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Break of Day in the Trenches

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  • Pages: 5
  • Word count: 1027
  • Category: Poetry

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In life, everyone has a time where they question their chance of survival or their mortality. In Break of Day in the Trenches, by Isaac Rosenberg, he makes a reference that a rat has a better chance of surviving that he does. That even someone more worthless than him is going to survive this terrible thing called war. In this narrative poem, he is at war fighting in France during World War I, questioning his chance of survival. He comes in contact with a rat and starts to have a conversation with it about war and what the rat thinks of war. The author is jealous of the rat and knows that the rat will be the only one who will survive this war. The mood of the poem is casual, because the author is having a conversation with the rat about war. The tone however is sadness. He is fighting in a war where he knows he is going to get killed.

Isaac Rosenberg does a great job of using figurative language to convey his poem to his audience. He uses alliteration to keep the poem flowing and to make it more interesting for the reader. Since the poem has no specific rhyme scheme, the author also uses assonance to add rhyme to the poem. The overall theme to the poem is war is hell. Another theme could be, war can change the way you think about things and also change your perspective on life.

In the first six lines of the poem, the author meets a rat. In lines one and two he is explaining how horrible war is by saying, “The darkness crumbles away it is the same druid Time as ever,” (1.1-1.2). The author is miserable. “Only a live thing leaps my hand, a queer sardonic rat,” (1.3-1.4). He meets a rat while he is fighting at war in a trench. He is saying that the rat is weird and mocking, and that it is the only thing that is live. He uses alliteration when he says, “Only a live thing leaps my hand,” (1.3). “As I pull the parapet’s poppy to stick behind my ear.” (1.5-1.6). The author uses alliteration when saying, “As I pull the parapet’s poppy” (1.5).

In the next six lines he starts a conversation with the rat. “Droll rat, they would shoot you if they knew your cosmopolitan sympathies,” (1.7-1.8). The author is trying to say that if someone else knew that the rat was worrying about both sides of the war that they would shoot it. “Now you have touched this English hand you will do the same to a German soon, no doubt, if it be your pleasure to cross the sleeping green between.” (1.9-1.12). What the author is trying to say is that you will travel to different places throughout this war and that is okay because you do not belong to a side and it is your choice to cross the barriers between us and the people we fight against at war. He also uses assonance to describe the barrier that separates their opponent when saying, “To cross the sleeping green between.”

In the next nine lines Rosenberg is explaining that the rat has a better chance at survival than he or the other soldier do. “It seems you inwardly grin as you pass strong eyes, fine limbs, haughty athletes, less chanced than you for life,” (1.13-1.15). In these three lines he is saying that the mouse is grinning inside as he passes the soldiers in war and the arrogant athletes fighting and that these humans have a better chance at dying than the rat does. “Bonds to the whims of murder, sprawled in the bowels of the earth, the torn fields of France.” (1.16-1.18). They are talking about the dead bodies being spread out in the torn fields in France. The author also uses alliteration when saying, “The torn fields of France.” (1.18). “What do you see in our eyes at the shrieking iron and flame hurled through the still heavens?” Still talking to the mouse, he is asking him what do you see? The artillery is being thrown at us through the calm heavens.

These next five lines are the ending to the poem and they are very sickening to think that this could actually happen. “What quaver-what heart aghast? Poppies whose roots are in men’s veins drop, and are ever dropping;” (1.22-1.24). Rosenberg is saying the poppy flowers in the ground are being showered with blood from the soldiers who are being killed and dying. That instead of getting what they need to survive which is water, that they are getting blood from the soldiers. Everyone is dying and they are going to continue to die. “But mine in my ear is safe, just a little white with the dust.” (1.25-1.26). These last two lines ending the poem are saying, that the author’s poppy flower is going to be okay, that he is going to be fine. He is no longer bloody and maybe there is still going to be hope for him. He will come out with a few scars and wounds, but he will be safe.

In conclusion, this poem had a great ending that can relate to everyone in the audience which is that there can also be hope even if it seems like there is none. The poet uses alliteration and assonance to help the audience hear what they read it. It enhances their pleasure in poetry. The overall themes of the poem are war is hell and that war can change the way you look at things. Most people after war are scarred for life at the things they see and hear while they are at war, some get a different look at things about how lucky they were to live through it all and are thankful, either way they are a new person coming our of war. In the smaller picture of things one small event can change the way a person thinks about a certain thing just like war can do the same to a soldier.

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