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Imagery in the War Poems

The articles under consideration are two poems; “The Man He Killed” by Thomas Hardy and “War Is Kind” by Stephen Crane. The two poems are talking about war and its effects in the society. In the first poem, “The Man He Killed” the narrator remembers of an incident in a war where he killed a man through a gun shot. The narrator suggests that if they had met in a pub, then perhaps he would not have killed him. He further explains how this killing took place, how actually he committed the murder. Finally, the narrator lacks a concrete reason for the crime. In the second poem, “War is Kind” begins by narrator encouraging a young lady not to weep because of the death of her lover. He abruptly changes the plot to a battlefield where he sees many soldiers ready to kill in front of him. Again the plot changes to a place where the narrator encourages a young child not to weep over the body of his dead father for “war is kind”. The poem ends by narrator encouraging a mother who stands fixedly on the ground gazing at his son who is killed, telling her, “Do not weep, war is kind.” Imagery is an important aspect of a poetry work and should be keenly analyzed in order to get the deeper meaning of any poetry work

In the above two poems, there is a lot of imagery work used to convey specific message. These images used in these poems are very essential in communicating the actual experience of the theme addressed, for our case-war. In the poem, “War Is Kind” the writer has used a number of imagery out of which we shall consider just but a few.

The writer alludes war to death. In line two of the poem the writer says “Because your lover threw wild hands toward the sky”. This he says to really mean that the maiden’s lover has actually passed on. This man has actually died in the battle, in a war. This he says to avoid saying that he died. The man could not be throwing his arms toward the sky perhaps out of annoyance. The maiden otherwise would not have wept. This is actually what happens in the real world of war! Individuals actually die. The horse running alone in this poem is an image of the death of the maiden’s lover. In the actual battlefield, horses are usually ridden by soldiers.

In line six of the poem, the writer uses imagery of drums becoming hoarse. This would refer to a sound of the drum. This would signify that the drums have been used for long time and now they are beginning to lose their voice, sound, so to say. Notice also the drums boom. A sound usually associated to bombs in warfare. It somehow strange that despite the fact that the drums are hoarse yet they still boom. The drums becoming hoarse primarily symbolizes the length of time they have been used. In the real war, the bombs and missiles are constantly used to fight the enemy.

In line eight of the poem, we find soldiers being drilled and being killed. It is naturally animals which are being drilled and killed. Here the writer uses animals to represent men. Actually in a warfare, human beings-soldiers are usually slaughtered like animals. Again in line nine, the word “glory” there is used as an imagery of a flag. Soldiers are drilled and killed below it! This imagery is used to depict patriotism. Soldiers fighting for their own country.

In the poem “The Man He Killed” the writer has not used a lot of imagery however, we can still look into some few example. In the seventh line the writer states that, “I shot at him as he at me”. This is an imagery to depict that in a war, people battle to defeat their opponents. In the next line the writer says, “I shot him dead because-Because he was my foe”. This would vividly explain that it is actually our foes whom we fight and not our members.

Imagery is thus an important element of poetry work that should be employed by any poet so as to conceal the real meaning intended. This would make a poem more appealing. The imagery employed should depict clearly the message intended by the writer. It should not be out of context.


Work cited.

Thomas Hardy, 1902 (“Had he and I but met by some old ancient inn, we should have sat us down to wet Right many a nipperkin!”)

Stephen Crane, 1899 (“Do not weep, maiden, for war is kind. Because your lover threw wild hands toward the sky”)



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