The two poems ‘Old Man, Old Man’ and ‘Warning’, both explore the themes of old age in different ways. Both poets describe to the reader through the thoughts and feelings most people encounter through old age. ‘Old Man, Old Man’, by U. A. Fanthorpe is a poem which explores the changing relationship between the narrator and the man, who contains the qualities to be her father. These changes are brought about by age and are conveyed through Fanthorpe’s use of oppositions, for example, the old man remembers his thoughts and feelings from the past, but now this all becomes apart of his speech and descriptions of the present.
His daughter, who would like to help him, realises what his difficulties are and how they differ from his positive impressions during the past times. However. ‘Warning’, written by Jenny Joseph, challenges the reader and society’s view of stereotypical old person. The speaker of the poem rebels against society’s expectations of her to settle down quietly into a demure and quiet old age. She is independent and is excited at the thought of behaving irresponsibly. In ‘Old Man, Old Man’, the character’s life is conveyed through flashbacks and memories. In the past, he was a man who ‘always did-it-himself’.
He was independent and never worked on the relationship with his family. ‘Now, his hands shamble amongst clues’ and looses control of his actions. He is a man whose relationship with others fades away. As he moves on through life, the poem is no longer just about the old man, but a relationship with the narrator who loves his ‘helplessness. ‘ The narrator is seemingly the old man’s daughter who guides him through life ‘as a cloud’. She felt neglected by the man in the past, but now comes to an understanding of what he is really like and so she decides not to intrude on his life.
In contrast, the poem ‘Warning’ is amusing but is apparently thought provoking as it voices the inner feelings of a person. The speaker believes that society’s thoughts have stripped her of her individuality and opportunity to express herself. She is aggravated at the way in which she must behave. However, the poem immediately invites the reader into joining and sharing her rebellion. One of her immediate reactions is the first line, where she states that when she is old she shall ‘wear purple’.
This vibrant and loud colour makes a statement to the reader, stating that what her first and most important duty is, to carry out this inappropriate act (as society sees it) when she is old. Later on, she intends on spending her ‘pension money on brandy and gloves, ‘run her stick against public railings’, and makeup for the sobriety of her youth. This creates an image of chaotic and irresponsible behaviour. Throughout ‘Old Man, Old Man’, the man’s age is conveyed through the use of poetic language and the use of certain phrases.
The words in italics represent the old man’s voice and show how he ages from someone who has ‘lost his hammer’ to someone who only wanted his daughter as ‘ a cloud. ‘ The italic phrases represent a meaning behind the old man’s ideas and emotions as they portray a depressing and serious tone. As the poem develops, words regarding authority are associated mainly with the man and are located in the past; ‘connoisseur of nuts’; whereas words to do with weakness and deprivation are associated with the location of the man in the present, ‘obdurate in your contracted world’.
This shows contrast between the past and present and a definite lapse in time. The long sentences reflect the rambling mind of the old man. He was a ‘life long adjustor’ who ‘rambles’ and ‘frets’. His wanders around aimlessly in his life. The long sentences imply that he was once a ‘lifelong adjustor’, and a frightened figure. This poem represents a form where the man and narrator without having any connections have challenged each other in moving through life.
The old man has jumped from talking about his knowledge of ‘nuts and bolts’ to comments about his daughter thus showing where family connections have been broken, but starts to reform again. The style of writing includes lack of punctuation in the poem “Warning”, showing excitement and immediate actions – These in turn, speed up the rhythm (there are no commas or full stops). This use of punctuation is relevant to the theme of the poem. The life he travels through approaches different aspects of old age and so the long time is expressed through the long sentences.
Throughout the first stanza, the different customs and phrases of the poem express the various impressions if old age, ‘And gobble up samples in shops or press down bells and ran my stick along the public railings’. The stereotypical theme of old age contrasts the feeling of humour with bitterness and frustration, ‘And make up for the sobriety of my youth’. The use of verbs highlights the discussion in the poem about the present and the future. “I shall go out in my slippers in the rain’ and ‘you can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat,’ reflect childish non standard use of English.
There is also an effect of a three-way division in the poem. These three words show a feeling of how the speaker feels about the past, present and future actions. In stanza one, the word ‘shall’ is repeated to clearly state how the theme of old age should be like. In stanza two, the word ‘can’ expresses the anti-stereotypical theme of what old people in general aren’t expected to do. The repetition of the word ‘must’ in the third stanza conveys the stereotypical view of old age and how they must act in their future life. In ‘Old Man, Old Man’, stanza one and two has a sad and dismal tone as the changes in the old man are viewed.
‘He lives in a world of small recalcitrant things in bottles’ and ‘small things distress’. ‘I’ve lost my hammer’. This shows the reader that old age can be a life of sorrow, like ‘Old Man, Old Man’ or frivolities, similar to the tone and descriptions in the poem ‘Warning’. As we progress from stanza two through to three and four, the reader approaches a more praising tone, which shows the old man’s progressed positive achievements in coping with life-‘connoisseur of nuts’ and ‘world authority on 12 different sorts of glue!