An Appreciation of the poem 'The Toys' by Coventry Patmore

The Toys
By Coventry Patmore 

Summary and Appreciation  

Coventry Patmore was a highly religious person who wrote poems mostly on religious themes.  Here the poet is using a simple household incident to lead the reader to a deeper religious thought.

The poet got angry about his son disobeying him repeatedly and beat him.  He sent the boy to bed without the usual kiss.  The boy’s mother who was much more patient was dead. After some time, the father felt sorry and went to check on the boy.  Unlike what he expected, the boy was in deep sleep.  His swollen eyes were still wet with tears.  Then he was overcome by emotion as he saw the articles on the child’s table.  There were some simple objects like a box of counters, a coloured stone, a piece of glass and a few shells from the beach, a bottle with bluebells, and two copper coins, all of which were neatly arranged.  The boy had used these simple toys to comfort his sad heart.  

The father tried to kiss away the tears on his child’s eyes, but instead dropped his own tears on the child’s face.  In a moment of realization, he started praying. He believed that when people are in their final sleep, God would look at them, whom He had fashioned out of clay, not with wrath but with mercy.  Seeing the simple toys with which they tried to make their joys, God will only be sorry for their childishness.

In the beginning of the poem the poet had misunderstood the boy as a mature person as he had started moving and speaking in grown-up ways.  Children growing up in difficult circumstances will be forced to mature prematurely. But seeing the simple toys he used to derive his pleasure, the father understood that he is still a little child.  He could only be sorry for his harsh behaviour.

The grown ups may be deriving pleasure out of other toys like money and material possessions.  In God’s point of view, these are just like the broken piece of glass and sea shells the boy had collected.  Seeing his toys, God could only sympathize with him for his lack of spiritual maturity.

As there are no stanza divisions, there is no well-defined rhyme scheme, but most of the couplets are rhyming.  


Comparison with Any Woman 

 Any woman deals with the relationship between the mother and her children, whereas here we see a father son relationship.   There is only one line in the poem mentioning the mother.  That line emphasizes the role of a patient mother in the growth of a child.  That goes well with the theme of ‘Any Woman.’  But at a deeper level the focus of this poem is very different from that of Any woman.  Here the poet is trying to elaborate the mercy of God using a simple incident.  Both the poems use simple language and musical rhymes.  ‘Any woman’ uses an extended metaphor to stress the role of a woman in a family.  ‘The Toys’ uses the child as a metaphor of the humankind.  


  1. Anonymous21:03

    Great Poetry by Coventry Patmore with heart touching lines. In the beginning It made me very sad by unkind & harsh attitude of the father. But on father realisation about his mistake & with a tears on his son face with a regreat about his mistake comforted me.


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