Sons, Departing Analysis (By John Cassidy)

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-Comma used to separate the two terms, possibly to show longing and a break between Cassidy’s sons and their departure. Could also show the separation of the individual sons from their eventual departure

-‘Sons’ because Cassidy has personalised these individuals and holds an intrinsic value to them

-‘Departing’ due to more of a finality to it

-It’s curious to notice that Cassidy does not explicitly mention ‘sons’ throughout his poem, but ‘they’ instead. Perhaps because he has already identified them in the title, or that he doesn’t want to personalise this experience to only his sons, but all army soldiers in general








-5 stanzas of equal number of lines — 4 lines per stanza — 5 quatrains

-Free-verse rhythmic style, possibly to show the irregular pattern of life and the experience of war and how it may be unexpected, could be related to Cassidy’s unexpected departure of his sons


1st Stanza:

-‘Tall hedges’, Cassidy is speaking relatively meaning the hedges are higher than his sons, could be referring to how his sons aren’t physically mature enough yet to be considered to fight in a war

-‘their heads just clear and blond’, the ‘just’ may indicate how his sons are simple and thus could add to the eventual criticism of the army.

-Enjambment throughout the poem to show longing of their return and how all of his thoughts cannot be placed on a single line because that’s how far his love extends for his sons

-Anaphora of the word ‘hedges’, repetition because Cassidy wants to emphasis the idea of ‘hedges’ — depicting man-made nature and thus related to the army, which is also an artificially man-made institution.

-Uses pathetic fallacy with the sunlight, sea, air, and other natural phenomena to depict his thoughts on his sons departing from him.

-‘sickly’ as if to represent the large number of soldiers, the idea continued with the word’ drifts’

2nd Stanza:

-‘..miles of empty air’, as if depicting how they are meant to feel emotionally when they essentially murder people they know nothing about intrinsically

-Uses caesura consistently, usually with a semi-colon ( ‘;’ ), to further specify what he means or to further personalise the poem.

-‘sky had high torn clouds, notice ‘torn’, he uses this to develop an irregular or non-uniform pattern, as if Cassidy’s sons are lamenting at the time that they wont have to live their lives in such constant uniformity and conformity

-Idea is followed up and developed by the following line, the sea in its ‘irregular’ runs, irregular depicting not-standardised, and ‘spatters of white’, notice ‘spatters’, which could also be drawn to the idea of spatters of blood — but instead draws a contrast between red blood and white water, or essentially the foam that accumulates at the top of sea surfaces

3rd Stanza:

-‘steadiness’, further emphasising uniformity and standardised movements

-‘long diminuendo’, creating an acoustic effect on the reader as if gradually the sound of their footsteps are gradually growing farther and farther away, the loudness decreasing until not heard anymore. Could be related to Cassidy’s experience of saying goodbye to his sons and watching them ‘retreat’

-Their line was ‘straight’, as if they have a single destination and further (again…) emphasising conformity, uniformity, standardisation and lack of idiosyncratic qualities and individualistic features

-Tone developed is surface-level sorrowful, as the father watches sons leaving and cannot do anything about it

-Could also be related to how the father says goodbye to his idiosyncratic sons and watch them become a ‘dime a dozen’ in the army, thus lacking originality and individualistic qualities. Cassidy knows this because, he, himself, has fought in a war (WW2), thus he can relate to what his sons may go through with the experiences they face.

4th Stanza:

-Repetition of the letter ‘f’, creating an acoustic effect, possibly showing uniformity within the stanza and emphasising the unexpected reality or outcome of war

-‘frail complaints’, how Cassidy does not want his sons to leave and ‘fickle wind’ thus exploring the uncertainty of the war, like the nature of the wind

-‘They became sunlit points’, this is a progression from the 1st stanza where ‘sunlight’ was reflecting off of their ‘blond’ heads, but now they are ‘sunlit’ points, thus showing how they have moved uniformly from a close to a farther away distance.

-‘Haphazard’, where there is lack of a pattern in the world, the army focuses and creates an artificial sense of conformity, unity and uniformity. The poem becomes a satire of the army as a societal institution.

-‘random patterns’, an oxymoron, used to describe the ‘sea’ as ‘against’ the soldiers, because the sea has the ability and freedom to choose to follow a pattern or flow freely, with or without conformity, however the soldiers do not because they must be in constant conformity and unoriginality. This draws a stark contrast between the freedom of the sea and the standardised sons.

-‘one-dimensional, and final’, as if their ultimate ‘departure’ was not something they can undo, possibly relating to how the army changes a person entirely, from an individual to a uniform person, which makes their journey ‘final’, because they can never restore their past-self.

-This has a depressing connotation attached to it because although Cassidy has been to the army and has experienced this conformity, he speaks from an area of experience, however he cannot stop his sons from leaving and thus if his sons were to return then he is able to predict their standardised characteristics.

-Irony included in how although the army as an artificial man-made institution promotes such extreme uniformity, it promotes violence and destruction, which is non-conforming and non-uniform in nature. Whereas, on the other hand, nature is natural and non-uniform, ye promotes peace (along with a peaceful connotation) unlike human created institutions. This, again, is depressing, and arguably Cassidy writes this poem to bid farewell to his sons but also to criticise the army using satire.


2 thoughts on “Sons, Departing Analysis (By John Cassidy)

  1. I’m slightly confused on how you came to the conclusion that the sons were going to fight in a war. I feel like this is more about life and adulthood rather than war.


    1. The thing is, this is not about simply adulthood or simply war. Rather it’s about Sons Growing up and leaving to go to War. Not just any war, but to join the navy. It’s no coincidence that the word “sea” is mentioned thrice in the poem. Even if you look at the diction, a lot of it is related to the sea. “Gulls” which are found at the sea; “spatters of white” which refers to the sea shore where the waves hit the sand;
      The fact that they do not look back gives the impression not only of moving on as adults, but of bravery and courage. And “their line was straight” creates the image of trained soldiers in a war. “Retreating footfalls” also creates war imagery. So yes, it has a lot to do with growing up, but you can’t exactly ignore the references to war either.

      However, if you don’t see it the same way as I do, you don’t have to accept it. Literature is subjective and we all see it differently. The important thing is to understand and believe in what you’re writing. As long as you can prove everything you say from the text, you’re good to go and no one can criticise you.


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