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Conscientious Objector Analysis



Author: Poetry of Edna St. Vincent Millay Type: Poetry Views: 739

I shall die, butthat is all that I shall do for Death.

I hear him leading his horse out of the stall;I hear the clatter on the barn-floor.

He is in haste; he has business in Cuba,

business in the Balkans, many calls to make this morning.

But I will not hold the bridle

while he clinches the girth.

And he may mount by himself:I will not give him a leg up.Though he flick my shoulders with his whip,

I will not tell him which way the fox ran.

With his hoof on my breast, I will not tell him wherethe black boy hides in the swamp.

I shall die, but that is all that I shall do for Death;

I am not on his pay-roll.I will not tell him the whereabout of my friendsnor of my enemies either.

Though he promise me much,I will not map him the route to any man's door.

Am I a spy in the land of the living,

that I should deliver men to Death?

Brother, the password and the plans of our cityare safe with me; never through me Shall you be overcome.






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

.: :.

The title of the poem gives us a clear indication of the theme. The Conscientious
Objector is a person who refuses to be a part of the armed forces for moral and ethical reasons.
Thus, by inference war itself is being considered as immoral. War is immoral because it
militates against life and facilitates death. This poem Conscientious Objector then, is a statement
against the immorality of war as well as death which follows in its wake.
The poem begins with the recognition that death is inevitable, life and death being the
two sides of the same coin. The affirmative tone of “I shall die” is followed by an equally
vehement denial “But that is all I shall do for Death”. Though she knows Death is inevitable,
she refuses to aid Death in its designs. The personification of Death in the opening line serves to
heighten the sense of struggle. The resistance offered here is not against death as part of the
cosmic design, but Death as a consequence of man’s mindless actions in mindless wars.
The poet offers a passive non-cooperation as a method of resisting this pointless death.
The following lines (lines 2-5) capture the urgency in the situation beautifully. Death
like a hunter is preparing to set about his business in places like Cuba and the Soviet Balkans,
which are in the grip of civil war and strife certain of finding many victims. Death is leading his
horse out of the barn in a hurry – “I hear the clatter on the barn-floor. He is in haste.”
However, the business in Cuba or the Balkans is not the handiwork of Death. The civil war and
strife is engineered by man and Death is reaping the benefits of man’s folly. The resultant
suffering and death, the poet seems to suggest is avoidable only if man refuses to invite death
and chooses life instead. The poet on her part shows the way by refusing to assist Death-- “But I
will not hold the bridle while he cinches the girth. And he may mount by himself; I will not
give him a leg up.”
In the next line “Though he flick my shoulders with his whip, I will not tell him
which way the fox ran”, Death is presented as a hunter who is killing not for prey but for sport.
The fox obviously stands for the people who are the innocent victims of war. The image of the
hunt, once again reinforces the idea of war as a meaningless cruel game of Death. A subtle irony
in these lines alerts us to the fact that war is a sport for people, who see death only as a
70
spectacle. Yet, at the same time, the hunt would not be possible without the active participation
of the hounds, or in other words the foot soldiers. Hence the foot soldiers are in a significant
way responsible for this game of Death.
This theme of Death hunt is carried forward in lines 12-13, as well, but this is another
kind of hunt. The poet points out the essential inhumanity of the hunt by referring to the sordidhistory
of slavery in America. In this Death hunt, black men, women and children were
brutally hunted down by the white masters. The brutality is captured in the poignant image of
the terrified black boy hiding in the swamps to save his life. The first part of the poem ends
once again with the resolve that, although death is inevitable, the poet will not do anything to aid
Death. The poet’s passive resistance in the face of imminent physical pain and torture, (flick
my shoulders with his whip”, “hoof on my breast”) is a measure of the poet’s pacifist
beliefs.
The second part of the poem, from lines 16-24, continues the theme of resistance but
this time in the face of inducements. The poet promises to protect not just her friends but her
enemies as well against Death – “I will not tell him the whereabouts of my friends nor of my
enemies either.” In this part, she presents a world view which is not only pacifist but inclusive
as well. She refuses to be “a spy in the land of the living” She refuses to “deliver men to
death” The poet in a very quiet way, through consistent denials asserts life. This quiet
determination born out of the poet’s pacifist world-view, is her response to the militarist
environment of the first World War. The concluding lines of the poem marks a movement
outward. While re-affirming her resolve to resist death, she tries to reach out to others and
instill the same resolve in them. These lines take us back in time and remind us of all the
betrayals which aided Death in its designs. This reminder is also a warning not to fall into
Death’s trap. There is also, in these lines a passionate appeal to all those men who have become
the agents of Death to affirm life. The poet assures the people that she would resist Death at all
costs. Through her own example, she is perhaps urging the people to become x

| Posted on 2013-10-03 | by a guest


.: :.

