The four poems that I have looked at are all based on the poets’ memories of their childhood. Two of the poems are of loving memories, while the other two are based on not so happy memories. ‘Autobiographical Note’ by Scannell is the first poem. It is based on the loving memories of going to the ‘Picture Palace’ every week as a child. The second poem is slightly different to the first. It is ‘I shall return’ by McKay. It is about how he wants to return to Jamaica where as a child he was very happy. The third poem is by Thomas and is called ‘Going Back’.
It describes the hard time the poet had as a child because of being an evacuee. It is different from the second poem because the poet does not wish to return to the place of his childhood. The first poem by Scannell ‘Autobiographical Note’ is started with a description of where he spent his childhood, in Beeston. He puts across the picture of Beeston as a town which is not particularly rich. This image is created by the description of the children. The poem describes them as ‘natural enemies of cops and schoolteachers’, implying that the children are troublemakers with ‘snotty noses’.
They are also described with ‘cut-down coats’ and ‘heavy boots’. All of these words create images of children in well-worn clothes living under quite poor circumstances. The poem also comments on how they were all eager to go to the cinema ‘we, like Hamlin children’ meaning that they all followed each other, as in the Pied Piper of Hamlin. The poem then goes on to describe their eagerness to get into the cinema, ‘forced our bony way into the hall’. This conveys a picture of a mass of children all scrambling to grab a seat. The poet then goes on to describe the cinema or ‘Picture Palace’.
He says it is easy to recall ‘the reek of chewing gum, gobstoppers and liquorice’. By mentioning this small detail of how it smelt in the cinema, he helps create a vivid picture of a place filled with noisy children eating sweets. Scannell says that the films shown at the cinema are now distant memories, ‘but of the flickering myths themselves not much remains’. He then goes on to describe a basic and vague account of these films. First the hero is portrayed as ‘wearing a milky white wide-brimmed hat’, ‘astride the arched white stallion’.
This colour – white – gives an image of the hero shining in the light. There was also a villain ‘wearing black’ on a ‘black horse’. These descriptions are of typical stock characters, with the hero in white always defeating the villain in black. ‘Laundered virtue always won’ means that the unrealistic good qualities of the hero always helped him to win. The poet also says ‘that disbelief did not exist’, meaning that the children watching the film always believed the tales and never even suspected that the hero had ‘laundered virtues’.
The poet comments on how these children believed the tales and also how they applauded a fight with the hero winning, ‘with quicker gun and harder fist, all of us applauded it’. After this the poet hints that he is different from all the other children. He does this by mentioning when all the children applauded the hero he would find himself thinking the villain was far more impressive ‘who could move imagination in a way a well shaved hero never could’.