Take just a second to read the first eight lines very carefully. Picture yourself as a small child being with your mother or father sitting on their lap as they hold you. It is a good feeling that brings warmth and security to any child or any adult needing to recapture the essence of their childhood. In the first four lines we are to understand that the boy's mother is trying to rub his skin to make him warm. That is what "chafe" means, to warm by rubbing. But how many times have you found yourself not quite sleepy enough to go to sleep and you ask your mother or father to read you a bedtime story?
In this section we find the relationship between mother and son the very epitome of maternal union. Their bonding takes place in a form that most children can remember from the early part of their lives. The act of storytelling is a wonderful part of growing up. Before the invention of reading and writing, people struggled to survive against nature, animals and other humans. This poem is a good example of this basic need to survive by using whatever resources you have to keep alive. To survive, people developed skills that grew into cultural and educational patterns. This idea is present when we read the part about the severity of that winter and the mother and son burning up their furniture to stay warm. The boy's mother is teaching him that you can use the wood in the furniture to use in the fire. That is an important lesson that a parent can pass down in order to insure the survival of their offspring. It teaches a lesson that a child would not otherwise know and can be used again and again to help future generations.
For a culture to continue into the future, peop...
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... into their path of agony by letting us know it is Christmas. The boy cannot be soothed by his mother's singing and cries himself to sleep. This is so heart wrenching for any mother to have to endure.
I believe this is the climax of the poem. The mother knows she can no longer go on with just rhymes and singing. In fact even her love cannot soothe her sons torment anymore. But we are left to wonder what it is she can do. She uses the only thing left, the harp. The boy talks about a light that falls on her, yet its source is unknown. Is it the light of God or divine intervention that is helping her to understand what she must do? Or is it just that light that appears in our heads out of nowhere when we have exhausted all our options? We begin to understand that the harp is her last resort. The poem makes no mention of her playing the harp before so why now?
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