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"Rising Five" - Norman Nicholson

The poem “Rising Five” by Norman Nicholson is a story-like, free verse poem, written in first person narrative and describing the cycle of life. There is no visible rhyme scheme, it has no pattern and the stanzas are mostly very short, emphasising the short life that we live. Also, “Rising Five” is a juxtaposition of joyful life in contrast to a natural death.

“Rising Five” starts with an expression saying “I’m rising five…/ Not four”. This exclamation shows that as a little kid, you were looking forward to ageing and becoming older to do all the things that under-aged people could not do.

Moreover, the enjambment in “…and the little coils of hair/ Un-clicked themselves upon his head” metaphorically shows us that the kid was growing up and starting to become a man. The next few lines are very descriptively describing the boy and the atmosphere created is adolescent, “brimful of eyes to stare…reflected cones of light/ above his toffee-buckled cheeks”.

The “toffee-buckled cheeks” also add to the effect of seeing this boy eating sweets and having his mouth full of them, munching away, pushing out his reddish cheeks.

Throughout the poem there is a repetition of the phrase “Not…But…” which creates the sense of correction and a change in something, most probably the change in time, the increasing age and the maturing of people. The antithesis of “Not day/ But rising night” emphasises the difference in age between youth and elderly people. In the third stanza, the phrase “Bubbled and doubled; buds unbuttoned; shoot/ And stem shook out the crease from their frills” has highly elongated “o/ou” sounds which lay emphasis on the slow growing of people like shoots in plants.

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The next contrast in the lines “And every tree was swilled with green./ It was the season after blossoming/ Before the forming of the fruit” accentuate the greasy and disgust of age and time, as if ageing is a waste of time. The description “after blossoming” means after youth, the times when a person gets closer to death. The alliteration of “f” sounds in “forming of the fruit” emphasises the sound of the fruits evolving and forming on the tree-branches.

The metaphor of “The dust dissected the tangential light” shows that dust and old age and related and how both are taking over our life and the joy of youth. The next line is very important as it says “The new buds push the old leaves from the bough”, meaning that the new children are metaphorically replacing the dead/old people. Furthermore, the next stanza tells us that “We drop our youth behind us like a boy/ Throwing away his toffee-wrappers”, which is a contrast to the boy with his “toffee-buckled cheeks” in the first stanza, where he was still growing up. Moreover, we never see everything in life and do not experience all that exists, as the phrase “We never see the flower,/ But only the fruit in the flower, never the fruit,/ But only the rot in the fruit”. This anaphora of the preposition “but” shows that there is a change and that we hardy see anything on life; life is too short. The chiasmus of the word “flower” also accentuates on this. The poem finishes with “We look for the marriage bed/ In the baby’s cradle;/ we look for the grave in the bed;// Not living/ But rising dead.” The repetition of the word “bed in the end of the two lines indicates death and that time shifts closer to death. This is also emphasised with the contrast of “baby’s cradle” and “grave” which are both objects where a person lies in during his ‘life-time’/’death-time”. The last two lines, “Not living/ But rising dead” sum up the whole poem by saying that life is not completely used and not lived as it should be. Life is too short and that we are only living to die, which is a very depressing thought.

The poem is written very freely and open to give emphasis on out lives, which are mostly open and widely changeable. Nicholson cleverly changed the poem using the theme of time, showing a lifeline which starts off by wanting to become older and then wishing to be young again when death approaches. The poem was different to others as it told us about all different stages in life and used different methods of describing things very metaphorical and with a lot of anaphora to give a more descriptive scene.

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"Rising Five" - Norman Nicholson. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from

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