The Dying Child

“The Dying Child” by John Clare is a deeply poignant and heart-wrenching poem that delves into the emotions surrounding the impending death of a young child. The poem captures the raw, unfiltered anguish of a parent witnessing the frailty and suffering of their beloved child, juxtaposed against the child’s own innocent acceptance of their fate.

The poem begins with the child expressing a longing to be outside, amidst the flowers, feeling the breeze, and experiencing the beauty of nature one last time. This desire underscores the tragedy of a life cut short, of a child who won’t get to experience the fullness of life and nature’s wonders. The child’s voice is filled with a mix of innocence, acceptance, and a yearning for the simple joys of life.

As the poem progresses, the focus shifts to the parent’s perspective, revealing their profound grief and the torment of watching their child slip away. The imagery Clare employs is vivid and evocative, painting a picture of the child’s pale face, the fading light in their eyes, and the overwhelming sorrow that permeates the scene.

In essence, “The Dying Child” is a powerful exploration of love, loss, and the fragility of life, showcasing Clare’s ability to capture profound human emotions with sensitivity and depth.

Table of Contents


The poem here starts with a very fantastic line where he tells that he could not die when the trees were filled with leaves that he loved very much. This was a very fantastic time for him but did not leave the world.

“His little hands, when flowers were seen,

Were held for the bluebell,

As he was carried o’er the green.”

His little hand of him holds the flowers that can be seen and there is also a bluebell that he is holding. It seems that the boy is holding them that carry over the green field. This line prefers that the boy is carried to the graveyard that fills with green.

In the next stanza, He further states that the boy’s eyes are glancing at the flies because his body was cold. He knew well about them as they are the children of the spring.

Collection of Poems by John Clare
Collection of Poems by John Clare

Probably he is feeling very because he is enjoying them and he encouraging him by holding his hands over them to sing. Thus feels like he hears fills with so much joy as he cannot enjoy in his life.

“Infants, the children of the spring!

How can an infant die

When butterflies are on the wing,

Green grass, and such a sky?

How can they die in spring?”

Now the poet is calling the boy an infant of Spring. So, seasonal reference is a common part of Clare’s poetry. Now he asks a question probably dedicated to the readers how an infant can die whom nature made for itself even the butterflies also have two wings and it still flying over the green grass and beneath the blue sky?

The answer would be that he himself is the reason for his death nature kills him for a cause. His hand which is on the white bed remains the same and among him, the green field rises up that seems the childhood of the sweet boy is growing up innocently.

“And then he shut his little eyes,

And flowers would notice not;

Birds’ nests and eggs caused no surprise,”

Therefore his eyes are shut and the flowers that grow beside him can notice that as if they are becoming sad for the death. There are nests and eggs of the birds and they never become astonished for the death.

They all are getting accustomed to him. Thus, the season ‘Winter’ came and all the greenfield was removed by the scarf of ice. There the boy lies cold and it seems that he feels free and finally his heart receives a rest.

So, Clare presents the boy as a part of nature and the natural components are feeling sad about his sudden death.


Romantic elements are common things in Clare’s poetry. So, in the case of this poetry, the poet uses the same type of images. It tells the story of the unfortunate death of a boy whom he called an infant.

A Dying Child Poem Painting
A Dying Child Poem Painting

Because of having some health issues, the boy passed away and later he is burying in a green field where the natural components give him company. So, the boy later described as he is alive and is enjoying the atmosphere.

Then the season changed from Spring to Winter. When winter arrived the greenery transformed into white and his ultimate peace has come. He takes rest forever.


The image of the boy as an element of nature is the main part of the poem. John Clare states about the death of this innocent boy.

So, nature is playing a primary role but later comes the boy on whom the poem is being written. Except that a seasonal explanation also takes place to that we can take as another theme.

Literary Devices

Literary devices are the pillars of a poem that helps to develop the content of the poem. To do so, Clare uses many rhetorical devices. But before that rhyming pattern comes here the rhyme scheme is “ababa cdcdc”, the whole poem follows this pattern.

Anaphora is a relevant device that is addressing the repetition of the same word at the beginning of two lines one after another like,

“And then for violets blue,

And took them all to bed at night”

Then comes Alliteration which refers to the repetition of the same sound in a line like,

“Green grass, and such a sky”

Here, the “g” and “s” sounds are repeated twice.

Then comes enjambment which means the continuation of thought to the next line and even to the next stanza.

Imagery is a common literary device that is common in the case of John Clare’s poetry. Here, the poet uses several images to show the picture of the boy. So, these are all literary devices that play important roles in the play.