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The Shield Of Achilles Analysis



Author: poem of W.H. Auden Type: poem Views: 35

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     She looked over his shoulder

       For vines and olive trees,

     Marble well-governed cities

       And ships upon untamed seas,

     But there on the shining metal

       His hands had put instead

     An artificial wilderness

       And a sky like lead.



A plain without a feature, bare and brown,

  No blade of grass, no sign of neighborhood,

Nothing to eat and nowhere to sit down,

  Yet, congregated on its blankness, stood

  An unintelligible multitude,

A million eyes, a million boots in line,

Without expression, waiting for a sign.



Out of the air a voice without a face

  Proved by statistics that some cause was just

In tones as dry and level as the place:

  No one was cheered and nothing was discussed;

  Column by column in a cloud of dust

They marched away enduring a belief

Whose logic brought them, somewhere else, to grief.



     She looked over his shoulder

       For ritual pieties,

     White flower-garlanded heifers,

       Libation and sacrifice,

     But there on the shining metal

       Where the altar should have been,

     She saw by his flickering forge-light

       Quite another scene.



Barbed wire enclosed an arbitrary spot

  Where bored officials lounged (one cracked a joke)

And sentries sweated for the day was hot:

  A crowd of ordinary decent folk

  Watched from without and neither moved nor spoke

As three pale figures were led forth and bound

To three posts driven upright in the ground.



The mass and majesty of this world, all

  That carries weight and always weighs the same

Lay in the hands of others; they were small

  And could not hope for help and no help came:

  What their foes like to do was done, their shame

Was all the worst could wish; they lost their pride

And died as men before their bodies died.



     She looked over his shoulder

       For athletes at their games,

     Men and women in a dance

       Moving their sweet limbs

     Quick, quick, to music,

       But there on the shining shield

     His hands had set no dancing-floor

       But a weed-choked field.



A ragged urchin, aimless and alone,

  Loitered about that vacancy; a bird

Flew up to safety from his well-aimed stone:

  That girls are raped, that two boys knife a third,

  Were axioms to him, who'd never heard

Of any world where promises were kept,

Or one could weep because another wept.



     The thin-lipped armorer,

       Hephaestos, hobbled away,

     Thetis of the shining breasts

       Cried out in dismay

     At what the god had wrought

       To please her son, the strong

     Iron-hearted man-slaying Achilles

       Who would not live long.






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||| Analysis | Critique | Overview Below |||

.: :.

Wow, she is one of the most beautiful girls I have seen x

| Posted on 2017-12-03 | by a guest


.: :.

many make the mistake that it was haephastos\'s shoulder over which thetis saw the trophies of war,but it actually was Achilles\'s shoulder that is mentioned in the poem

| Posted on 2012-08-26 | by a guest


.: :.

Auden mainly focuses on the degeneration of love, sympathy, and other social values in this modern world. instead of the beautiful engravings on the shield of achilles, the modern shield is full of chaotic pictures though it is shining. the shining of modern shield can be attributed for the outward shining of humanity, while they are rotten in interior

| Posted on 2012-07-24 | by a guest


.: :.

Auden juxtaposes two civilisations- the modern one which is savage, has no respect for human life, is dangerous and quietly menacing, and the ancient, pagan civilisation from which we should learn. Thetis is looking for order, for divinity, for all that is good, but instead she finds a decline in society\'s values as well as a decline in the physical world. There are weeds, which do not allow other plants to come up. Society has men who behave like weeds. People have no individual identity- just like in \"The Unknown Citizen\". This is dangerous for a nation/society. We are just lost in the crowd.
Holly, India.

| Posted on 2012-02-22 | by a guest


.: :.

In this poem, there is a juxtaposition between the scenes depicted by Homer in Iliad, (ie. what Tethis expects) and the brutal realities of today\'s world. In many ways, it is a criticism of Homer for glorifying war, and it is a criticism of Achilles - the poet is pointing out that with the activities that Achilles was doing, these were the realities that were likely to present themselves in the near future. He did not believe war should be glorified.
Other views believe that the shield as described by Auden describes views from the world war, such as the three prisoners being a symbol of prisoners of war, and the \"million boots\" are soldiers who have are fighting for a cause that they hardly believe in, a \"blind logic\" that they find grief for later on. It is not a war as described in books, rather \"no one cheered and nothing was discussed\" a \"dry voice proved by statistics that some cause was just.\"

| Posted on 2011-04-14 | by a guest


.: :.

In response to above, it is not a sword, it is his shield. The source of inspiration for this poem is from Homer's Iliad with the decadent description of Achilles' shield which is said to be one of the finest pieces of writing.

| Posted on 2009-04-04 | by a guest


.: :.

This poem has an emphasis on the lack of humanity, everything is mechanized. This a post WW society that was left without any hope. Yet the Auden leaves the poem open enough to relate it to today's (and any) time. Thetis was searching for protection for her son, and instead found the reality of that day. The world is full of futility, emptiness and has a broken quality of love. This is a protest poem that shows the dismay about what the world has turned to.

| Posted on 2008-12-10 | by a guest


.: :.

Thetis, Achilles's mother was looking at the sword Hephaestos made for Achilles. She expected to see happiness like the vines, olive tree, city, flowers, prayer, games and dancing but instead so depression, war, and death. This foreshadows Achilles's fate.

| Posted on 2008-10-07 | by a guest




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