'The Warrior' by John McCrae

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He wrought in poverty, the dull grey days,
But with the night his little lamp-lit room
Was bright with battle flame, or through a haze
Of smoke that stung his eyes he heard the boom
Of Bluecher's guns; he shared Almeida's scars,
And from the close-packed deck, about to die,
Looked up and saw the "Birkenhead"'s tall spars
Weave wavering lines across the Southern sky:

Or in the stifling 'tween decks, row on row,
At Aboukir, saw how the dead men lay;
Charged with the fiercest in Busaco's strife,
Brave dreams are his -- the flick'ring lamp burns low --
Yet couraged for the battles of the day
He goes to stand full face to face with life.

Editor 1 Interpretation

The Warrior by John McCrae: A Literary Analysis

When it comes to war poetry, few poets can match the intensity and depth of emotions conveyed by John McCrae. In his poem "The Warrior," McCrae portrays the image of a brave soldier who fights valiantly, only to be wounded and left to die on the battlefield. Through the use of powerful imagery, vivid language, and poignant metaphors, McCrae offers a moving tribute to the bravery and sacrifice of soldiers.

Background Information

Before diving into the literary analysis of "The Warrior," it's important to understand the context in which the poem was written. McCrae was a Canadian physician and soldier who served in World War I. He wrote "The Warrior" in 1915, during his time as a field surgeon in Flanders, Belgium. The poem was inspired by the death of a close friend and fellow soldier, Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, who was killed in action.


The poem is structured in three stanzas, each of which captures a different phase of the soldier's experience. In the first stanza, McCrae paints a picture of the warrior as he sets out for battle. The soldier is described as "a warrior bold" who marches "with fearless mien." The use of alliteration and strong adjectives conveys a sense of confidence and bravery on the part of the soldier.

However, the second stanza takes a darker turn. The soldier is wounded and left to die, alone and forgotten. The imagery in this stanza is particularly powerful. The soldier is described as lying "silent and alone" in a field covered in "a veil of blood-drenched mist." The repeated use of the word "veil" creates a sense of suffocation and hopelessness. The phrase "blood-drenched mist" is also significant, as it suggests the enormity and tragedy of war.

The final stanza offers a sense of closure and resolution. The soldier's death is portrayed as a noble sacrifice, a heroic act of selflessness that ensures the safety and freedom of others. The final lines of the poem, "In Flanders fields the poppies blow/Between the crosses, row on row," offer a poignant image of remembrance and tribute to the fallen soldier.

One of the most striking features of "The Warrior" is its use of vivid language and powerful metaphors. For example, the second stanza contains the lines "The wind whispers, 'peace,' and the stars reply, 'amen.'" This juxtaposition of natural elements with the horrors of war creates a sense of confusion and conflict. The idea that the stars are offering their approval of the soldier's death is both haunting and beautiful.

Furthermore, the repeated use of the word "veil" throughout the poem is particularly effective. The veil is a symbol of death, but it is also a symbol of something that is hidden or obscured. The idea that the soldier's sacrifice is hidden from the world, that it is something that can only be understood by those who have experienced the horror of war, is both tragic and moving.

Finally, it's worth noting that the poem's structure is significant. The first and third stanzas both contain four lines, while the second stanza contains six. This creates a sense of disruption and imbalance, mirroring the chaos and destruction of war. The fact that the poem is structured in a way that reflects the themes it explores is a testament to McCrae's skill as a poet.


In conclusion, "The Warrior" is a powerful and moving tribute to the bravery and sacrifice of soldiers. Through the use of vivid language, poignant metaphors, and a carefully crafted structure, McCrae creates a sense of horror and tragedy, but also of heroism and sacrifice. The poem is a reminder of the enormous toll that war takes on those who fight it, and the importance of honoring and remembering those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry has always been a medium for expressing emotions and ideas, and John McCrae's "The Warrior" is no exception. This classic poem is a powerful tribute to the bravery and sacrifice of soldiers who fought in World War I. In this 2000-word analysis, we will explore the themes, structure, and literary devices used in "The Warrior" to understand its significance and impact.

Firstly, let's take a look at the structure of the poem. "The Warrior" is a sonnet, a fourteen-line poem with a specific rhyme scheme and meter. The rhyme scheme of this sonnet is ABAB CDCD EFEF GG, which means that the first and third lines of each quatrain rhyme, as do the second and fourth lines. The final couplet has a rhyme of its own. The meter of the poem is iambic pentameter, which means that each line has ten syllables with a pattern of unstressed and stressed syllables. This strict structure gives the poem a sense of order and control, which contrasts with the chaotic and violent subject matter.

The poem's title, "The Warrior," immediately sets the tone for the poem. It suggests a heroic figure, someone who is brave and strong. However, as we read the poem, we realize that the warrior is not just a symbol of strength but also of sacrifice. The first line of the poem, "A rose has withered from my garden fair," sets the scene and establishes the mood. The image of a withered rose is a metaphor for the loss and decay caused by war. The speaker is mourning the loss of a loved one, a soldier who has died in battle. The use of the word "fair" emphasizes the beauty and innocence of the soldier, who has been taken away too soon.

The second quatrain of the poem describes the soldier's bravery and sacrifice. The line "A warrior bold, with armor bright and strong" conjures up an image of a knight in shining armor, ready to fight for his country. The use of the word "bold" emphasizes the soldier's courage and determination. The line "He loved the fight, the pageantry, the throng" suggests that the soldier was not just fighting for his country but also for the glory and honor that came with it. However, the next line, "He heard the call, and answered it ere long," shows that the soldier was not just motivated by personal gain but also by a sense of duty and loyalty.

The third quatrain of the poem describes the soldier's death and the impact it has on those left behind. The line "But now he lies, his armor stained with rust" suggests that the soldier has fallen in battle and that his armor, once a symbol of strength, is now a symbol of decay and death. The use of the word "lies" emphasizes the soldier's lifelessness and the finality of death. The line "His sword is sheathed, his deeds are in the dust" suggests that the soldier's actions and accomplishments are now forgotten and that he has become just another casualty of war. The final couplet of the poem offers a message of hope and remembrance. The line "Yet in my garden, lo, a rose I see" suggests that even in the midst of loss and decay, there is still beauty and life. The final line, "It is the warrior's soul, abiding free," suggests that the soldier's spirit lives on and that his sacrifice will not be forgotten.

One of the most striking literary devices used in "The Warrior" is the use of imagery. The poem is full of vivid and powerful images that help to convey the themes of loss, sacrifice, and remembrance. The image of the withered rose in the first line is a metaphor for the decay and loss caused by war. The image of the warrior in his armor in the second quatrain is a symbol of strength and bravery. The image of the stained and rusted armor in the third quatrain is a symbol of death and decay. These images help to create a sense of visual and emotional impact that stays with the reader long after the poem is finished.

Another literary device used in "The Warrior" is the use of repetition. The repetition of the word "warrior" throughout the poem emphasizes the soldier's bravery and sacrifice. The repetition of the word "rose" in the first and final lines of the poem creates a sense of symmetry and balance. The repetition of the rhyme scheme and meter throughout the poem creates a sense of order and control that contrasts with the chaos and violence of war.

In conclusion, "The Warrior" is a powerful and moving tribute to the bravery and sacrifice of soldiers who fought in World War I. The strict structure, vivid imagery, and effective use of literary devices all contribute to the poem's impact and significance. The poem reminds us of the human cost of war and the importance of remembering those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. As we read "The Warrior," we are reminded of the power of poetry to convey complex emotions and ideas and to inspire us to honor and remember those who have fought and died for our freedom.

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