Student exercises to assist a closer reading of the poem as a whole
A – Author’s biography.
1- Interpret the possible meanings of the first line. What is the children’s own world like at the present? What is the other world (‘another world’)? Consider the word ‘loom’ – does it have any connotations beyond its literal meaning?
2- What thoughts does the simile of the television provoke? Why might it seem strange or unexpected?
3-What thoughts does the image in lines 5 and 6 inspire in you?
4- Look at what happens to the carpet in the third stanza after the children in the poem have completed their work. As with all the lines so far, they are end-stopped; the sentence, in each case, is equivalent to the line of verse. What is the effect of this when it is read it out loud? Why is the merchant’s truck mentioned? Does it contribute to the way you feel about the children and their work?
5-Rumens does not say ‘worshippers’; she says ‘prayer’. Do you think that is significant?
6-The final stanza picks out themes from the rest of the poem and places a new emphasis on them. Think about the meaning of line 10: “The children are hard at work in the school of days.” How is this different from the school they are attending? What are the implications of this difference?
7- Consider the two phrases all-that-will be and all-that-was; and the contrasting words: fly and freeze. How do they relate to the rest of the poem? The letters that begin the word, fly, are the same as those beginning the word, flickering: do you think this is intentional, and what is its effect? What features of the world of all-that-was are implied in the rest of the poem? What other references in the poem can be found to colours, the future, and speed of movement?
8- What is the moral in the poem? Explain it in your own words.