The title of the poem gives us a clear indication of the theme. The Conscientious
Objector is a person who refuses to be a part of the armed forces for moral and ethical reasons.
Thus, by inference war itself is being considered as immoral. War is immoral because it
militates against life and facilitates death. This poem Conscientious Objector then, is a statement
against the immorality of war as well as death which follows in its wake.
The poem begins with the recognition that death is inevitable, life and death being the
two sides of the same coin. The affirmative tone of “I shall die” is followed by an equally
vehement denial “But that is all I shall do for Death”. Though she knows Death is inevitable,
she refuses to aid Death in its designs. The personification of Death in the opening line serves to
heighten the sense of struggle. The resistance offered here is not against death as part of the
cosmic design, but Death as a consequence of man’s mindless actions in mindless wars.
The poet offers a passive non-cooperation as a method of resisting this pointless death.
The following lines (lines 2-5) capture the urgency in the situation beautifully. Death
like a hunter is preparing to set about his business in places like Cuba and the Soviet Balkans,
which are in the grip of civil war and strife certain of finding many victims. Death is leading his
horse out of the barn in a hurry – “I hear the clatter on the barn-floor. He is in haste.”
However, the business in Cuba or the Balkans is not the handiwork of Death. The civil war and
strife is engineered by man and Death is reaping the benefits of man’s folly. The resultant
suffering and death, the poet seems to suggest is avoidable only if man refuses to invite death
and chooses life instead. The poet on her part shows the way by refusing to assist Death-- “But I
will not hold the bridle while he cinches the girth. And he may mount by himself; I will not
give him a leg up.”
In the next line “Though he flick my shoulders with his whip, I will not tell him
which way the fox ran”, Death is presented as a hunter who is killing not for prey but for sport.
The fox obviously stands for the people who are the innocent victims of war. The image of the
hunt, once again reinforces the idea of war as a meaningless cruel game of Death. A subtle irony
in these lines alerts us to the fact that war is a sport for people, who see death only as a
70
spectacle. Yet, at the same time, the hunt would not be possible without the active participation
of the hounds, or in other words the foot soldiers. Hence the foot soldiers are in a significant
way responsible for this game of Death.
This theme of Death hunt is carried forward in lines 12-13, as well, but this is another
kind of hunt. The poet points out the essential inhumanity of the hunt by referring to the sordidhistory
of slavery in America. In this Death hunt, black men, women and children were
brutally hunted down by the white masters. The brutality is captured in the poignant image of
the terrified black boy hiding in the swamps to save his life. The first part of the poem ends
once again with the resolve that, although death is inevitable, the poet will not do anything to aid
Death. The poet’s passive resistance in the face of imminent physical pain and torture, (flick
my shoulders with his whip”, “hoof on my breast”) is a measure of the poet’s pacifist
beliefs.
The second part of the poem, from lines 16-24, continues the theme of resistance but
this time in the face of inducements. The poet promises to protect not just her friends but her
enemies as well against Death – “I will not tell him the whereabouts of my friends nor of my
enemies either.” In this part, she presents a world view which is not only pacifist but inclusive
as well. She refuses to be “a spy in the land of the living” She refuses to “deliver men to
death” The poet in a very quiet way, through consistent denials asserts life. This quiet
determination born out of the poet’s pacifist world-view, is her response to the militarist
environment of the first World War. The concluding lines of the poem marks a movement
outward. While re-affirming her resolve to resist death, she tries to reach out to others and
instill the same resolve in them. These lines take us back in time and remind us of all the
betrayals which aided Death in its designs. This reminder is also a warning not to fall into
Death’s trap. There is also, in these lines a passionate appeal to all those men who have become
the agents of Death to affirm life. The poet assures the people that she would resist Death at all
costs. Through her own example, she is perhaps urging the people to become x

| Posted on 2013-10-03 | by a guest


.: :.

the peom is personifying death and the hatred millay who is a anti war poet has for it.

| Posted on 2013-03-09 | by a guest


.: :.

