A summary of a classic war poem
‘Break of Day in the Trenches’ is by one of the First World War’s leading war poets, Isaac Rosenberg (1890-1918). The poem might be analysed as war poetry’s answer to John Donne’s ‘The Flea’ – because the rat which is so friendly towards the English poet will also cross No Man’s Land and make friends with the German enemy. The rat, that ubiquitous feature of WWI imagery, here acts as a reminder of the English and Germans’ common humanity, even in times of war.
Break of Day in the Trenches
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.