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“Ballad of Birmingham”

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“Ballad of Birmingham” by Dudley Randall offers a poetic description of a Birmingham church blasting in 1963. The poem is engraved in ballad form to express the mood of the mother to her daughter.  The ballad form gives intuit of mood to each stanza. The poem kicks off with an enthusiastic little girl desiring to march for liberty. The mother expounds how dangerous the protest could turn out, thereby revealing her dread for her daughter’s existence. The mood sways back and forth, till eventually the mother's distress beats the child's longing and the girl is sent to church; the only place the mother thought it would be secure. The pace seems to accelerate in the last couple of stanzas, to highlight the mothers’ panic-stricken on hearing the blast and recovering her daughter’s shoe.

Randall uses figures of speech in the poem, which give it a feel of irony. Randall uses two sorts of figures of speech; first, he uses a metaphor. A metaphor is a figure of speech where one thing is compared to another, dissimilar things by being articulated of as if it were the other; understood as comparison. In stanza five this is used to give an indication to the reader that the kid is an African American female.  In stanza seven, Randall uses metaphor to show how afraid, angry and worried her mother becomes when she makes out about the blast. Randall uses repetition, as the other figure of speech. In stanza two and in stanza four, he uses the phrase "No, baby, no, you may not go", this articulates the fear and worries that the mother has for her little child.

Another huge issue in this poem is the usage of tone. To begin with, a tone of innocence is depicted in the first verse. The child attempts to act innocent and nice to her mom, in the event that her mom could let her join the march. There is also the tone of apprehension for her kid's well-being. Her mommy reveals to her that there are dogs, horses and clubs.  These were things the marchers and protesters, used to regulate the masses when they intensified and got out of hand. Then, the tone of joy is portrayed in the fifth verse and also in the first half of the sixth verse. Her mum takes self-respect and joy preparing her daughter to go to church. The mother is similarly joyful, that her child is leaving for church instead of going to the march. In the seventh stanza, the tone of joy instantly turns to sorrow and loneliness. This change in tone takes place when the explosion occurs. In the last two lines of the poem the mother’s tone gives the reader a feeling of guilt and grief.

Symbolism is portrayed, when the mother tries to dress her daughter all in white, which is the icon for purity. Yet as much as the mother attempts to have her child imitate the "whites", they are eventually the ones who slaughter her.

Irony is seen in the sixth stanza, where the mother smirks to know that her daughter was in a sanctified place, but that grin was the last grin to fall upon her face. This provides the reader, with an impression of what is about to transpire. This verse is ironic since, if the mother thinks that her daughter will be in a secure place, why would this smile be the last one for her. 

The theme depicted in the “Ballad of Birmingham” by Dudley Randall is that of sadness and grief as well as love. The mother grieves the loss of her only child. The poem teaches that parents cannot protect their children no matter how hard they try or no matter how much they love them.

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