Stanza one

Blue Nile viewed from Bezavit mountain, Bahir Dar, Amhara region, Ethiopia
The Blue Nile in Ethiopia as mentioned in Duffy's poem

The use of the personal pronoun 'you' opens the poem. The poem is autobiographical and Duffy seems to be addressing herself and her own memories. But the subject matter is universal and invites the reader to remember their own experience of primary school. The effect immediately involves the reader in this child's experience. We are going on a journey up the "Blue Nile" with the speaker who is fully engaged in Mrs Tilscher's lesson.

This poem is full of senses and we begin with the visual 'blue' of the river, followed by the sound of the teacher "chanting" the names "Tana. Ethiopia. Khartoum. Aswan." The minor sentences here evoke the teacher dropping these foreign names into the young child's imagination so that they will follow her on the adventure of learning. Duffy conveys the sense of wonder and excitement of a young child.

Then, still with Mrs Tilscher, the class has their milk - something all primary children were provided with for free at the time. Duffy describes the milk being in a "skittle" ”. This suggests the shape of bottle but also suggests playing a game.

the chalky Pyramids rubbed into dust.

As the class move on, the lesson on Egypt is cleared from the board. The use of the passive here gives the action magical connotations. We assume it is Mrs Tilscher who erases the wonder of pyramids that she just created in order to move onto the next lesson. The word "dust" conveys chalk dust but also implies that to the child they were real. This image is the first suggestion of the passing of time and of something ending and being lost.

A window opened with a long pole

The opening of the window with a pole provides a specific detail of school life that keeps the poem feeling real. Up until now the poem has all taken place in the classroom and the imagination. Here for the first time Duffy suggests the idea of the wider world outside.

The laugh of a bell swung by a running child.

The stanza ends with the closing of the school day. Duffy personifies the bell, projecting the child's laughter onto it, which creates a happy atmosphere. The energy in "swung" and "running" also work to establish an uplifting and carefree world, where children are free to grow and find themselves within a nurturing setting.