What type of poem is Earth by Oliver Herford?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Herford's "Earth" is a seemingly simple, childlike poem in the mode of William Blake's Songs of Innocence. "Earth" uses an imperfect ABAB rhyme scheme as well as alliteration to produce a rhythmic, almost soothing effect. It's an ironic poem, rendering in placid words two terrible ideas: first, the destruction of the earth and everything on it, and second, the fact that a child on a distant world might think of the death of our planet as nothing more than a "pretty shooting star."

We see the rhyme scheme in the rhyming of alternating lines, ending on words such as "tonight" and "flight," "space" and "face," "lice" and "mice." The alliteration, or using words that begin with the same consonant in the same line, appears in spots throughout the poem. A few examples are "hissing headlong," "cattle, cockroaches ... kings," "millionaires ... mice."

The ironic contrast of a child enjoying a bright spectacle for a moment in the night sky and the catastrophe this event would be to us gives the poem its jolt. It might remind us Auden's poem, "Musee of the Belle Arts," describing a painting in which common people are indifferent to the dramatic fate of Icarus, falling from the sky as he travels too close to the sun. 

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team