Sestet

The poem begins acknowledging a difference which Paterson goes on to define. It all began has the tone of a story or fairy tale, as if the incident about to be described has taken on the status of the extraordinary.

The poet wakes up face-to-face like lovers – both the word choice of face-to-face and the simile work to convey the intimacy in the relationship between father and son. The use of four-day-old suggests how young and potentially vulnerable the child is, which alerts us to the fact that his father has been sleeping next to him to care for him and protect him. Paterson describes the moment when the baby’s smile dawned on him, which vividly conveys how the smile lights up his face. It also links to the morning and the idea of new beginnings, which adheres to the central ideas of the poem. The use of again at the end of the lines implies that this is not the first time Russell has smiled and will not be the last.

The smile possessed him, which tells us how it takes over the child, as if he is the smile – he is the joy. It would not fall or waver indicates its power and unrelenting strength. It is this power that affects the poet and leads him to pitch back his own smile. The poet notes that his usual hard-pressed grin, which suggests something forced, difficult and disingenuous, has been replaced with him reflecting the child’s innocent, joyful smile. Paterson reverses expectation here, as usually babies emulate the adult’s behaviour, but here we have the father instinctively copying the child and in doing so he taps into the innocence and delight of youth which had previously been lost to him. The son’s smile allows the poet to rediscover his own innate happiness.