The second stanza of the poem Childhood, written by Markus Natten:

When did my childhood go?
Was it the time I realised that adults were not
all they seemed to be,
They talked of love and preached of love,
But did not act so lovingly,
Was that the day!
Source (Page 58)

What is the poet trying to explain in the aforementioned (bold) lines? Is he saying that all adults are hypocrites? If that's the case, the poet sounds judgemental. I feel that the lines have a deeper meaning which I'm unable to understand.

1 Answer 1


Love is a very ambiguous word. Ancient Greek philosophy, for example, distinguished several categories of love, including the following:

  • érōs: desire; sensual or passionate love (etymological source of the adjective "erotic").
  • agapē: unconditional love; also, especially in a Christian context, "the love of God for man and of man for God".
  • philia: brotherly love (also the opposite of "phobia").
  • philautia: self-love.

The English language, like many other languages, often uses the word "love" to indiscriminately refer to different types of emotions and attitudes. For this reason, there are many ways to "talk of love" and "preach love" and at the same time "not act lovingly". For example, one may preach unconditional love ("agape") while at the same time failing to provide that; this may be perceived as hypocrisy. At the same time, it is possible to preach one kind of love while failing to provide another type of love; based on the above distinctions, one can argue that this is not hypocrisy but failing to pass a much higher bar.

For this reason, hypocrisy is rather narrow as an interpretation, even though it is valid. It is also possible to argue that the poet discovered that his parents were not the idealised people he took them for as a child but that they also have their failings, i.e. more general failings than just hypocrisy.

I have also tried to find information about the poem's background, but data about the poet appear to be very scarce. For example, a certain prajwalhs12 on Brainly.in claims that Markus Natten was a Norwegian poet. A pseudonymous user on Answers.com makes the same claim. A certain Aswin claims on his blog that the poem is a translation. None of these pages provide sources for these claims.

What I was trying to find is not so much information about the poet's relationship with his parents but whether he grew up during the age of "love, peace and rock 'n' roll", when people listened to song such as "All You Need Is Love" (The Beatles, 1967). If this had been confirmed, the poem's second stanza might be interpreted additionally as disillusionment with that period in the 20th century.

  • I've got one point which might help us find out some more details about the poet. The poem is published in some book by Oxford University Press (according to ncert.nic.in/textbook.php?kehb1=ps-14 (page 8)). Jan 19, 2021 at 12:00
  • 1
    @RandomPerson Thanks. Unfortunately, Oxford University Press has published many anthologies of English poetry, so we're still looking for a needle in a haystack (though admittedly a smaller haystack than before).
    – Tsundoku
    Jan 19, 2021 at 12:08
  • You're welcome! I think we can send an email asking them to help us find out the book... but I'm so lazy to draft one.. My bad! Jan 19, 2021 at 12:10
  • 1
    Barry Maybury, ed. (1979). Thoughtweavers, p. 87. Oxford University Press. Acknowledgements say that the poem was reprinted from Children as Writers 6 (Heinemann, 1979) which contained "winning entries from the Annual Children's Literature Competition sponsored by W. H. Smith" (according to The Bookseller 3816) Jan 19, 2021 at 16:18

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