March 18, 2018
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This poem really showcases the contrast between what the Bishop has said will change compared to what has actually changed about the men. “They have challenged Death and dared him face to face” compared to “For George lost both his legs” is nothing. The first stanza is trying to rationalize the awful cost of war an fighting by saying that it is in some way an act of God, however, it is obvious that it is not by the last line “The ways of God are strange!”. The Bishop has talked God up and the reason to fight up, yet when faced with the real consequences, it is impossible to say God would have one of his children lose both of his legs or to go blind.
I also personally connect to this. When I was younger, I found that I was very spiritual and very much believed that God had a reason for the madness of the world. However, after living nine years in a household filled with alcoholism and abuse, I distanced myself from the idea of God and an ultimate goal or path because it didn’t seem right. And when I would try to seek some kind of guidance from religion, I felt like the only answers I got were “The ways of God are strange”. It is hard to try to find a reasoning for suffering in line with the view of Christianity. They say that God only gives you what you can handle, yet there are people dying and suffering daily.
It’s nice to see a work praising some of the wonderful attributes of women; how deeply they care for the men in their lives. Either by being a support system or actually making the ammunition and weapons for their fight. I loved the imagery of ” You worship decorations; you believe / that chivalry redeems the war’s disgrace.” The people all know that they are honor bound to fight the war, but that if given the option, they would choose not to fight.
I think I have to disagree with you. I don’t think that Sassoon is praising women at all, more like insulting them. The speaker says “You love us when were heroes, home on leave, / Or wounded in a mentionable place” (1-2) meaning that the soldiers have to be perceived as heroic, at home, or injured in order to win a woman’s favor. The next line “You worship decorations” (3) is spiteful, it’s not the brave men that women praise, but the medals (“decorations”) that the men bring home, an example of materialism at its worst. The speaker goes even further by saying that the women don’t mourn the men themselves, but their “laurelled memories” (8), or their honors and achievements. The women that the speaker describes are taken by an almost romantic vision of war instead of the reality of it.
[As prisoned birds must find in freedom]
This line was so powerful. With it being two fold. Firstly taking it for what it says we can garner the overwhelming joy a prisoned bird would be able to find in freedom. But more so it paints the reader a picture of undirected enjoyment. With the metaphor relating being in war to being in prison, the prisoned bird knows its place within the world, much like a solider in a time of war. But to release the prisoner/solider back into the world around them, when anything including spontaneous singing can occur, could create a sense of directionaless interactions with the new world. Secondly if you look at everything that has to be done to reintroduce a bird that was held in captivity or domesticated back into the wild, leads one to see the dark side to the metaphor used here. Will the bird live much longer in the wild? Or will it succumb to the joys that suddenly arise?
The Central Powers were the anti-Christ. This shows the Allied Forces as the chosen to win side.
Siegfried fought in the first world war and stopped fighting, sent a letter to the House of Commons complaining that the was being prolonged by the powers that be. Author Robert Graves saved him from severe consequences by claiming his friend had shell shock. Sassoon was sent to a hospital to recover.
Researching for this poem led me through the first world war, past Hitler and his brown eyes that some say were blue and into the Mandela effect. That last line, “The ways of God are strange!” aligned with the Mandela effect, but in this poem, I think he meant that when the boys left and expected to come back changed, they didn’t expect the changes to be so physical, that they expected to be changed inside somehow, purer, so that would then “breed and honourable race.” The children coming from brave men were then expected to be brave also.
Siegfield uses satire when he has the boys say, “We’re none of us the same!/For George lost both his legs; and Bill’s stone blind;” to show that the change was not the righteous change the Bishop promised, but a betrayal had taken place in battle.
According to the Poetry Foundation, Sassoon uses a lot of satire in his work and he wrote a great deal concerning the war. He worked as a pacifist, but later became Catholic, even after all the writing between 1917 and 1920 that was considered his best work. He was expressing his true inner self during those years and probably began to project more of a wishful thinking later, that wasn’t considered as good.
In Stanza 7, Sassoon realistically depicts the feelings and timing of what it was truly like in the war, in the trenches, fighting. He was there and saw it all and he had good reference. Other writers, such as Hemingway depicted the war, but without the emotion, the panic and genuine depth that Sassoon expresses in his poetry.
Sassoon was brave in battle, brave to stop fighting and write his letter, brave to endure a hospital when he was absolutely right that the battle was begin lengthened and could have been so much shorter. It shouldn’t have lasted more than two months, the way the Allied Forces were, compared to the Central. He was brave when he had fought and didn’t drown himself in bottle like so many Vietnam vets did. So many of them never talked about what they went through and the pain it must have been to not just write it out, expressing it, but to express it so accurately when those who never went to war didn’t earn the right to know what it really was like. I think he was brave to paint war accurately, but I think he wanted to paint it accurately as an attempt to make it stop, make wars stop. Most men don’t want to talk about what happened in battle and without his pacifist goal to make wars stop, I don’t think he would have campaigned so heavily through his poetry.
