Elizabeth Daryush was an English poet who was greatly influenced by the Edwardian style of poetry writing and this is evident in the poem The Children of Wealth. Her father was a poet laureate, Robert Bridges, and she chose to follow her father’s lead of writing traditional style of poetry. Most of her themes were criticising the upper class and the social injustice that was meted out to others. This tone in her writing came in later on as her first two books published under the name Elizabeth Bridges had various other conventional themes. These two books were published when she was in her twenties. ‘Children of Wealth’ is a poem which has her favourite theme, criticising the children of wealthy class.
The poem Children of Wealth is a sonnet asking the children of the wealthy to come out to face the real winter. Children of the rich people sit inside their safe haven of the house and experience winter. The house is warm and they sit on their cushioned seats to watch the snow fall. They are guarded from the snow. Their windows have double panes which ensure that nothing crosses this barrier to touch the children. They never will feel the biting cold sitting inside this warm house. For them winter is all about sight and sound and not the real knowledge.
The poet then asks the children to go actually go out to face the elements and walk around. She says that they must waste their round limbs and even get a tan in their skin. The comfort level is high yet it is very fragile as a glass. If the children really venture out then they will wake up to the horror that their houses are wired for protection and every room at that.
‘Children of Wealth’ is a sonnet with an AB rhyme scheme. Every alternate line rhymes making it lyrical. It is a sonnet but conventional sonnets are a straight set of 14 lines. Elizabeth Daryush has split the poem into two stanzas. The first stanza has eight lines and the second has six lines. Few poetic devices are seen in the poem and they are most conventional ones.
The single important theme in this poem is criticism of the rich. The children are referred to as children of wealth. The phrase ‘children of wealth’ has two meanings. Wealth may qualify as an adjective. It also implies they were the children of their parents. The word ‘nursery’ is a very strong pointer to the richness. The children are not being looked after by the parent, they are in their nurseries being looked after by someone else, may be the governess. The word ‘Cushioned’ indicates the protected life style of the rich children. So too ’double pane’ indicates the strength of the fortress of protection. Another word indicating that the rich are cut off from the rest of the world is the word ‘citadel’.
The poet does not merely indicate the richness or the aura of wealth around the rich, she also points out to the loss of real knowledge these children undergo as they are not in touch with the real world. They are cocooned from real life making them ignorant. She calls the protection ‘glass of comfort, ignorance…’ She thinks that the children will be horrified when they know the truth about their so called protection. Her urgency to let the children experience the real world is seen in the line
“To-day, and yet perhaps this very night”
The poem is a sonnet with every alternate line rhyming. To cite a few examples, watch –touch, tell-citadel. Alliteration, use of the same letter is seen in two lines –‘sound and sight’, wired within’. Enjambments refer to a thought being carried on to the next line and that is seen in many lines of the poem.
‘……, you cannot tell
What winter means;…’
The status is symbolised by using the words like ‘citadel’ and ‘cushioned window seat’.
There is irony almost all through the poem as the children are cut off from reality. The children who are supposed to be gaining knowledge form the world are cut off from the world and are living in citadels of ignorance. With a sense of urgency she beckons them to come out immediately breaking their comfort made of glass and face the reality to gain true knowledge.
The tone of the poem is one of sarcasm. Its not that she mocking the children and goading them to come out, she is even mocking at the parents. The parents are too busy with their own work and it is the governess who takes care of them. There is no parental love, the governess is only doing her job and a governess can never replace parents.
The mood of the poem is a scathing attack on the rich and their style of bringing up their children. They are in fact doing harm to children by not giving the children the right exposure. While most of the lines indicate the winter season, the words ‘tan your skin too white’ points to the summer season. Since the severity of season is most felt in the winter, the poet has used this for reference. However what she wants to convey is the larger picture where she wants the rich to allow the children to come out of their shells and gain practical knowledge and this will happen only if they are out with the rest.
Imagery is most strong in her poem. By using many descriptive words she has created a lot of imagery in this poem. ‘Volleying snow’, ‘glass of comfort’, ‘wrecking fire’ are some examples of the imagery she has used. Allegory is seen in the poem as the poet is trying to convey a larger picture. She is bringing up social issue with her references to the children of wealth. The disparity between the poor and the rich is large and the poet is poet wants to narrow down this gap and she wants it to happen immediately.
Children of Wealth is a poem that is lyrical and give a lot to think about. It reflects the age of class disparity and she also gives a solution to it. With beautiful imagery and some strong references she has conveyed her thoughts effectively.