Saturday, 7 June 2014


·         Shirley Toulson
·         Born – May 20, 1924 England
·         She is an editor of teacher, editor of child education and teacher of creative writing for adults.
·         Notable works. –
1) Shadows in an orchard – 1960
2) For a double time – 1970
3) The dovers – 1980

A photograph –
    “An embodiment of time and timelessness”
     Shirley Toulson’s ‘A Photograph` unfolds the very tenet of “Time – and Timelessness”. The poem strongly hints at the eternal state of the natural being and ephemeral state of the humans. Here we are acquainted with a picture of sea beach and three girls including the poet’s mother. Sea rarely changed but the mother of the poet met the horns of death.

A Photograph –
       ‘A melancholic poem`

     A photograph is melancholic to the utmost. We are acquainted here about loss, pain and separation. The smiling photograph creates a pang in the heart of the poet as she remembers and misses her mother with a doleful heart. The absence of her mother in her life has made her life a gloomy one.

‘A Photograph`
‘A Nostalgic poem`

     If nostalgia describes sentimentality for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations, then ‘A photograph` is a nostalgic poem. We find the poet to acquaint us with past happy moments related to her mother’s childhood and happy days.


The cardboard shows me how it was

When the two girl cousins went paddling”

     Here the word the cardboard presents an allusion. The cardboard with the photograph shows the transient state of the humans. The poet tells us about the photograph where her mother and her two cousins are on the beach paddling.

Each one holding one of my mother’s hands, 

And she the big girl - some twelve years or so. 

     Here in the picture mother is in the middle of other two cousins. Each of them is holding the hands of the poet’s mother. They are joyous and in holiday mood. Of the three, poet’s mother is the bigger one aging twelve years or so.

“All three stood still to smile through their hair

     At the uncle with the camera.”

     All the three girls are presented with innocuous picture where they are facing towards the camera with a smiling face through their hair. They have their uncle with the camera taking the snapshot.

Poetic device in use –

1) Stood still – Alliteration
2) Through their – Alliteration

, ………………………., A sweet face

My mother’s, that was before I was born.”

     The poet narrates the face of her mother to be a sweet one. The poet reminds us about the time gap and asserts that the picture was taken before her birth.

     Poetic Device in use –

1) My mother’s – Alliteration.

And the sea, which appears to have changed less

Washed their terribly transient feet.

     The poet comments the less changing of the sea which reflects the eternal state of the natural elements and at the same time hints at the transient state of the humans. Then the poet acquaints us with terribly transient feet meaning the temporary state of the humans.

Poetic Devices in use –

1) Terribly transient – Alliteration
2) Terribly transient – Transferred Epithet.

“Some twenty- thirty- years later

She’d laugh at the snapshot. “See Betty

And Dolly,” she’d say, “and look how they

Dressed us for the beach.” 

     Twenty- thirty years after the picture was clicked , Mother would have laughed at the picture and said meaning betty and Dolly about their awkwardly dressing for the beach. It shows mother’s being nostalgic about the past.

Poetic Devices in use –

1) Twenty thirty – Alliteration.

........................................the sea holiday
Was her past, mine is her laughter. Booth wry
with the laboured ease of loss.”

     A feeling of pain is presented here. The poet states that for the mother the happy sea holidays are past and for the poet her mother’s laughter is past. Here both are feeling the loss on both  part.

Poetic Device in use-

1) Laboured ease – Oxymoron.

Now she’s has been dead nearly as many years

As that girl lived. And of this circumstance

There is nothing to say at all,”

     The poet here acquaints that that girl i.e. her mother has been dead as many years as she had lived. And how the circumstance which is melancholic and hopeless one and the situation made the poet speechless. Her pain kept her silent.

“Its silence silences”.

     The silence that is created because of the death of her mother made her completely silent leaving her in utter pain.

Poetic Device in use-

Alliteration-  silence silences

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