Rising Five by Norman Nicholson

Rising Five by Norman Nicholson

“Rising Five” by Norman Nicholson is a poignant and thought-provoking poem that delves into the themes of time, growth, and the inevitable passage of life. Norman Nicholson, an English poet known for his keen observations of nature and human existence, crafted this poem as a reflection on the transient nature of childhood and the inexorable march of time. In this 1000-word blog post, we will explore the various facets of “Rising Five,” examining its poetic devices, themes, and the deeper meanings embedded in its verses.


“Rising Five” captures the essence of a child on the brink of turning five, a milestone that symbolizes the transition from early childhood to the more self-aware stage of growing up. The poet, Norman Nicholson, invites readers to witness this pivotal moment in the life of a child, using vivid imagery and introspective language to convey the broader significance of the fleeting nature of time.

Poetic Devices and Style

Nicholson employs a variety of poetic devices to convey the emotional depth of “Rising Five.” Imagery plays a central role, with the poet skillfully painting pictures with words. Phrases such as “five, and the fingers of one hand” immediately evoke a vivid image of a small child proudly displaying their age on one hand. This simplicity in language enhances the accessibility of the poem while also deepening its impact.

The poem follows a free verse structure, allowing Nicholson to experiment with rhythm and pacing. The absence of a strict rhyme scheme contributes to the natural flow of the verses, mirroring the organic progression of time that the poem contemplates. Enjambment is also utilized, carrying the reader seamlessly from one line to the next, mimicking the uninterrupted flow of life.

Themes Explored

  1. Childhood and Time: At its core, “Rising Five” contemplates the paradoxical nature of childhood—its innocence and vulnerability juxtaposed against the inexorable march of time. The child in the poem is on the cusp of leaving behind the blissful ignorance of early childhood and entering a more aware state. The poet captures this moment of transition, reflecting on the inevitable loss of innocence that accompanies the passage of time.
  2. Nature and Growth: Nicholson draws parallels between the growth of a child and the natural world. References to flowers and leaves unfurling suggest a harmony between human development and the cycles of nature. This interplay between the organic and the human adds depth to the poem, inviting readers to contemplate the interconnectedness of all living things.
  3. Loss and Gain: The poem subtly explores the idea of loss and gain inherent in the process of growing up. As the child turns five, there is a sense of gain in terms of age and experience. However, there is also an implicit acknowledgment of the loss of the carefree days of early childhood. Nicholson encourages readers to reflect on the bittersweet nature of growth and the inevitable trade-offs that come with it.

Analysis of Key Lines

  1. “Today, he is the whole of our remembering.” This line emphasizes the significance of the present moment in the child’s life. The word “today” implies a fleeting temporality, urging readers to appreciate the immediacy of the child’s experience. The notion that the child is “the whole of our remembering” underscores the importance of cherishing these formative years, recognizing their lasting impact on the individual and those around them.
  2. “He has a slug for a nose, and horns for a hand.” Here, Nicholson employs vivid and whimsical imagery to describe the child. The use of unconventional metaphors adds a touch of playfulness to the poem, celebrating the unique and imaginative qualities that define childhood. The choice of a slug for a nose and horns for a hand not only sparks the reader’s imagination but also reinforces the idea of a child’s boundless creativity.
  3. “He is not deceived, but is five years old, and therefore whole.” This line reflects the poet’s admiration for the child’s unfiltered perception of the world. Unlike adults who may be deceived or influenced by external factors, the child’s innocence and authenticity are celebrated. The assertion that the child is “whole” at five suggests a completeness that may be lost or fragmented as one navigates the complexities of life.

Personal Reflection and Universal Appeal

“Rising Five” possesses a universal quality that resonates with readers of all ages. While it is a reflection on the specific age of five, the themes explored—time, growth, loss, and gain—are universally relatable. Nicholson’s ability to capture the essence of a fleeting moment in a child’s life allows readers to connect with their own experiences of growth and introspection.

The poem serves as a poignant reminder to pause and appreciate the beauty in the ordinary moments of life. In a world that often rushes forward, “Rising Five” encourages a moment of reflection, prompting readers to consider their own journeys of self-discovery and the passage of time.


“Rising Five” by Norman Nicholson is a timeless exploration of the delicate balance between the ephemeral nature of childhood and the inexorable progression of time. Through its vivid imagery, introspective language, and universal themes, the poem invites readers to contemplate the significance of growth, the interconnectedness of nature and human experience, and the bittersweet beauty inherent in the passage of time. Nicholson’s masterful use of poetic devices and his keen observation of the human condition elevate “Rising Five” to a work of enduring resonance, leaving an indelible impression on those who engage with its verses.

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