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Vergissmeinnicht Analysis

Author: poem of Keith Douglas Type: poem Views: 57

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Three weeks gone and the combatants gone

returning over the nightmare ground

we found the place again, and found

the soldier sprawling in the sun.

The frowning barrel of his gun

overshadowing. As we came on

that day, he hit my tank with one

like the entry of a demon.

Look. Here in the gunpit spoil

the dishonoured picture of his girl

who has put: Steffi. Vergissmeinnicht.

in a copybook gothic script.

We see him almost with content,

abased, and seeming to have paid

and mocked at by his own equipment

that's hard and good when he's decayed.

But she would weep to see today

how on his skin the swart flies move;

the dust upon the paper eye

and the burst stomach like a cave.

For here the lover and killer are mingled

who had one body and one heart.

And death who had the soldier singled

has done the lover mortal hurt.


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

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Imagine a battle, the death of an enemy and then returning later to find the dead body is decomposing in the sunshine. This is the scene that Keith Douglas, a Second World War poet writes about in Vergissmeinnicht. The footnote to the poem in Second World War Poems, chosen by Hugh Haughton, informs the reader it was written in 1943 and the setting is Tunisia.
The narrator, a soldier, speaks in a matter of fact tone about his enemy. When he describes how Steffi will be saddened because of the loss of her boyfriend, he seems to soften a little, but then balances this with the grotesque images of decay.
In this poem, Keith Douglas does use rhyming words, but the scheme used varies in each of the six verses. It is like a ballad with its jaunty rhythm and its tragic subject matter of the loss of a life and the lost love.
In this novel, the speaker uses “we” this shows that the group he is with a group and they are all in this together. This shows solidarity amongst the men. Although it is three weeks after the fighting that took place, the German soldier is still decaying in the sunshine. This area is described as “nightmare ground” and soon the speaker reveals why when he describes the horror of what he sees.
The tone then becomes accusatory when he talks about gunfire.
“he hit my tank with one
Like the entry of a demon.” (stanza 2, lines 3 and 4)
The reference to the devil is showing the reader that the narrator had to defend himself. The third verse then draws the reader into the scene because he gives an image of the reader pointing at what he can see he says,
“Look. Here in the gunpit spoil
The dishonoured picture of his girl.” (Stanza 3, lines 1 and 2)
The photo of his girlfriend is spoilt like their relationship. The fact that the girl is named and he writes “Steffi. Vergissmeinnicht” makes it more personal. She is someone who has said, “Forget me not,” but the roles will be reversed and she will be the one who will be unable to forget she lost her boyfriend in battle.
Yet there is the contrast between the fragility of human flesh and the strength of the weapons that kill. The narrator says,
“Mocked at by his own equipment
That’s hard and good when he’s decayed.” (Stanza 4, lines 3 and 4)
This theme is continued into the fifth verse when the speaker writes in detail about the state of the soldier’s skin, his eyes and stomach. The macabre imagery would have been a feature of everyday life in the middle of battle. The final part of the poem is reflective as it considers the loss people feel during a war. A fatalistic view is given in the final stanza as death is to blame and had the “soldier singled” but it isn’t just the soldier who has suffered, but the lover who will continue to suffer.
What is particularly interesting about the poem that the soldier’s dispassionate tone reflects qualities necessary for his survival. It is a poem that is harsh, but ironically allows the reader to reflect and form their own ideas about the situation.

| Posted on 2016-11-07 | by a guest

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in the first stanza he shows no humanity of the soldies, in the second and third stanza he seems to rethink his position and in the last two stanzas he finds some forgiveness in his heart for the soldier

| Posted on 2016-05-12 | by a guest

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in the first stanza he shows no humanity of the soldies, in the second and third stanza he seems to rethink his position and in the last two stanzas he finds some forgiveness in his heart for the soldier

