Eavan Boland Child Of Our Time Poem & Summary

Child Of Our Time, Poem by Eavan Boland

We who should have known how to instruct

With rhymes for your waking, rhythms for your sleep

Names for the animals you took to bed,

Tales to distract, legends to protect,

Later an idiom for you to keep

And living, learn, must learn from you, dead.

To make our broken images rebuild

Themselves around your limbs, your broken

Image, find for your sake whose life our idle

Talk has cost, a new language. Child

Of our time, our times have robbed your cradle.

Sleep in a world your final sleep has woken.

Further Reading: Eavan Boland, Child of Our Time – Annotated Poem Summary


Boland wrote this poem in response to a photograph of a fireman carrying the body of a dead child from the debris of the Dublin bombing in May 1974. It is dedicated to Aengus, a friend's son who died a cot death at the time Boland was writing the poem.

‘Child of Our Time’ examines the cost of political violence. The child is an innocent victim of the troubles and the poet wonders if any sense can be made of such an act. Through her speaker, Boland says that our responsibility, ultimately, is to ensure that our children are safe and protected; that is the job of adults and in this case, they have failed miserably.

Boland does not point the finger of blame at others but says we are all culpable in this. Our ‘idle talk’ can lead to horrific acts of violence and none of us are without blame. The only real innocent is the ‘child of our time’ who dies before his time. 

The tone of this poem is one of sadness and of regret, the speaker mourning the loss of the innocent child. Boland is also reproachful: pointing out that we, as adults, have to take our share of the blame for what has happened in our lifetimes. 

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