My class is doing this poem for a project, and this is the literary analisis that i wrote for it.
Edna St. Vincent Millay opens with, I shall die, but that is all I shall do for death. This is just a start of how to explain death as a man leading a horse out of this stall. She can hear death coming for her. He is haste, he has been in Cuba and Balkans, death has many places to be today, but she is not going to take [ahold] of the bridle. Death might get on the horse, but I will not give him a leg she will not give him any reason to pull her up.
She continues to explain what death (the man riding the horse) is doing to her. He flicks [her] shoulders with his whip. She does not want to associate with any kind of death in her life. I will not tell him which way the fox ran (line 12). This explains to the audience that she will not even get involved with hunting or killing animals for food or the game. Even with death holding her down, she will not take part of any type of violence, whether it is racial by not telling death where the black boy hides in the swamp. I will die someday, but that is all she will ever give for death. She will not kill, or do any activity that relates with violence.
She is not going to give in to death. [She] will not tell him the whereabouts of [her] friends she will not even tell Death where her haters are either. You can tell that she is kind to death, but she will not let him have her until it is her time to pass. Death has promised her a lot, but she will not tell Death where any people are, for that it will create violence. She starts to wonder is she [is] a spy on earth, am I the one that is bring man to death? She will never tell the password to Death about earth, they are safe with her. Death will never be able to get through her.

| Posted on 2012-12-12 | by a guest


.: :.

This poem personifies death as a being who is on a bussiness taking lives continously. This poem describes the young men at war killing others as \'Deaths\' workers or employees. Millay describes througout the poem taht she will not do anything for death but dies, this means that Edna Millay despises the idea of war and killing so much, that even though death offers her so much she will not even say where her enemies are...I\'m only a student in YR11, and this is from what i think of the peom, hope it helps. =D

| Posted on 2012-11-18 | by a guest


.: :.

i think that this poem is very clever with its personfication and such if you want my full in depth knowledge please message me on facebook jake holmes or harvey trustler xoxoxo

| Posted on 2012-11-08 | by a guest


.: :.

It is quite simple. Edna is speaking through the voice of a Conscientious Objector and all that entails eg: the C O will not assist anyone to kill in any type of warfare.

| Posted on 2012-08-18 | by a guest


.: :.

This poem is filled with personification and metaphors. Death is portrayed as a man, and Edna Millay is the one narrating her pacifistic views. The horse is merely symbolic, as death rides on a horse in Revelations in the New Testament. This makes sense because Millay was very religious, thus the anti-war poem. She uses examples that were important when she wrote this, such as Cuba and the Balkans; both places were hot-spots for war and fighting. She mentions a pay-roll to compare those who kill others to servants of Death. She doesn\'t believe it is right to kill anybody, friend or foe, no matter what they have done to others. At the time this was written, several of her friends were being drafted into World War II, which caused her to write this. She points out that dying is inescapable, but killing isn\'t.

| Posted on 2012-06-06 | by a guest


.: :.

The poem Itself is not from the perspective of the horse, though the poet has described the persona so that he could be interpreted in this way. I feel that it is actually a metaphor for how the persona is being controlled by a higher power; the government and conscription, or even death itself; and how he is defying this by becoming a \'conscientious objector\'.

| Posted on 2012-04-29 | by a guest


.: :.

listen. All i got to know is what the poem is about, that\'s for my English homework xD if anyone could describe it in a simplest form it would be great :)

| Posted on 2012-04-29 | by a guest


.: :.

This poem is clearly about Death riding on a Thestral coming to kill each of the Pevrell Brothers and steal their Hallows back. The voice is the Marauder\'s Map, shown by how he \'will not map\' Death \'the route to any man\'s door\', considering how the Marauder\'s Map knows the \'whereabouts of\' its \'friends\'.

| Posted on 2012-04-22 | by a guest


.: :.

Hello there fellow poetorians :D This poem is truely my passion and I wish to share my extensive views upon it. The reason i have so much time to read poems is because i, nlike many of you, have no social life. And spend my days analysing to my hearts content.This poem personifies death.... xoxo

| Posted on 2012-04-18 | by a guest


.: :.

This poem is from the point of view of an Conscientious Objector (someone who is against fighting within a war) and death is personified as a person. He tells us that he will not help \'death\', which could be someone like the grime reaper, by killing others. The idea of killing is perceived as signing a contract with the \'devil\', and portrays the killer as a servant,\"i Am not on his pay-roll\" this reinforces my point.

| Posted on 2012-04-16 | by a guest


.: :.

