A photo of a young boy footballer, holding the hand of his father
Parental love is a key theme of 'Walking Away'

A number of unifying ideas or themes run through the poem. Different readers may attach more or less significance to each of these themes, depending upon how they view the poem.

Parental love: the parent’s love for his child is shown in the pain he feels when he realises he has to let the child go.‘love is proved in the letting go’The final line of the poem is conclusive and shows how the speaker reaches a place of acceptance. He knows that ‘letting go’ and trusting his child is evidence of his love.
Separation: the child begins to move away from the parent when he is young, and the process takes years.‘It is eighteen years ago, almost to the day/ A sunny day with leaves just turning’The speaker remembers a time when the child first moved away from him during a game of football. The ‘leaves just turning’ seem to reflect the change in the relationship, from easier times, to this initial ‘drifting away’.
Nature: the poet uses images from nature to show that this process of movement and change is played out and echoed all around us.‘a half-fledged thing set free/ Into the wilderness’We think of young birds as being ‘half-fledged’ when they are not quite ready to leave the parent bird’s nest. Applying this image to the child reminds the reader that nature also separates parents from their children when the latter reach maturity.

How does C Day-Lewis present love in this poem?

  • The poem is about the relationship between father and son and the father's feelings of having to let go of his child to let him make his own way in life.
  • There are strong images of nature to show that the process is natural.
  • The poem uses language that implies a painful separation.