Before we start class today I just wanted to give my input on the poems from last week. We get a lot of aerial views both natural and urban. From the moon in “I Looked Up From My Writing” to bell towers in “On the Belgian Expatriation”. This gave us a new perspective I believe not only about the war happening in the sky but also a different view of the poor souls stuck on the ground.
The birds symbolize this desire for me. In “August 1914” we see a blackbird that keeps returning to a window sill. Not only did this remind me of the Beatles song and all that angst but also the anguish of trying to keep what you desire out of your mind because you know it can not be obtained much like Hemingway’s character did in A Farewell to Arms. The switch of the blackbird who seems to be somewhat free in movement, perhaps suggesting a soldier on leave who will one day return to the front and not come back transitions into the image of a pigeon in “Between the Lines”. This emphasizes the idea of a soldier being stuck in a war and it is much more a sport. I think of that Wii-game where you shot birds out of the sky, or pigeons can also mean clay pigeons so sport-like qualities of hunting and preying either way. I mean think about it, birds tend to stay in a V-shaped pack like soldiers in formation who are for better use of a term “sitting ducks” unless sheltered.
The idea of the sky also lead me to think about some of these poems from a religious perspective. In “Justice” we have language that is very similar to the words used for the nativity of Jesus. I think this is interesting because this poem was written in October of 1918, one month before the war ended. We would think such language would be used at the beginning of the war but it is at the end when “salvation” is on the horizon perhaps?
In “For the Fallen” we continue to follow the life of Christ in a weird reverse order. This poem to me speaks of the relationship experienced by a mother and her child in war, likened to Mary and her Son during the Passion on the Cross and all of Holy Week really.
Early on in the war, Easter is hinted at in “May, 1915″ where the earth is renewed but only through the death experienced in winter or what will be the long, bitter war itself.
We also have references to a triune God in “Tri-colour”. Where the Holy Trinity becomes mixed with ideas of patriotism and sacrifice, such as in a flag but it takes on the colors of water, blood, and flesh which are three biblical attributes found in the transubstantiation of the Eucharist. In “Messages” we get a broken knee, and another appearance of the number three but this time more referring to the two thieves and Jesus on Calvary. In “For a Girl” the lines “kiss the passer-by” and “let me break my heart in peace” stood out to be because they tie the sacrificial lamb theory of the soldier to the betrayal of Jesus by Judas and how His heart and His body was broken for all to be saved.
Lastly, “Air-Raid” reminds me of the song Silent Night but in an uneasy way. For some reason this poem seems so sincere but also carries a somber tone as well. This purity within the evil chaos made me think of the ending in “The Second Coming” by Yeats.