Edna has continuously used first person with the repetition of \"I\". This creates a feeling that the speaker is the only person who is able to do all these things and that Death is dependent upon them.

| Posted on 2012-04-12 | by a guest


.: :.

The speaker of the poem is the horse, and is portrays Death as a business man. Edna also uses Allusion to show a connection to real society. See?

| Posted on 2012-02-06 | by a guest


.: :.

There is a clear conflict between the speaker and this authority figure in this case is \"Death\" notice the use of a capital letter of Death. This personifies Death and is perceived as being a real person. This could possibly be a dictator referring to the Civil War that had occurred in Cuba.

| Posted on 2011-12-08 | by a guest


.: :.

I feel the poem is about difiance, This is Edna saying no to military service or any other action that will bring harm to other people.

| Posted on 2011-11-21 | by a guest


.: :.

Edna refuses to succumb to war or killing anyone, for it is againt her personal morals, and the only thing she will have to do with death is inevitably dying someday.
Summed up in a single sentence. Thank you.

| Posted on 2011-10-03 | by a guest


.: :.

I think this poem is confusing, but has many paths into which you can analysise it,in the way that there are different ways of seeing the poem.

| Posted on 2011-07-19 | by a guest


.: :.

I think edna is saying that she doesn\'t want to die. The end.

| Posted on 2011-05-09 | by a guest


.: :.

I believe that death is a man. And the speaker is someone who works for the man Death is a general of an army that send men to their death. Or he is a man who has a large position in leadership of an army that send men to their death. The author makes it seem as though the speaker is a horse. I think the author wants readers to know that he feels like a horse(being controlled by a greater force). There is too much against the idea of the speaker being a horse.
I hope this helped!
:)

| Posted on 2011-04-20 | by a guest


.: :.

Listen People. A metaphor extends throughout the poem. An individual who has claimed the right to refuse to perform military service on the grounds of freedom of thought, conscience, or religion

| Posted on 2010-12-08 | by a guest


.: :.

I think this poem is incredibly brave. It is protesting against the men who sent countless soldiers to their death. She describes her own personal battle with the reality of living with death and being asked to support the war in a very literal descriptive way.
I thought at one point that the speaker may be the horse... but since then I reconsidered. I think its creating a scenario where a man above her social status (whether she is a hostess who had to welcome him or one of his servants) who represents death tries to make her betray her people and friends and lead them to their doom. Because she is lower status, and a woman she is expected to succumb, as everyone succumbed to their fate of warfare... but she doesn't. She stands by her principles of pacifism and defies an authority who has the right to declare who dies.

| Posted on 2010-04-15 | by a guest


.: :.

Mr. "Posted on 2009-10-15", don't you think you are the DESCENDANT and not the ANCESTOR of Albert Einstein (uncaring of whoever you were mocking).

| Posted on 2010-04-05 | by a guest


.: :.

This is poem freaking me out completely..happy day!!

| Posted on 2010-04-05 | by a guest


.: :.

Hi, my name is Kevin. The speaker of this poem is a horse. I have come to the expert conclusion because I am an ancestor of Albert Einstein. I am so smart. However, I am short, and no one likes me.

| Posted on 2009-10-15 | by a guest


.: :.

The speaker of the poem is the horse, and is portrays Death as a business man. Edna also uses Allusion to show a connection to real society. Read the poem carefully

| Posted on 2009-09-29 | by a guest


.: :.

A stubborn and empashioned rail against conscription, in this poem St Vincent Millay is lyrically and with pathos protesting against a society which sent young men, many of whom were her friends, off to war.

| Posted on 2009-05-12 | by a guest


.: Attitude of the Poem :.

I really love this poem...It is extremely original, and I haven't read many other poems like it. This poem exudes such an air of stubborness towards death, something we should all have. The attitude is such that while the person knows death is inevietable, he will not succumb to the fear of it. I have yet to understand any connections Edna is possibly making to society, but I think there may be one or more. I say this because of the specific details, such as "Where the black boy hides in the swamp", and "The password and plans of our city are safe with me". That last line makes me wonder if Edna is possibly talking about torture. They will die, but that is all they shall do. To me, the ending is the best. "Never through me Shall you be overcome."

| Posted on 2005-04-08 | by Approved Guest




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