It is Sunday once again, which means it is time for Sunday Self-Review, that day of the week where I dig up an old poem of mine, maybe reminisce about the surrounding time, then attempt to review it. It’s times like these that I wish I had my favourite english teacher about, but alas he vanished up into Yorkshire years past.

As I sit here with a cup of tea my gaze naturally drifts left and out the window, my thoughts about how dreary the weather is today, and so I figured that a dreary poem would be fitting all things considered.
This poem was written when I was sixteen I believe, during a period of recurring depression that was being severely worsened by my hormonally fueled teenage angst. If I remember correctly this poem came about as a result of what we were studying in English literature at the time, first world war poetry, a favourite subject of mine. This poem was probably influenced more by Wilfred Owen than others of the time. I never named it during the period when I wrote it, but I have decided to call it All is Silent.

All is Silent.

Writhing maggots in bloated forms of hellish red,
their clothing stained and torn to shreds.
A symphony of agonising moans,
the screams of snatched futures.
Yet all is silent.

The maggots feast on them all,
their nation matters not when dead,
all are equal in damnations hall.
Their heads turn and eyes pivot without motion,
all staring all angry all cursed,
their fury bubbling in their beds of blood.
Yet all is silent.

Towering above a vindictive grin,
a shapeless form of pure sin.
Even it looks with disgust,
a line crossed too far.
It turns it’s back upon us,
we have sunken too low.
And all is silent.

Limbs mash into one another,
each man embraced with the other,
rotting flesh upon each man’s breath.
In darkness the maggots feast,
the bloated sea of men rises and falls,
crows claw at flesh but we are trapped.
Encased in decaying tombs,
damned beyond damnation,
awaiting the coming of the others.
All in silence.

As you can see this poem is written from the perspective of a fallen soldier from the first world war, and not from my own perspective. Now I’m no psychologist so I don’t know if the imagery used in the poem gives great insight into my mental state at the time or what, frankly I don’t care that much. All I can say on the matter is that when I wrote this I hadn’t had some form of nightmare that inspired me, nor had I thought about this kind of imagery, I simply put pen to paper, or rather, fingers to keyboard, and typed.

Now I best move unto the review, the weather outside has only gotten gloomier as I’ve lingered on the darkness in my past, I’m not saying that I’m a god… but I might be, so it’s probably best that I move on.

To start let’s look at the rhyme scheme, first it goes A,A,B,C,D, then it goes E,A,E,F,G,H,D, then unto I,I,J,K,j,L,D, I classify that j as a partial rhyme due to the sibilance, then lastly it goes M,M,N,O,P,Q,R,S,T,D, I don’t classify that T as an M due to the distance between it and the first two lines of the verse.
There’s a lot I dislike about this but the main things are the lack of consistency and the low number of rhyming couplets. I think that if you want a poem to have that flow that comes with rhymes than you need to have enough to sustain it. Everything doesn’t need to rhyme but they are a useful tool if used correctly. I will say that there is at least some consistency in the rhymes being at the start of each verse.

Next let’s look at the imagery of the poem and the themes connected to it. This is by far the strongest aspect of the poem and is the essence of the poem itself. The strongest imagery is that of death and decay, the poem opens on the line ‘Writhing maggots in bloated forms of hellish red,’ this conjures up an image of a carcase, a corpse bloated by gases being feasted upon by maggots, the phrase hellish red not only serves as an image of blood but also introduces the idea of damnation, of hell. This imagery is prevalent throughout the entire poem both through direct reference and indirect imagery. Lines such as ‘their nation matters not when dead’ are direct in their approach, they solidify the idea, where as the lines in the last verse are designed to give death its horrible picture, ‘Limbs mash into one another, each man embraced with the other, rotting flesh upon each man’s breath.’ This shows the reader that this death is not a peaceful slumber but an eternal torment.
Another theme that the poem touches upon briefly in the third verse if that of the Devil, a personification of evil. The lines ‘Towering above a vindictive grin, a shapeless form of pure sin,’ gives the image of the Devil, looking down upon the death and destruction gleefully waiting to inflict revenge upon each man for the sins they have committed. But this idea is immediately shattered by the following lines, ‘Even it looks with disgust, a line crossed too far. It turns it’s back upon us, we have sunken too low.’ Now the theme is that man has committed an act of such evil, that even the Devil himself is disgusted by it. What makes this so powerful to me is that these men don’t really deserve their fate, they were forced into a war they didn’t want to fight by people who didn’t care about them; its injustice that is the most powerful theme by virtue of it’s silence, there is no line that proclaims these men don’t deserve this because that point should not need saying.

Lastly there is the repetition of silence. I’m always fond of the usage of repetition in poetry, and this is no different. It has a use, to convey a theme. For me it is a simple theme. It is that for all the horrors of hell, the horror and injustice of death, the pain, the anguish, everything that these men went through, there remains a simple fact, dead men have no voices from which to speak, they are silent.

I think I’ll end on that note. Next Sunday I’ll review another poem of mine, perhaps one that is slightly more upbeat than usual. The English teacher I mentioned at the start once complained that I never wrote any happy poems or any funny poems, my response was to write him a poem entitled ‘Humour is not my forte,’ he found it funny. Sadly I lost that poem when I left school, but at least I know I’m capable of writing funny poems, if only in retort.

See you next Sunday folks, have a great week.

J.P.R. Campbell


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