1st March 2018


Our brains ache, in the merciless iced east winds that knive us . . .
Wearied we keep awake because the night is silent . . .
Low drooping flares confuse our memory of the salient . . .
Worried by silence, sentries whisper, curious, nervous,
       But nothing happens.
Watching, we hear the mad gusts tugging on the wire,
Like twitching agonies of men among its brambles.
Northward, incessantly, the flickering gunnery rumbles,
Far off, like a dull rumour of some other war.
       What are we doing here?
The poignant misery of dawn begins to grow . . .
We only know war lasts, rain soaks, and clouds sag stormy.
Dawn massing in the east her melancholy army
Attacks once more in ranks on shivering ranks of grey,
       But nothing happens.
Sudden successive flights of bullets streak the silence.
Less deadly than the air that shudders black with snow,
With sidelong flowing flakes that flock, pause, and renew,
We watch them wandering up and down the wind’s nonchalance,
       But nothing happens.
Pale flakes with fingering stealth come feeling for our faces—
We cringe in holes, back on forgotten dreams, and stare, snow-dazed,
Deep into grassier ditches. So we drowse, sun-dozed,
Littered with blossoms trickling where the blackbird fusses.
       —Is it that we are dying?
Slowly our ghosts drag home: glimpsing the sunk fires, glozed
With crusted dark-red jewels; crickets jingle there;
For hours the innocent mice rejoice: the house is theirs;
Shutters and doors, all closed: on us the doors are closed,—
       We turn back to our dying.
Since we believe not otherwise can kind fires burn;
Now ever suns smile true on child, or field, or fruit.
For God’s invincible spring our love is made afraid;
Therefore, not loath, we lie out here; therefore were born,
       For love of God seems dying.
Tonight, this frost will fasten on this mud and us,
Shrivelling many hands, and puckering foreheads crisp.
The burying-party, picks and shovels in shaking grasp,
Pause over half-known faces. All their eyes are ice,
       But nothing happens.

Exposure: the state of having no protection from something harmful.

The idea of exposure (exposure to extreme weather conditions) is a reoccurring theme in this poem

“in the merciless iced east winds that knive us…” – This reference tells us that the iced east winds were Ruthann and felt like the pain of knives hitting the soldiers, and how it showed no signs of stopping due to the use of the adjective ‘merciless’ meaning showing no mercy.

“Watching we hear the mad gusts tugging on the wire”  – This reference tells us about how the winds were exerting great force and were tugging on the wire. Also how the soldiers were not in a normal mental state. This is because it contrasts the two senses as one “Watching we hear”.   Personification has been used by stating that the mad gusts were tugging on the wire, we know it is personification because wind can’t really tug on a wire but its been portrayed as if it could. 

“The poignant misery of dawn begins to grow” – This reference tells us how the soldiers were dreading the dawn. This would be because dawn is the coldest part of the night and when the soldiers will die, and if they survived they would have to face the horror and pain of another night.


Join the conversation! 1 Comment

  1. Hi Finn. Consider why the poet would give non-human objects/things human qualities. What does personification do to the objects/things themselves? What other ideas does personification suggest? I.e. The soldiers feelings? The atmosphere in the setting? The messages of the poem?


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