What is the theme of James Stephens' poem "Little Things"?

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The analysis/theme of the poem "Little Things" by James Stephens is as follows:


The theme of this poem is Forgiveness. James Stephens is asking for forgiveness, not just for himself, but for all mankind, for human beings’ dealings with the small creatures on this earth. The poet/narrator recognizes that small, defenseless creatures are at the mercy of the larger world around them. Human beings, knowingly and unknowingly, can harm these creatures who often cannot protect themselves.

Therefore, the poet asks these small creatures for forgiveness, for them to be merciful towards human beings. It is the small creatures that deserve protection and mercy from us. However, we often have other priorities in our busy lives and can forget the gentle, small creatures that we share this planet with.


“Little Things” is a poem consisting of five stanzas. Each stanza is a couplet (two lines). Therefore, the poem is ten lines long.

Line #1 rhymes with line #3

Line #2 rhymes with line # 4, #6, #8, and #10.

In the first stanza, James Stephens talks of little creatures that run about and also tremble as they fight to survive in their often harsh environments and landscapes. A very strong thought that the poet impresses upon the minds of readers is that these small creatures can, and do, die in “silence and despair." This is an emotionally charged thought that causes the reader to stop and think of the plight of small creatures.

In the second stanza, he writes that small animals and birds and other little creatures are in a daily battle for survival and do fail in this battle. He states that they fall on “earth and sea and air."

The poet furthers these thoughts, in stanza three, on how these small creatures, such as a mouse, are often frightened as well.

In stanza four, he asks for the aforementioned forgiveness, which is the central point of this poem. He asks that human beings be forgiven for “all our trespasses” against all small creatures, who are beholden to people for their safety and protection.

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