“To the Foot from its Child” is a poem by William Wordsworth that explores the poet’s deep connection to nature and the spiritual solace he finds in the natural world. The poem reflects on the enduring bond between the adult speaker and the landscape of his childhood. Read more 2nd PUC English Summaries.
To the Foot from its Child Summary
To the Foot from its Child Summary in English
‘To the Foot from its Child’ by Pablo Neruda is a narrative-descriptive poem which narrates the journey of a child’s foot until it becomes an adult foot and beyond until it dies. Besides narrating the experiences of the adult foot until its death, the poem also describes the changes that the child’s foot undergoes until it becomes an adult foot.
The journey of the child’s foot is similar to the ‘journey of life’. The poet uses the ‘foot’ as a metaphor and conveys his view of life. This metaphor helps the poet to convey the idea of how the child’s spirit gets crushed through the challenges and restrictions that life places upon him. Thus, by personifying the foot, the poet expects the reader to compare the experience of the foot to the whole person’s hopes and dreams as well as to the realities of everyday life. By and large one can infer that the poem is basically a criticism of how people force children to grow in society and forget all their dreams and aspirations. The child wants to be a butterfly or an apple, but society is harsh and forces the kid to become a responsible adult doing responsible adult things.
The transition of the child’s foot into an adult foot and then until its death can be studied under four stages conveniently. The four stages are
- Experiencing Reality
- Maturity and
- Death and Rebirth.
A brief description of each stage is given below:
1. Childhood (Lines 1 – 2):
The first stanza describes the characteristic features of the child’s foot. It is an infant’s foot and it does not know that it is a ‘foot’ at all. It lacks awareness and hence it dreams of unlimited possibilities. It would like to be a ‘butterfly’ or an ‘apple’. The foot has an optimistic view of life.
2. Experiencing Reality (Lines 3 – 16):
Here the poet highlights the impact of time on the child. As the infant’s foot starts growing in the outside world, it begins to experience the harshness and pain of life while walking. When it steps over, “stones and bits of glass, / streets, ladders / and the paths in the rough earth, it learns that its role is that of a foot the same way people become aware of their role in life. It realizes that it can neither fly like a butterfly nor become a bulged apple on the branch of a tree. The child’s foot has now discovered that it is only a ‘foot’, its spirit loses its battle against the world, is taken prisoner, and is condemned to live in a shoe. It also means that the child’s spirit becomes aware of its limitations as a human being and understands its role as a social being in human society.
Now, having been imprisoned in a shoe, it gradually tries to understand the world, in its own way. It is alone and cannot communicate with its counterpart, and gropes blindly in the dark like a blind man. The ‘foot’ is not in the open and whatever ideas it forms about life, are formed in the confined space of the shoe. Here, it means, it is not in touch with reality directly. The society decides what it should understand about ‘life’ or the world outside. Gradually, the foot adapts itself to its world and learns to cope with the harsh realities of life.
3. Maturity (Lines 17 – 46):
In this part of the poem the poet gives a graphic description of the changes seen in the child’s foot during its transition from a child’s foot to ‘adult foot’. The ‘soft nails of quartz’ in the child’s foot gradually grow hard and change themselves into an ‘opaque’ substance ‘hard as horn’. The ‘tiny petaled toes’ of the child’s foot ‘grow bunched and out of trim’. The toes in the adult foot appear like ‘eyeless reptiles’. Later they grow harder and become callused.
In this stanza, the poet attempts to let the reader know that as the child grows into an adult it becomes less open to reality. It also means that people grow harder both physically and emotionally. The phrase ‘faint volcanoes of death’ suggests that the foot comes to appreciate ‘mortality’. Thus, we find that the child’s foot has now been transformed from a beautiful form into a warped and ugly one.
The poet then describes the journey of an adult foot until its death. It is now like an eyeless reptile. Hence he calls it a ‘blind thing’. The adult foot is now in the harsh world outside, suggesting that the adult gets trapped in the routines of everyday life or the humdrum commonality of existence. It is now less capable of enjoyment and finds life difficult in every walk of life. It slogs and slogs either as a man’s foot or as a woman’s foot working in the field or market or mines or ministries. It toils in the shoe, day and night, scarcely finding time to enjoy the pleasures of life or sleep. It works without respite and finally meets with death.
4. Death and Rebirth (Lines 47 – 53):
Soon after the death, the adult foot gets buried. It goes down into the underground. It finds everything dark there. It also does not know that it is dead and has ceased to be a foot. When the foot dies and is buried, its consciousness is childlike again. Therefore, the foot revisits the possibilities of flying like a butterfly or becoming an apple. Here it means that people consider the possibility of an after-life.
To sum up, the freedom of childhood is lost when a person becomes an adult and is exposed to a life of constant work and struggle. Outside, uncontrollable forces have the power to direct one’s life and thus ‘life’ in society takes away people’s free spirits until they are freed again by death. The human promise is not fulfilled by those whom society enslaves and mistreats.
The poet imagines that the naked foot of a boy, innocent still of the habituations of social society does not know that it is a foot, or a butterfly or an apple.
Only through a long process of denial of our embodied natures, beginning with the simple act of wearing shoes and thus denying contact with the earth does the boy become a man. However, upon being buried, he still does not know if he will fly or become an apple.
In conclusion, “To the Foot from its Child” by William Wordsworth celebrates the timeless connection between the poet and the natural world, emphasizing the profound and lasting influence of childhood experiences on one’s relationship with nature. Through vivid imagery and heartfelt emotions, Wordsworth underscores the enduring impact of nature’s beauty and tranquility on the human soul.