The poems I am comparing in this essay are Half-past two and
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The poems I am comparing in this essay are Half-past two and
Reports by U.A. Fanthorpe and Leaving school by Hugo Williams.
All three of the poems are about school, and about the different
aspects of it. There are several points of view expressed in the
poems, such as that of a teacher, the confusion of a child starting
boarding school, and a child who cannot tell the time.
In the poem 'Half-past two', the poem tells of a child who, after
being told off as been told to stay inside until half-past two and
then he can go. To the dismay and confusion of the child, he cannot
tell the time and so wonders what to do when and if, half-past two
ever came. In this poem, the style is very much that of a child
speaking firsthand to himself and thinking in his head. The poem
begins with 'Once upon a' which is a harsh clichÃ© of old fairytales
of which the majority of them started in this way. In the first
paragraph, as he is so young he did 'something very wrong' but then
carries on to say that he had forgotten what it was that he had done
to deserve his punishment.
At the end of the lines in the first verse, there is no punctuation so
that the reader doesn't pause and is forced to carry on reading to
reach the end of the sentence, and enable them to have a pause. This
is written just how a child would tell a story, by not taking a pause
until the most important bit of a story is told. When the child speaks
of phrases that he hears often, they are written as, 'Gettinguptime,
timeyouwereofftime.' As the child cannot tell the time, he classes
these as ways to tell the time.
U.A. Fanthorpe attempts to recreate the voice and thoughts of the
child by describing a clock as having 'little eyes' and 'two long legs
for walking' meaning the hands of the clock.
In the 8th verse, the deliberate repetition of the opening words of
each line 'Into the' are used to suggest a change of mood. The longer
lines suggest how his mind escapes and his imagination starts to
unwind. This contrasts with the other verses and situation.
When the child writes about his teacher, he uses capitals when
addressing 'Her'. U.A. Fanthorpe has done this to show how important
the child regards the teacher. When the teacher starts talking, U.A
Fanthorpe uses italics to show how he regards her, and also as a
contrast to the normal font used so that her speech catches the
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Half U.a. Fanthorpe Boarding School Leaving School Carry Wonders Legs Verse Fairytales
readers eye, and also to show how different in status the teacher and
In the 10th verse, the ends of the sentences are deliberately
repeated, this emphasises the seriousness of what he has done wrong.
In the final verse, the significance of the experience is reflected
against, and the mystical metaphors the writer uses make the poem seem
as though it didn't happen.
Just as the beginning, the poem ends with clichÃ©s that resemble fairy
stories in order to make the experience seem like a dream or a distant
foggy memory where the writer cannot remember the exact details and so
elaborates and exaggerates them.
'Reports' by U.A. Fanthorpe is written in the voice of a teacher who
is writing school progress reports. As the amount of reports the
teacher is doing increases, the more she makes them as cliched and
cynical as possible, perhaps not thinking about doing so, but in order
to cut down on time, she uses the same, dull, un-descriptive words and
phrases for each report.
In the poem when we hear what the teacher has written, italics
indicate what the teacher has said, just as the first line of the poem
In order to get the right tone of the tired, bored teacher, U.A
Fanthorpe uses worn out, over used descriptive words such as 'fair,
quite good' and, 'satisfactory'. She uses these meaningless words in
order to be cautious so that parents are not offended by the report.
She knows that child, parent and the head of the school will read the
poem, so it is best to be safe with what is said. When the writer
writes about the child, the parents and the head, the next line starts
'Unholy trinity'. This means that the people she is going to give the
report to are, in her eyes classed as biblical and religious. However
I think that she is perhaps saying it sarcastically, as though these
three groups of people must be pleased even if the truth about the
child is not told.
In verse 6, U.A Fanthorpe writes about how the report should start
with very encouraging words and phrases, but then finishes with a poor
report with phrases such as 'could have done better, which are far
less encouraging. I think that in this verse she is making references
to life, and how when we are 'born at sound beginning' we move on
through life and through the different stages. These could be growing
up, getting a job, losing a job, and then at the end of life looking
back and wishing that we could have done more.
In the final verse, she makes an analogy to death and writes about
getting reports all your life with one final one at the end, being
The tone of the poem is strong and is a harsh comparison to life and
how events are often cliched and that no-one really cares if you do
well or not.
'Leaving School' by Hugo Williams is a poem about growing up and about
how small children feel as though life is very difficult.
'Leaving School' is written in the voice of the child, as is not
actually about leaving school, but about the child leaving day state
school to go to boarding school. He feels as though he is leaving
school and going into the wider world as he is leaving his home,
parents and all sense of normality.
The vocabulary used in the poem is short and simple, like that of a
child. Sentences are usually in 1st person pronoun, which is a
child-like way of starting sentences. Hugo Willams also jumps from one
event to another in order to recreate the childish way of not linking
In the start of the poem, the child starts out optimistic and
seemingly hopeful, but towards the end of the poem the tone changes
and the child becomes confused and alienated as he is not adjusted to
the new surroundings of his school. Hugo Williams writes 'I was fully
dressed again, ready for bed' and everyday things become a huge effort
for the child as he struggles to remember how to do things, although
certain things he is expected to know and do, he has never been
The poem is quite upsetting as you can see how the child struggles to
adjust to his bewildering new life and how he copes with being away
from his parents, and all sense or normality he had ever known.
Once upon a schooltime
He did Something Very Wrong
(I forget what it was).
And She said he’d done
5 Something Very Wrong, and must
Stay in the school-room till half-past two.
(Being cross, she’d forgotten
She hadn’t taught him Time.
He was too scared at being wicked to remind her.)
10 He knew a lot of time: he knew
Timeformykisstime (that was Grantime).
All the important times he knew,
15 But not half-past two.
He knew the clockface, the little eyes
And two long legs for walking,
But he couldn’t click its language,
So he waited, beyond onceupona,
20 Out of reach of all the timefors,
And knew he’d escaped for ever
Into the smell of old chrysanthemums on Her desk,
Into the silent noise his hangnail made,
Into the air outside the window, into ever.
25 And then, My goodness, she said,
Scuttling in, I forgot all about you.
Run along or you’ll be late.
So she slotted him back into schooltime,
And he got home in time for teatime,
But he never forgot how once by not knowing time,
He escaped into the clockless land for ever,
Where time hides tick-less waiting to be born.
Posted in Poetry Blog Tagged with: GCSE, Half-past Two, Poetry, U.A.Fanthorpe