In the second poem “Hitler’s first photograph”, Szymborska is mulling over the infinite opportunities with which a child is presented. She, and we, know the outcome for this particular child, but the persona in the poem is unaware; this is why we call this type of poem a dramatic irony: “Will he grow up to be an L.L.D.?”, “Where will those tootsy-wootsies finally wander?”. She uses this to make us think that had he developed differently, the world might have been a very different place.
The poet uses an innocent, naï¿½ve and ironic tone in this poem to reflect that the persona is unknowing of what is going to happen: “Spring sun, geraniums in windows”; it is, however, sinister in some way: “No one hears howling dogs, or fate’s footsteps” and it therefore makes us feel a bit uncomfortable, even though we already know the outcome.
Another way of expressing the unconsciousness of the future is by using simple and clear language, very maternal and innocent vocabulary: “whose teensy hand is this, whose little ear and eye and nose”, “precious little angel, mommy’s sunshine, honey bun”.
As Szymborska does very often, simple language is used to describe more complex ideas such as this situation where she is trying to explain, despite her Polish roots, that Hitler was not evil when he was born, but he transformed along the years. She also uses Hitler because it is a famous example which everyone can understand, but it can be attributed on anybody: we all start being normal little babies, but with the years can turn to be anything just depending on chance and on being in the right/wrong place at the right/wrong moment.
The structure of this poem shows the different aspects of life when Hitler was being born. The first stanza is asking questions about “little Adolf’s” future, talking about “normal” jobs: “printer’s, doctor’s, merchant’s, priest’s?”; in this stanza all the lines are question except for one: “Whose tummy full of milk, we just don’t know”, this emphasizes the uncertainty of his future, how in his early childhood he wasn’t evil.
The second stanza is about how was Germany when Hitler was being born: “While he was being born, a year ago”, “a lucky fortune wrapped in rosy paper” again shows uncertainty of the future, the poet is showing how there were no signs in the world that he was going to be the person who killed so many innocent people, it was just a normal spring day. The third stanza talks about a photograph that was being taken in the moment the persona is describing: “the camera will click from under the black hood”. The final stanza shows once again the unawareness of what was going to happen: “Braunen is a small but worthy town- honest businesses, obliging neighbours”, “no one hears howling dogs”, “a history teacher loosens his collar and yawns over homework.”, this last sentence is trying to express that Hitler has changed History radically, but no one knew at the moment he was being born.
Another way Szymborska is showing us that he was a normal child is by comparing him to other boys, using metaphors: “looks just like his folks, like a kitten in a basket”. By doing this she is demonstrating that he was, in fact, just normal, and that his parents had the same worries than any other parent. With all these aspects in the poem Szymborska is basically trying to say that we are not born evil, but we might get to be evil with time and experience.
It is a way of explaining that what happens to everybody during childhood and adolescence might change what we become. In these poems, both poets are looking at the inevitable. One is saying that youth will fade and people become old, and that people will look nostalgically at their lost youth; the other makes us think that choices made in childhood and throughout our youth affect not only the person we become, but also the way we influence others, in this particular case the whole world.