Suicide in the Trenches


In the the first line, "I knew a simple soldier boy", the poet uses the word 'boy' as it shows how young people were sent to join the army and die for their country. The poet also uses the word 'simple' as it shows that no matter what specialty the soldiers had like strength, they were forced to join due to the conscription that was passed. In the final line of stanza 1 (line 4), the poet describes how the boy would whistle with the lark, which is a small ground-dwelling songbird as well as that it can also be used to describe a person who wakes up early and is enthusiastic early in the morning. The lark references the depth of the trenches as well as it contradicts itself as the war was destructive towards nature, it also makes the boy appear to be innocent as a bird.

In the second stanza the poet talks about the young boy's suicide in the trenches as well as how he felt before he committed suicide, and says "In winter trenches, cowed and glum", this line explains how the young soldier felt as the word 'cowed' means to submit to one's wishes through intimidation, this tells us that there was some sort of hierarchy system between the soldiers and 'glum' means to look dejected or morose, this shows that the soldier was depressed as a result of intimidation or traumatic experience that he had whilst in the trenches. The last line on the second stanza, "No one spoke of him again", this line shows that no matter who the soldiers were, they were always forgotten about and that they were just another addition to the death count, an example of this is the one scene from Saving Private Ryan where Tom Hank's character and his squad are looking for Ryan's dog tag in a pile of other dog tags whilst they are carelessly tossing the rest around.

The last stanza talks about the people back home in their safe and comfortable homes and how they do not know the terror of the trenches and the war. The second line of the stanza, "Who cheer when soldier lads march by,", the poet uses 'lad' to describe the soldiers, this shows that the poet saw the soldiers as his friends and how he cared about them, this line also links with the last line of the second stanza. The reason why the poet says that the people 'cheer' is because the people didn't know about the tragedy and traumatic experiences in the trenches. The last two lines of the stanza, "Sneak home and pray you'll never know The hell where youth and laughter go", describes the way the families and friends back home felt about the war as they did not know what war was really like and had no knowledge about what the soldiers went through. The last line emphasizes how young the soldiers were as well as how laughter, a trait that humans should have, was destroyed due to the war as soldiers would come home with PTSD and would have horrible memories of the war. It also in a way demonizes the soldiers as they are in hell and are fighting other demons so that they may go home.


The poem was published on the 23rd of February 1918 in the Cambridge Magazine, in the last year of the first World War, the poem talks about the suicide of a young and simple soldier that the poet knew and the crowds that would cheer and greet the traumatized and terrified soldiers when they returned home, not knowing the realities of the war and the trench warfare that they experienced. The First World War started on the 28th of July 1914 and ended on the 11th of November 1918, as a result nine million combatants and seven million civilians during the war. The two groups of nations were the Allies(Britain, France and Russia) and the Triple Alliance(Italy, Germany and Austria-Hungarian Empire). The war started as a result of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, who was the heir to the Austria-Hungarian throne. The war was responsible for advancing technology in order to defeat their opponents, the war created trench warfare, this also created the infamous Trench Foot, gas warfare, tanks and military aircraft as well as Naval warfare.

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