In the poem “First Lesson”, the author Philip Booth utilizes several phrases and words to convey through figurative language and literary devices the meaning of the poem that there will always be someone to help you and support you when you need it.With the lines 1-3, the poem begins with a sense of security that a child has when she is in the company of an adult.
Shielded, “let your head”, “in the cup of my hand” where she is guided by an elder person, “I’ll hold you.” In the presence of such a guide, she needs not to have any worries, she can relax. Here, the guide is presumably a father who is teaching his daughter to float in a “stream” so that one day she can float by herself in the “sea”. Interestingly enough, this passage forms the basis of the extended metaphor that runs through the entirety of the poem. Metaphorically, the father is introducing his child into the real world and preparing his daughter for survival within it. The poem continues with “Spread your arms wide, lie out on the stream and look high at the gulls. A dead man’s-float is face down.” The act of spreading your arms wide suggests carefreeness thus the wiser is trying to reassure his child who is about to take her first steps out of the nest.
However, it may also be interpreted that the father is trying to instruct her to keep her mind and heart open, and maintain big ambitions. Additionally, in literature, birds have connotations of positive things such as freedom, hopen and divinity. In this situation, the “gulls” are symbolic of traits like adaptability and resourcefulness as well as opportunity; therefore denoting of high and pure values the daughter is urged to strive towards. Conversely, with the mention of the dead men, the father is demonstrating what becomes of a person who has no ambition: he drowns. Furthermore, the father is also trying to tell his daughter to keep looking up in life and have a positive attitude. In the next series of lines (lines 7-10), the father tell his daughter that she must soon make her journey out to the deep and vast ocean/real world.
Then, he warns her of storms and fatigue that may lie in trek ahead the same way in which she would have to endure trials and tests before reaching her goals in the real world. However, despite her “long thrash”, she will eventually reach her “island,” and survive. Here, the “island” is can either be interpreted as symbolic for a place of safety or represent the daughter’s dreams and hopes in life. In the last 5 years, the father is trying to say that whenever you are afraid of drowning in the wide ocean, simply lie back and float.
This can be applied in real life because like learning to flow in the ocean, the daughter must also learn to believe in the people around her. There is repetition in the lines 11, 13, and 15: “..
.where I held you/…what I told you/..
.the sea will hold you”. This signifies the transition between dependence on one’s parents and surviving on one’s own. Additionally, when the father gives his finals remarks of advice, “remember when fear cramps you heart.
..lie back, and the sea will hold you.
” The father offers the sound advice that when she is met with challenges, she should “lie back”, as in take things slowly. Also, when he tells her “the sea will hold you”, he is sharing that there will be