jump ahead in life and look towards the future rather than focus on the present .

5 “little coils of hair Un-clicked themselves upon his head.” Lines 2, 3
The words “little”, “coils”, “un-clicked” and “themselves” have consonance of the letter “L”. Shows innocence and youth. “Brimful of eyes to stare” Line 4 The word “Brimful” indicates a future full of promise/potential for the boy and also curiosity in the boy.

6 “reflected cones of light” Line 5
The child’s future is “reflected” not in the natural beauty of the light, but in cold technical terms (“cones of light” is used instead of rays of light)‏. “Toffee-Buckled Cheeks” Line 6 This shows that the boy is currently chewing on a toffee showing a childish instinct. The word “buckled” gives the feeling that, in reality, the boy is still bound to childhood at heart even though he wants to be older.

7 “fifty-six months” Line 7
This gives a feeling that it is longer than “five” years old”. And gives a feeling of extendibility. “... Or perhaps a week more” Line 7 This shows mankind’s uncertainty of the future, which is an an indefinite amount of time for life. Also the indecision in the minds of children when they are young is represented here.

8 “not four, But rising five.” Lines 9, 8
The structure of this is important as: It shows the end of the boy calling himself “four” years old represented by it being at the very end of the page. Also the “but rising five” being at the very left side of the page represents the beginning of the child calling himself “five”, even though he has not yet become five.

9 Stanza 2 Around him in the field the cells of spring
Bubbled and doubled; buds unbuttoned; shoot And stem shook out the creases from their frills, And every tree was swilled with green. It was the season after blossoming, Before the forming of the fruit: not May, But rising June. And in the sky The dust dissected tangential light: not day, But rising night; not now, But rising soon. 9

10 “Bubbled and doubled; buds unbuttoned” Line 11
This consonance of the letters “D” and ''B'' in “Bubbled and doubled; buds and unbuttoned, this shows that the meadow is a hive of activity. “every tree was swilled with green.” Line 13 The word “swilled” describes the trees' movements, and represents the mixed-up beauty in the environment.

11 “Forming of the Fruit” Line 15
This represents birth in the beginning of an organism's life and also development. “dust dissected tangential” Line 19 This once again shows scientific knowledge, and it describes the evening sky. The clouds in the poem are also represented by the positions of the words, which are scattered around erratically.

12 Stanza 3 The new buds push the old leaves from the bough.
We drop our youth behind us like a boy Throwing away his toffee-wrappers. We never see the flower, But only the fruit in the flower; never the fruit, But only the rot in the fruit. We look for the marriage bed In the baby’s cradle, we look for the grave in the bed: not living, But rising dead.

13 “Flower'', “Fruit” and “Rot” lines 26, 27, 28
These words are symbolic in the timeline of life. “Flower” representing birth “Fruit” representing adulthood “Rot” representing death “Throwing away his toffee-wrappers” This shows that the boy is casting off the blanket of his childhood, as the toffee in the beginning represented childhood.

14 “We look for the marriage bed/In the baby's cradle, we look for the grave in the bed: not living; But rising dead” Lines 28, 29, 30, 31 These last four lines shows that mankind continually looks towards the future and what the future will bring rather than the present in which they are living. The poet exaggerates and emphasises this human characteristic by saying that even when we are a baby in the cradle we look for the “marriage bed”. Through this action of continually looking forwards then we may as well look towards death (“grave in the bed”).‏

15 Closing Remarks Theme: The idea that humans sometimes consider life to be endless (“rising”). Unfortunately, all life comes to an end (mortality) as people age, demonstrating human limits (“five”). The mood changes drastically throughout the poem. It begins with a child’s innocent remark of “rising five…not four” and ends with a sinister statement that suggests the entire system of life is meaningless as it ends before it properly begins. The structure of the poem, with the repetition of “not…but rising…”. “… not four, but rising five.”: Four and five are very close. “…not May, but rising June.”: May and June are quite close. “…not day, but rising night.”: Day and night not very close. “…not living, but rising dead.”: Life and death are on two different ends of the spectrum. These “comparisons” become more and more unrealistic as the poem draws on, eventually stating that life is nothing more than death-to-come.

16 FIN.

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