Both ‘Nettles’ and ‘Praise song for my mother’ explore the theme of parent child relationships and the feeling of love and protectiveness that occur. Whilst Grace Nichols’ poem looks at the relationship between mother and daughter, Vernon Scannell’s poem looks at the relationship between father and son. Scannell’s son falls into a ‘bed of nettles’ and is hurt physicality hurt by the stings which cause blisters ‘on his tender skin’. The poet however, is affected mentally as he realizes that he is unable to save his son from the dangers that the world represents.
In ‘praise song for my mother’ however, we learn that the mother has managed to be protective; ‘mantling’ and proving warmth towards her daughter. Enjambment is also used to create a sense of the continuos care and protection her mother has provided for her, but can be also interpreted as the ongoing praise for her mother and showing that the memory of her is an ongoing thing. ‘Nettles’ is structured in one single stanza of 16 lines which is reminiscent of a sonnet, often a love poem but, in the form of the Iambic pentameter ; which gives it an ordered regimental feel , complying to the war motif.
Every other line rhymes in this poem, which has the effect of making the poem seem more intense as the rhyme is not very obvious. In ‘praise dong for my mother’ Nichols uses a clear stanzaic structure within the form of the praise song, sustaining a steady rhythmic composition, especially with the last words of the first four stanzas rhyming. There is a repetitive use of ‘you were’ at the start of these stanzas. ‘you’ suggests intimacy while the ‘were’ creates a melancholic tone; the past tense implying her mother in no longer there and may be dead.
‘Nettles’ also seems more personal due to being written in the first person, ‘my son’, ‘I saw’ etc. However, Nichols also uses cultural references to her mothers’s background, making the praise even more personal; such as ‘crab’s leg’ and ‘plantain smell’ suggesting spiritual as well as physical nourishment. Scannell’s relationship with his son seems to be strong: he cares for him greatly, but realizes that he would have to let him get hurt in order to learn what life can really be like ‘my son would often feel sharp wounds again’. The use of the adjective ‘sharp’ here carries on the idea that life can hurt you and cause you pain.
The word ‘again’ shows that this is a continual thing and that Scannell is powerless to stop it. Nichols’ poem also has references to the future. The last line is the voice of the mother, who is telling her daughter, through and imperative/ command ‘go’ to go into her future openminded and the use of enjambment at the end implies the infinite possibilities ahead of her. It is also suggesting the continuing influence she has on her daughter and that the relationship endures in spite of death or separation. The repetition of the adjective ‘replenishing’ encourages reflection on how the mother still provides spiritual sustenance.
Whilst ‘Nettles’ contains a lot of war and conflict imagery to represent the conflict within the father’s mind of not being able to protect his son and the ‘regiment’ of ‘green spears’ that have hurt his son, ‘Praise song for my mother’ uses natural images to evoke a natural bond between mother and daughter: successive stanzas compare the mother to water, as something we can’t live without; the moon, the sun and ‘gill’ needed in order to breathe and live, just as she needs her mother. It also evokes the mother’s life-giving qualities through the triple ‘rise and warm and streaming’.
In conclusion, the father-son relationship in Scannell’s poem is described as being full of love, with the father trying to protect his son from the threat of pain and hurt that the outside world represents. The extended metaphor of the nettles as a ‘regiment of spite’ shows just how fearful he is of his son’s innocence being taken away as he grows up. Overall ‘Praise song for my mother’ has an upbeat tone, portraying happy memories and implying a positive relationship similarly to ‘Nettles’ however, which has a more angry tone due to the father’s conscience of not being able to always protect his son.