Pride Land

The Soldier

BY RUPERT BROOKE

If I should die, think only this of me:
      That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. There shall be
      In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
      Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam;
A body of England’s, breathing English air,
      Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.

And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
      A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
            Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
      And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
            In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.

The Review:

This poem is the exact opposite of Dulce Decorum Est which we looked at earlier in our theme of war. This soldier is beaming with pride for his country even into the afterlife. This is so much the case that Brooke personifies Britain into a living breathing entity that will have grown even more because of his service.

In the mention of “a pulse in the eternal mind” there is a kind of connection between the speaker and the other citizens of Britain. The speaker feels they are all connected and there is a similar train of thought called the collective unconscious by Carl Jung which would fit in nicely with this part of the poem. It is the belief that there are universal parts of us, each of us in our subconscious. For this poem that collective mind would just include the people of Britain from which he feels no separation, in fact, he wants to be even more a part of the whole in death than he was even in life.

You could take the poem as the speaker for the majority of the poem describing England as a living entity like I said earlier or you could take it as the soldier telling you of his life. The real highlights of his life all of which were in England. This is to reinforce the fact that the area where his body lay is covered by an Englishmen’s body and will forever be English. So truly he devotes his whole life to England.

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War and Peace

Break of Day in the Trenches 

By Issac Rosenberg

The darkness crumbles away.
It is the same old druid Time as ever,
Only a live thing leaps my hand,
A queer sardonic rat,
As I pull the parapet’s poppy
To stick behind my ear.
Droll rat, they would shoot you if they knew
Your cosmopolitan sympathies.
Now you have touched this English hand
You will do the same to a German
Soon, no doubt, if it be your pleasure
To cross the sleeping green between.
It seems you inwardly grin as you pass
Strong eyes, fine limbs, haughty athletes,
Less chanced than you for life,
Bonds to the whims of murder,
Sprawled in the bowels of the earth,
The torn fields of France.
What do you see in our eyes
At the shrieking iron and flame
Hurled through still heavens?
What quaver—what heart aghast?
Poppies whose roots are in man’s veins
Drop, and are ever dropping;
But mine in my ear is safe—
Just a little white with the dust.

The Review

I first read this poem by Issac Rosenberg in my literary theory and criticism class. Since I am working with a theme of war poems, and themes here on Night-cover consist of three different poem reviews based around the same theme, I figured why not do this one here. So lets get right into it.

I like the use of the metaphor of the “druid Time” (Rosenberg 2) because it is an unusual way of displaying the cyclical nature of night and day ad well as time in general. This poem does a lot of unusual things inside its lines like the fact that the main focus of the poem, both in the overarching sense and the moral sense, is a mocking rat. Who by the looks of it sort of looks down on the human soldiers both German and English. The rat will scurry to whomever it so feels like scurrying to without prejudice, and for that, it seems to think less of our seemingly instinctual nature to make war with one another. The soldier even says that if the other side knew of the rat’s benevolent nature they would shoot it though he calls the rat’s nature “cosmopolitan sympathies” (Rosenberg, 8) . which is a very grand way of putting it and rightly so because such indifference to which side the men are on is a huge display of compassion magnified by the fact that this poem takes pkace during World War 2.

The other major focal point of this poem is the use of the poppy. I would go as far as to say two comments on the poppy and they are that the poppy on the soldier’s ear by the end of the poem is a symbol of peace and the life that remains despite these ghastly images of war. Also I would venture to guess that that poppy also is a red poppy because when the poem states. “Poppies whose roots are in man’s veins/Drop, and are ever dropping”(Rosenberg, 23-24). It leaves me with the impression that the poppy in that instance stands for blood and the other men are dying all around the speaker, but his poppy or his life is safely tucked in his ear. “Just a little white with dust” (Rosenberg, 26).

Now lets talk about punctuation. I love the use of the dash at line 22, ” What quaver—what heart aghast?” It is like the written way to actually gasp as one probably would at all this chaos and destruction. It makes your heart jump for just a second. The second beautiful use of punctuation is the hyphen that is used at line 25 to stop the hurried tone created by the dash for just a second so the reader can breathe and say with an air of calm, like the first breath he has really been able to take this whole time and finish us off with a light, white dusting on his poppy.

Country Pride under Review

Dulce et Decorum Est 

 WILFRED OWEN

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.

Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!—An ecstasy of fumbling
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime.—
Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

Notes:

Latin phrase is from the Roman poet Horace: “It is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country.”

The Review:

In this poem by Wilfred Owen there is a larger, political stance and message that finds itself wading through uncertain territory considering the time in which it was written. This poem was written in response to the horrors of World War 1. It begins, like any poem, at the start of stanza one. The men or we could assume that perhaps the author is imagining boys that are old enough to be drafted, but too young to be men. I say this because at the end of the poem he is talking about young children who, if left to the way things currently are, will become the next soldiers. But I digress slightly, The men in stanza 1 are so tired that they are “coughing like hags”. “Knock-kneed” under their sacks like beggars. This poem tells us about the wear and tear of World War 1 on its soldiers.

These men are even too tired to be aware of the incoming gas that is soon upon them and all, but one unlucky soul gets their mask on in time. The gas in question is the popular mustard gas of world war 1. What follows is the debilitating account of it’s effects on one young man for the majority of the rest of the poem. One thing I do like about the relationship between stanza 1 and 2 is that stanza one is the set up for the rest of the poem to carry the actual message which we are not entirely sure what it is until the very end of the poem in the last few lines beginning with, “My friend”. Owen does not simply drop you in the medias res. Why? Because that would not be fitting for the poem’s overall message. The reader needs to have a sense of where this is taking place and that the soldiers are in the midst of battle trying ever so desperately to get to their place of “distant rest”. If you don’t have this then the message loses, for those that agree, its brilliance, for those that disagree, its sting. and for everyone involved and reading, it’s emphasis. There is no glory in dying for one’s country.

I love the use of action words to describe both the way the speaker is feeling watching this soldier suffer as well as the way the mustard gas is having an effect on the injured soldier. I mean words like “smothering dream”, “jolt”, “writhing”, “gargling”. These are all visceral descriptive action words that are perfect to describe the torment of this young soldier and the trauma it leaves on the speaker. These are for the most part dark words with connotations of pain and, even in the case of “smothering”, murder. You could say that the author may even go as far as to say that the person who sends children off to the war with the aforementioned lie is murdering them senselessly much like this mustard gas does to this unfortunate soldier. You could make that suggestion also on the basis that Owen is saying. “you” in the first line of the fourth and last stanza which means that their is an unspoken addressee that could also be the reader.

One thing Ii don’t like about the poem is that is does not have a note of some kind from the author explaining that he is referring to mustard gas or even the translation of the finishing line, because the note given came from Poetry Foundation, but I take this dislike as a bit of knit picking on my part as during his time i’m sure these were common parts of war both in the rhetoric and the instrument. Overall Owen writes a fantastic poem that should really be more popular if only for it’s craftsmanship.