NIGHT FEED (sample answer)

NIGHT FEED (sample answer)
The poem I studied was Night Feed by Eavan Boland. The central theme in this poem is
motherhood. The poet describes the innate love a mother has for her child despite the
challenges involved in raising a baby. The poem captures the precious moment a mother
shares alone with her baby during the night feed.
The speaker wakes up at dawn to feed her baby. She describes how the outside world is
only beginning to wake up too ‘the moment daisies open’. The mother does not want to
get up but she doesn’t have a choice because her daughter needs her ‘believe me, this is
your season, little daughter’. The poet tries to illustrate that the baby’s cycle of sleeping
and feeding does not follow a normal daily cycle, which is what makes the mother’s job
so arduous. Nevertheless she carries out her motherly duty with love and affection ‘I
tiptoe in. I lift you up’. The poet knits together two well known sayings to describe how
lucky she feels to be in her situation, despite the early hour ‘this is the hour for the early
bird and me when finder is keeper.’ I think she is saying that perhaps one has to be up
early to get the best from life. Even though she may feel tired she doesn’t want to miss a
minute with her baby.
The speaker also shows great vulnerability when she says ‘this is the best that I can be’.
Although the subject she is speaking to is a baby who can’t understand her, she talks to
her as though the baby can sense the mother’s feelings of anxiety and inadequacy. The
nursery is like a microcosm of the rest of the house. The poet describes herself as a
‘housewife to this nursery where you hold on, dear life’. In doing so she places extra
importance on the role of mothers. Stay at home mothers have the stress of two jobs; that
of minding the children and of looking after the house. However they rarely get credited
for both separately. This quote also shows the fragility and delicacy of a young baby
who holds on to its mother for dear life. It also shows how necessary mothers are to their
babies’ survival.
The brevity of this special moment is captured in the short lines ‘you go back to sleep.
The feed is ended.’ Things go back to normal for the mother who will go about her daily
routine and continue her role in the cycle of life as they ‘begin the long fall from grace.’
I think this refers to the struggles of a mother’s daily work but also the process of
growing up and struggles the mother and baby will encounter in the future. Despite this
realisation, the mother’s last task is to ensure her baby is safe and comfortable and this is
captured in the line ‘I tuck you in’.
(b) I gained some very interesting insights into motherhood from reading this poem. I
can understand how difficult it must be for a sleep-deprived mother to tend to a crying
baby. However this poem shows that the innate love a mother has for her child and the
bond between them is what keeps her going. ‘I crook the bottle. How you suckle!’ The
enthusiasm with which the child drinks her milk diminishes the bad feelings the mother
had at having to get up. I can see that the mother’s ability to tend to her child’s needs is a
very rewarding feeling.
M. Nagle, Colaiste Bride, 2010
The illustration of how a baby’s cycle is totally at odds with the normal course of a day
helped me to appreciate what my mother must have done for me when I was a baby,
‘Earth wakes, you go back to sleep.’ In describing the cycle of nature outside ‘worms
turn, stars go in’, the poet highlighted the transience of time, not only in Nature, but also
in life. This explains why the mother doesn’t want to miss a minute of this precious time
she has together with her baby. So even if the rest of the day is challenging, the night
feed will come around again.
Although I don’t have children myself this poem really helped me appreciate the hard
work and sacrifices mothers make for their babies. It also helped me to understand that
the innate love a mother has for her child is what makes them so protective. Although
this can be frustrating as a teenager sometimes it is something I should be grateful to my
mother for.
Cinders (unseen poem 2010 sample answer)
1. From reading the poem I think that the poet has a very loving, caring and
protective relationship with his daughter. However there is also a sense that their
relationship is fleeting.
The poem describes the father leaving a pantomime with his young daughter. This
shows that the loving father is happy to give his time to doing things that the little
girl enjoys, even if it is on a cold, winter’s night. He shows his protective side
when he says ‘I clutch you tightly for fear you blow away.’ The child is obviously
very young but it seems the father is somewhat over protective of her. Maybe
this is because he is conscious that he looks old enough to be her grandfather ‘and
sensing this, I hold you tighter still.’
The father’s nervousness or lack of confidence is furthered when he describes
how he fumbled with the straps on the baby seat, suggesting that this is all new to
him. The father seems to be panicking about the fact that he hasn’t got enough
time with his precious daughter. It is not clear whether he is ill or has to leave
but he seems to yearn for more time with her and mourns the fact that he won’t
be there to see her ‘dressed for the Ball’ or ‘be on hand to warn you against
Prince Charmings.’
The father in the poem clearly loves and cares for his daughter a great deal but he
is also sad that their relationship will not last forever.
M. Nagle, Colaiste Bride, 2010