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A Short Analysis of Isaac Rosenberg’s ‘Break of Day in the Trenches’

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. Read the rest of this entry

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A Short Analysis of Thomas Hardy’s ‘The Oxen’

A critical reading of Hardy’s celebrated Christmas poem

‘The Oxen’ was published on Christmas Eve 1915 in The Times. It is one of Thomas Hardy’s best-loved poems, often anthologised. Below is ‘The Oxen’ with a few words of analysis.

The Oxen

Christmas Eve, and twelve of the clock.
‘Now they are all on their knees,’
An elder said as we sat in a flock
By the embers in hearthside ease.

We pictured the meek mild creatures where
They dwelt in their strawy pen,
Nor did it occur to one of us there
To doubt they were kneeling then. Read the rest of this entry

A Short Analysis of Wilfred Owen’s ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’

A summary of a canonical war poem

‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’ is probably, after ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’, Wilfred Owen’s best-known poem. But like many well-known poems, it’s possible that we know it so well that we hardly really know it at all. In the following post, we offer a short commentary on Owen’s canonical war poem, and take a closer look at the language he employs.

Anthem for Doomed Youth

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
— Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells;
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs,—
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires. Read the rest of this entry