Hide and Seek is a deep and important message hidden in the detailed description of a familiar childhood game. It emphasizes the importance of recognizing and availing the opportunities which life presents one with.
The poem starts with the confident and bold challenge of a child who has chosen a clever place to hide and is sure no one will be able him. One discovers that it is a group of people who are playing Hide and Seek and the boy who had called out is hiding in the shed which is dark and has a salty smell permeating him which reminds him of the seaside. Still in spite the fact that he could be uncomfortable or afraid, he takes comfort in the fact that no one will be able to best him. The poet talks to the boy, giving him advice that he should curl himself so that his feet aren’t visible from behind the sacks of sand he is hiding between; and also cautions him that if he shouts again he will risk drawing attention to his hiding spot. Another difficulty presents itself in the form of the cold floor but it is immediately over ridden by the thought that the children who are seeking the boy will be searching near the bushes, the poet again advises the boy that he must be careful not to sneeze when and if they come searching for him in the tool shed. The seekers do come and the boy hears them mutter and stumble, awing at the fact that the thought of victory has made the usually loud boys quiet and subdued. Listening to the series of rapid commands which follow the boy freezes, holds his breathe and shuts his eyes close hoping that they won’t find him. Sure enough, the voices fade as they move away not believing the boy would dare hide in the tool shed, as it was probably considered off limits to children.
Even when the boys move away from the shed, the boy doesn’t come out, reveling in the fact that they will keep searching and wondering where he was, all the while marveling at his cleverness. A long time passes since they had departed and the boy grows uncomfortable, cold, stiff and suffocated. He then finally decides that it is time to reveal that he has won. He comes out of his hiding place and departs the shed, calling out to his friends to proclaim him the winner. But to his dismay he finds the garden empty and quite. All the children have given up and gone home. The same voice of the poet who was advising him throughout now turns on him and asks where his so called friends are who were supposed to be looking for him.
A few literary devices highlight and add color to the poem: Alliteration is used in the second line: ‘smell like the seaside’ of the letters L and S. Going on blindness is personified as a safe house where the boy seeks sanctuary. Also in the end, a series of personified phrases: ‘The darkening garden watches.’ ‘The bushes hold their breathe’ describe the quite of the scene.
The poem not just about a childhood game but it is about life. The difficulties which the boy faces after deciding to hide in the shed are metaphorically used for the obstructions one has to deal with while walking down the road one chooses in life. But the boy’s determination to win and succeed enables him to be strong enough to overcome all these difficulties. Also the other boys are the competitors which one has to deal with in life. They are described as ‘prowling’ like as if they were predatory animals waiting to strike on their prey when it is unaware. Such are the problems life throws one’s way, but if, like the little boy, one has an predetermined aim in mind, it is not difficult to pull through despite them.
Then another message; that of making the maximum use of any and all opportunities that life and luck bless one with is conveyed in the last few lines. The boy could have enjoyed the thrill of a glamorous victory which would have been ample compensation for enduring through all the frightening aspects of the toolshed; had he came out and declared his presence when the seekers turned away from its doorstep. But he procrastinated; hoping that his delay would put the other children in awe of his brilliant hiding spot and earn him more glory as the victor, only to find out that his continued absence had made them lose interest and move on leaving him alone and disappointed.
Thus is a very important message conveyed in a light and interesting manner, through a detailed description of a generally popular childhood game.