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"First Lesson" by Philip Booth
Transcript of "First Lesson" by Philip Booth
ebbs- to pulse gently or throb
thrash- a long, difficult journey
dead man's float- how a dead man swims (face-down and drifting)
Lines 1-4: "lie back, daughter..."
The parent is telling the daughter that she needs to relax in her arms and float in the ocean.
Lines 5-8: "and look high at the gulls..."
The parent believes that soon enough, the child will be able to swim through the ocean by herself, and encourages her to enjoy the seagulls.
Lines 9-12: "[Daughter, believe/] me, when you tire..."
Telling the daughter to relax and float whenever she tires on her long journey to an island, the parent lets her go.
Lines 13-15: "cramps your heart what..."
When the daughter grows afraid on her journey, the parent tells her to remember her words: lie back and float on the sea, and she will be safe.
Metaphor: Whole poem
-Advice to survive life's adversity and hardships when you are without your family is compared to a parent teaching their daughter how to swim by herself in the ocean.
Personification: Line 15 - "lie back, and the sea will hold you."
-The sea cannot reach out to hold a person, but in this case, the daughter is floating on the ocean as though it were.
Imagery: Line 6-7 - "You will dive / and swim soon enough where this tidewater ebbs to the sea
-This is a visual description of both the beach and what it will be like when the daughter finally learns to swim by herself.
Repetition: Lines 11, 13 and 15 - "...where I held you / ...what I told you / ...the sea will hold you.
-Actions are applied to the daughter three times: twice by the parent to show previous memories of her lessons, and once to show the sea's comforting nature, representing the transition between dependence on one's parents and surviving on one's own.
Rhyme Scheme and Format
When life gives you up and downs, don't worry. Relax and calm yourself, and you will eventually reach your "island", your place of safety, and survive. When you grow to an adult and you go on your own, remember to open your heart to the calm counsel the world is giving you, and accept whatever comes. The island symbolizes the daughter's hopes and dreams in life, and as the parent warns her of the storms and tiring journey ahead, we all have trials and tests to endure before reaching our goals. But if we relax and submit to what comes, as the parent teaches, we will be safe and guided.
Why Do You Believe This?
The entire poem is a metaphor for reality. The parent teaching her daughter to swim by herself also shows that the parent is trying to teach the daughter how to be independent in the future. Throughout the poem, the sea is described as calming, gentle, and guiding.
Lie Back, daughter, let your head
be tipped back in the cup of my hand.
Gently, and I will hold you. Spread
your arms wide, lie out on the stream
and look high at the gulls. A dead-
man's-float is face down. You will dive
and swim soon enough where this tidewater
ebbs to the sea. Daughter, believe
me, when you tire on the long thrash
to your island, lie up, and survive.
As you float now, where I held you
and let go, remember when fear
cramps your heart what I told you:
lie gently and wide to the light-year
stars, lie back, and the sea will hold you.
-In conclusion, the rhyme scheme is:
A B A C A D E F G D H I H I H
This image represents line 15: "...lie back, and the sea will hold you." It embodies the personification used to show the sea as a gentle, helping entity that guides and protects.
-The poem has one stanza, containing 15
-It is written in free verse, which means
that it lacks a traditional structure or