Explication: “Ballad of Birmingham”
In the poem “Ballad of Birmingham”, by Dudley Randall, many different things can be analyzed. The difference in the two translations; one being a literal translation, telling the true meaning of the poem, and the other being a thematic translation, which tells the author’s theme and symbolism used in his/her work. Another thing that all poets have in common is the usage of poetic devices; such as similes, metaphors, and personification.
Before translations and devices, readers should first acknowledge the structure of the poem. In structure there are 8 different topics: speaker, setting, occasion, tone, rhyme, meter, number of lines and stanzas, and language of the poem. In the “Ballad of Birmingham”, the speaker is a mother and her child, the setting is in their house probably in the same room, and the occasion is that the child is wanting to go somewhere and the mother is weary of it, choosing a more “safer” place for her to go. Next, there is the tone. The tone of this poem is the child wanting, and mother putting her foot down, and then in the end the tone changes to sadness. When discussing rhyme, rhyme is the repetition of words that sound the same and this poem does use the device of rhyme, such as: play today, and me-free. Next would be meter, which correctly numbers the poem as to which words are used with rhyme. This poem is metered like: ABCB, DEFE, GHIH, JKLK, MNON, PQRQ, STUT, AND VWXW. The language of this poem is modern English, and the last thing, number of lines and stanzas is 32 and 8. That would be that correct structure of this poem.
The child has combed and brushed her black hair, and bathed until she was clean enough to smell like a rose. She put white gloves on her little brown skinned hands, and bright white shoes on her feet.
Just then the mother heard an explosion, and her eyes grew mad and welled up with tears. She ran through the streets of Birmingham, calling her child’s name out.
After reading the Literal translation one might be fairly in touch with the poem and its true meaning, but the reader will never truly understand the poem until they have read the Thematic translation. The Thematic translation, again, tells the authors theme and reasoning. It also tells the symbolism that the author chose to use. The Thematic translation for this work would be:
In this poem, by Dudley Randall, many different ideas are shown. When looking at the poem for the first time one might see that the theme would be to reveal a piece of human character, by the mother being cautious and overbearing. The mother also shows the characteristic of fright when she knows something happened to her child, and sadness when she finds her daughter’s shoe and doesn’t see her anywhere. Then there would be the characteristic of honor and independence when the child wants to march for freedom and wants to be with her friends so she can be seen as a person and not a mother’s child. But when looking at it from another point of view, one might see that the author is trying to tell an intricate story using few words. Dudley Randall tells a wonderful story of a mother’s love for her child, a child’s need to be a part of a struggle for independence, the sacrifice of not wanting her child to march the streets out of fear, and allowing her to go to the church to sing in the children’s choir, and the sadness and strife the mother went through when she realized her daughter was gone.
Lastly, a poet will usually use some types of poetic devices to enhance the quality of the poem; such as similes and metaphors. Randall doesn’t use many of these things but he does use personification once in a while; for example when he said “she clawed through the bits of glass and brick”. He also uses hyperbole, which is an exaggeration, when he says “she bathed until she was rose petal sweet”.
In sum, this poem is excellent in its storytelling and I would recommend this to anyone.