| Posted on 2016-05-12 | by a guest

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In Vergissmeinnicht by Keith Douglas, the speaker is a solider- most likely in World War II due to the dead German soldier mentioned in the poem. The speaker is returning to the scene of a battle after 3 weeks. There is no fighting at the scene this time, however the body of an enemy soldier, whom attacked the speaker and was then killed, is present. The first two stanzas don\'t allow for any humanity to be seen in the enemy soldier. The middle two stanzas introduce the aspect of his life outside of being an enemy, through the picture of the soldiers love with \"Vergissmeinnicht\" (forget me not), written on it. Yet, the stanzas continue to disregard his humanity because of his role as a combatent against the speaker and his companions. There is a shift within the last two stanzas that address the second aspect of the dead soldier, his role as a lover to the woman in this picture.
The rhyme scheme changes throughout the poem, never keeping with the same pattern for even two stanzas in a row. The second to last stanza, where the major shift in tone occurs, does not even contain rhyming within it and draws more attention to the shift as a result.
Douglas uses a lot of alliteration throughout Vergissmeinnicht. A larger emphasis is placed on phrases such as soldier singled, skin the swart, and solider sprawling through the repetition of the \'s\' sound in the beginning of each word. All of the phrases containing alliteration are revolving around the actual death of the enemy soldier. This has an effect of placing much more importance on the dead body of the solider then the life it lived before hand.
In reading this poem by Keith Douglas, I did not feel as though the speaker felt sorry for the dead solider, or even sympathetic to the soldier\'s lover. The final stanza seemed much more matter-of-fact than emotional, just stating how being a soldier took away the possibility of being a lover for the dead man. However, I think the lack of emotion was necessary for this poem to seem as though the speaker truly experienced this situation, because as a soldier he had to kill the man in order to survice.

| Posted on 2011-10-28 | by a guest

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Vergissmeinnicht is a poem by Keith Douglas that describes a soldiers account of a visit to a battlefield he has recently fought upon. Through stable yet altering structure, appropriate diction, and vivid imagery, Douglas describes the conditions and brutality of war and how each soldier will be remembered as both lover and killer alike.
One of the more subtle devices Douglas uses in this poem is the very structure of the poem itself. After a brief review of the rhyme scheme throughout the poem, youll notice that there is hardly a standard scheme and some of the rhymes, such as today and eye, are very loose. The reader starts out expecting a standard ABBA scheme when the first stanza is read, but much in the same way a young soldiers expectations of glory and honor are dashed, the readers expectations must be modified to suit each stanza. Contrary to the chaotic rhyme scheme is the uniformity of the amount of syllables in each line. This goes to show that amidst the turmoil of war, there is still a method to the madness; a basic set of rules that everyone follows that gives many aspects of war a sense of order.
In the first two stanzas, Douglas writes in a way that gives the sense of the soldier being detached and rushing through his sentences by using repetition in the line, Three weeks gone and the combatants gone(1). Combining this with an AAAA rhyme scheme in the second stanza, Douglas gives the reader somewhat of a shock when he stops the flow completely and simply says Look.(9). This serves to bring his thoughts and the reader down to exactly what he is focused on at that very moment. It also is an awakening for him as well, because he goes from a sense of wandering around a battlefield in a sort of daze to being focused on a particular object of interest.
Douglas uses very descriptive imagery to completely convey the soldiers emotions and thoughts at his current situation and surroundings. Though he seems calm at the moment of this poem, the soldier describing the enemys weapon with having a frowning barrel (5) and being of a demon (8). I think that in this moment he is having frightening recollections of the battle that happened three weeks ago. By describing his fallen foe with having a burst stomach and a paper eye (20, 19), Douglas shows the reader that his thoughts are conflicted as to his opinion on the enemy. While the burst stomach is a more detached standpoint, his paper eye is reminiscent of something that was once living, just like paper.
The conclusion of this poem comes with a revealing insight into the soldiers feelings about war. After the discovery of the enemys picture of his sweetheart back home, the soldier realizes that in everyone fighting this war, there is a lover and a fighter who [has] one body and one heart(22), and though is it the fighter that dies, the lover must perish as well. I believe that Douglas thinks that this is the true tragedy of war.

| Posted on 2010-04-20 | by a guest

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I belive this is a suicide letter it is just like the one i wrote (i.e this) Farewell... I liked cheese X
And I Was Secretly A Nazi Puffta Mushemon All Alaong
By Rosie 'The Sheep' Freckle
Dont 4gt to buy a pickel xxx

| Posted on 2008-05-13 | by a guest

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