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,” by John Ash, is a poem that creatively outlines the perspective of the speaker regarding the image shown in Henry Wallis’ painting, “Chatterton.” In this poem, the speaker regards a supposedly dead boy as a mere mindless teenager who takes away his own life for immature and absurd reasons. Because of this, Ash draws the focal point of the poem to the discrete setting filled with subtle details rather than to what is obvious. The use of a relaxed and conversational tone helps to imply that the speaker perceives the scenario in a calm and simplistic manner. The poem’s lack of rhyme scheme, structure, and meter serves to underline the natural flow of the unselfconscious speaker’s voice. Thus each stanza appears completely spontaneous. This is shown in the sudden change of tone between stanzas two and three: “A misunderstanding about what the word maturity can mean when exchange among ‘real’ adults…I don’t know what kind of plant that is… (Lines 4, 5)” As shown, Ash makes no effort to surprise his readers; he simply writes in such a way that it seems the speaker is reciting an impromptu off the top of his head. Through observing language and attitude, readers are able to recognize the speaker’s appreciation of the stream of light. Ash does not initially mention light, for the speaker must first build the mood by achieving the exposition through descriptions of the roof and window, creating a crescendo towards stanza eight where the light is introduced in grandeur as ‘inevitable,’ followed by, “…the light is art!” This specifically allows readers to note the importance of the light, and that the speaker perceives it as a divine and magnificent force. Consequently, the admiration of the light shown by the speaker highlights the contrast of his neglect for the boy. As the poem is called “Poor Boy: Portrait of a Painting,” the reader is forced to consider the deeper truth that this title holds. It is possible that Ash uses the word “poor” to express his pity for the boy, but perhaps it is also a display of spitefulness, since the speaker initially calls the boy young, arrogant, and impatient in Line 2. Moreover, this is illustrated in stanza eight, when the speaker mentions “torn-up sheets of poems or pornography.” It is known that poetry often represents elegance and appeal, whereas pornography is a sign of vulgarity and immaturity. However the p-alliteration makes it seem almost as if the two contradictory objects are no different from each other. Thus the speaker wishes to remind us of the young boy’s adolescence. Ash achieves the poem’s climax in the last stanza, leaving his readers with no further resolution. “There is nowhere he can hide the hand that rests just
above his stomach as if he still felt horribly ill. (Lines 32, 33)” The phrase “horribly ill” is an understatement of the boy’s death. Rather than coming into a clean close, Ash uses this effective technique that leaves readers hanging with an odd and peculiar feeling. With little effort, John Ash is able to verbally illustrate a colorless scene from Chatterton using simple but expressive words. What distinguishes “Poor Boy” from other poems is how Ash draws the spotlight to the muted details of a certain situation, leading readers to become more interested in the real matter. Undoubtedly, “Poor Boy” truly reflects Ash’s ability to innovatively pull out the beauty of a somber moment through powerful and thorough descriptions.