The narrator imagines climbing his grandfather using the extended metaphor of his grandfather as a mountain and himself as a climber. The narrator may have imagined this or recounted this, picking out details from observing his grandfather.

Ideas and Themes:

  • Family relationships
  • Getting older


  • Poem highlights the child’s progress from bottom of mountain to top. He gets higher with each line of the poem.


  • Written in the present tense as if he’s imagining this.
  • Enjambment imitates the motion of climbing and emphasizes steady progress.


  • “to do it free, without a rope or net”- “Free” creates a sense of suspense while the latter makes him feel confident but risk weary. Climbing vocabulary shows it will be an extended metaphor
  • “dusty and cracked”- shows age and compares shoes to mountain
  • “Trying to get a grip”- trying to know his grandfather
  • “I change…direction”– enjambment reflects him changing direction perhaps moving onto a new stage of his grandfather’s life
  • “Earth-stained hand” possibly gardening showing he has a close bond to nature
  • “the nails are splinted and give good purchase”- splintered nails are often ugly but here they are used usefully reflects old people- they may not be valued but have a lot to offer
  • “like warm ice” oxymoron creates a child-like simple simile showing his father isn’t cold like ice is
  • “smiling mouth”- shows that he enjoys the time they spent together
  • “drink among teeth…refreshed” showing him taking on his grandfathers’ wisdom
  • “watch a pupil slowly open and close”- shows him as a pupil eager to learn
  • “(soft and white at this altitude)”- his grey hair is compared to snow on top of a mountain
  • “gasping for breath” shows his exhaustion and that it was a lengthy process.
  • “knowing” this provides a contrast to “trying to get a grip” earlier showing he has learned something and sets up a conclusion
  • “the slow pulse of his good heart” final line slows the pace of the poem to his grandfather’s heartbeat. Also displays his steady and warm love for his grandson.

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