Thanks for sharing that, Em. The poem does indeed hinge on the contrasting perspectives of the clergyman, who views the war ideologically and from a distance, and of the boys, who experience it first hand and are quickly disabused of whatever romanticized conceptions motivated them. The final line as you say is deeply ironic, illustrating the pliability of religious doctrine when invoked to justify this or that cause, and the willful blindness it can be made to serve. As Melville said of war in one of his Civil War poems, “youth must its ignorant impulse lend, age finds place in the rear.”
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March 21, 2018 at 9:05 pm
See in context
March 21, 2018 at 12:44 am
March 19, 2018 at 10:45 pm
March 19, 2018 at 10:34 pm
March 19, 2018 at 10:31 pm
March 19, 2018 at 9:30 pm
March 19, 2018 at 5:20 pm
March 18, 2018 at 9:06 pm
April 27, 2018 at 2:08 pm
This poem emphasizes the cyclical qualities of life. This stanza acknowledges the transition from the innocence of youth into a complicated older society. It demonstrates how happiness and youth are fleeting. In the previous stanza we are told about a carefree old man. He demonstrates how in our old age we might return to the same wonderous joy of youth. Although the elderly might posess this same happy disposition, the still carry wisdom and pain with the memories of a complicated life. Many reminisce about the simplicity of being a young girl or boy where everything is exciting and new. It takes a realist perspective where, “The sun does descend,/And our sports have an end.” This poem demonstrates how neither happiness nor sorrow are permanent afflictions. The cycle continues with no true end in sight.
April 27, 2018 at 1:58 pm
In the final stanza we see that, while the narrator doesn’t truly move to the Lake Isle of Innisfree, he takes the isle with him in his thoughts, memory, and temperament. He is expressing how he will take refuge in his memory of the isle in order to live amongst society while embracing a feeling of peace and connection with nature. Even, “While [he stands] on the roadway, or on the pavements grey”, he is able to connect with the Isle in his , “deep heart’s core” and in his soul. This is a form of escapism, while he still allows himself to be somewhat entrapped by a materialistic society. He gives in to most social conventions while holding on to romantic ideals.
April 27, 2018 at 1:48 pm
This poem reminds me of Henry David Thoreau’s Walden. The narrator desires to escape from society by living alone in nature. This is likely in response to an increasingly industrialized society. He glorifies nature and it’s peaceful qualities by describing the Lake of Innisfree with a natural supernaturalist perspective. This sort of ideal is expressed often throughout the arts and can be described as a romantic perspective.
April 26, 2018 at 1:51 pm
The final stanza in Dover beach is provoking in that Arnold speaks to lover about a dark and unhappy world. His is a realists perspective, likely in light of a declining faith in humanity and religion. This is a time, “Where ignorant armies clash by night”. In the dawn of industrialization conflict seems prevalent as society becomes materialistic. At this time society was fighting unaware over materialistic, and capitalistic reasons. Arnold has lost faith in humanity and struggles to move past, “The eternal note of sadness”. His is a romantic perspective where he looks at war, materialism, industrialization, and capitalism, as a true decline in humanity with no end in sight.
April 24, 2018 at 11:45 am
This poem exemplifies the transcendent ideals of writers in this period. “I’m happiest when most away” followed by, “I can bear my soul from its home of clay” suggests that the author finds happiness in spirit. She desires a freedom that comes with escaping the physical world before her. The, “home of clay” she speaks of is likely her physical body. In some religions a deity creates humans with clay. This poem is likely demonstrating escapism where the author would enjoy escaping reality if only in spirit. This is likely a response to industrialization which tends to strengthen attachment to the physical/material aspects of society.
April 24, 2018 at 12:13 am
Yes, definitely hearing your lover tell you they love you while meaning it is beautiful to the soul. Sometimes, though, feeling it is more important. The passionate intensity throughout the whole poem shows that she does need to hear it more than feel it. It soothes the soul to hear your lover telling you how they love you.
April 24, 2018 at 12:02 am
The forbidden fruit is indeed strong throughout the whole of the poem, I wholeheartedly agree. It seems that Laura is full of curiosity, but is that on the whole wrong? I think Lizzie’s warnings are what made Laura curious; a lot like the parent telling the teenager not to do something which in tern makes the teenager even MORE inclined to do it.
April 23, 2018 at 10:54 pm
This whole poem brings to mind an ending, as in a changing of the season; possibly a spring straight into winter. There is a loss and isolation feel to it, especially at the mention of Danae. I do love winter and I know now everyone does, which is why to me this feels like he’s writing about an ending of a beautiful spring.
April 23, 2018 at 9:52 pm
There are two phrases that stand out to me in this: train-oil breath and petitionary growl. I have no idea why, but the first thing that came to my mind is world weariness. Carlyle is excellently descriptive about this Hyperborean Bear, this Russian Smuggler. Carlyle is trying to explain to him that he is absolutely not interested and who can blame him? It’s only after he shows the Russian his pistols that the Russian backs off. An everlasting no? If the pistols hadn’t dissuaded him, Carlyle might have been involved in a Duel, which is not something he wanted.
April 23, 2018 at 8:54 pm
I, too, thought war when I read this. The hope he shows until the stanza you mentioned was palpable, but so is his despair.
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