“Dead Man’s Dump” by Isaac Rosenberg
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The poem “Dead Man’s Dump” written by Isaac Rosenberg, a soldier in the first world war, has made a lasting impression on me.
He originally enlisted in the army in October 1915.
He was killed upon the western front in France on the first of April 1918.
He was twenty years old.
I believe that Rosenberg was trying to tell us that the soldiers that had sacrificed their lives in the name of duty were not getting the respect that they deserved.
As time goes on we may gradually forget what these men went through.
I especially found this poem intriguing for the fact that it is given from a soldier’s point of view, without any trace of political glorification or mindless romanticism of war.
Throughout the poem he uses very graphic, sometimes grueling imagery.
“A mans brains splattered on a stretcher bearers face.”
The word “splattered” is effective in that it is an onomatopoeia that sounds truly horrible in this context.
Even the title, “Dead Man’s Dump” suggests a wasteland of distraught bodies left to rot because they have no meaning.
Throughout the poem there are religious connotations present such as “crowns of thorns”, reflecting the crown of thorns that Jesus was made to wear during his crucifixion.
“Rusty stakes like sceptres old.” The stake, representing possibly the cross that Jesus was crucified upon, or the religious edifice of the stake used to sacrifice unbelievers or heretics by fire.
He also uses metaphors such as “The air is loud with death.”
What he really means is that he can hear all these horrific noises around him; guns firing; bombs and shells exploding into shrapnel and the vicious scream of pain that lead to the death of his fellow soldiers.
In the poem the earth is personified, though it is not its usual self; the loving mother.
War has raped the earth of its innocence and the beauty it once had.
“Maniac Earth! Howling and flying, your bowel seared by the jagged fire, the iron love, the impetuous storm of savage love.”
The use of “iron love” and “savage love” give this idea of unwanted destruction.
He uses alliteration through out the poem.
“None saw their spirits shadow shake the grass”, uses the repetition of the “s” which has a silent yet sinister sound. Even in the title, “Dead Man’s Dump” where the “d” gets repeated.
Throughout the poem his word choice reflects the bitterness, anger and frustration that the horror of war has impaled in his mind.
The entire mood of the poem is of is that of utter and total despondency. From title to end Rosenberg bombards you horrific images that he himself is seeing.
In conclusion the poem succeeds in giving me an inside view of war with nothing covered up. This view helps me understand the true trauma that he and many other soldiers went through.
I believe he wrote the poem to express his frustration towards the futility and horror of war and the inevitability of needless death.