Instead of conveying an image of a bloody battle scene, Smith uses a young girl deprived of her memory as a result of a future war. Describing her mind as ‘black and ‘ominous’ this delicate creature gives the reader an idea of the damage of war, not only on the soldiers but the innocent civilians who should be commended as heroes as well for their hardships they have had to endure. This is also developed later as even though the subject matter is of a future war, Smith gives real accounts of battles e. G. ‘Austerity’ (a Napoleonic battle) to give the reader some context.
Weir also chooses to avoid minting a graphic, gruesome picture so instead our poem’s protagonist is a mother and her struggle of coming to terms with her son entering the world of battle. Again the message is slightly concealed as at first glance, it is a mere portrait of a mundane scene- a mother dressing her child, but in the midst of this we have certain words that hold connotations of war and battle. The title, for a start, is brimming with implications of the Great War, a bloody battle, the armistice, and last of all hope.
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But even further than that, Weir cleverly introduces militaristic words such as ‘bandaged’, ‘blockade’, ‘resisted’ and even ‘blazer. The latter holds suggestions, not only of a military uniform adorned with various badges, but also of a schoolboys Jacket so this word may also be reminiscent of the past as the mother holds on to her memories as she loses her child. Without being stereotypical, I have noticed a theme running throughout both poems that is missing from most of the other works in the rest of the ‘Conflict’ section. As some of the only female poets in this section, it could be that their femininity transfers into the poems.
Like I mentioned, both poems are not repulsive or upfront in the slightest whereas some of the male poets- like Ted Hughes in ‘Bayonet Charge’- are much more descriptive and frank about battle. Also both poets chose a female hero and gave a woman’s perspective of war, which is somewhat unusual for the subject. It is known Smith was a strong feminist and her beliefs may have influenced her writing of the poem. With Weir, she may have found it more authentic to pour her own experiences into the poem rather than trying to fashion a fake tale off soldier in fight.
The similarities do not end there as both poets use literary devices such as metaphors and imagery to create their desired effect on the reader. With ‘Poppies’ the imagery is very strong as we, in turn, have an understanding of the different senses of the mother in question- of her touching her son’s uniform and listening to his younger voice in the breeze which gives the reader an awareness that this women is intensely vulnerable but unbelievably strong. With ‘Come on, Come back the imagery is still there but not quite as tangible.
In our mind’s eye, we see many images of water and moonlight, giving the work a dream- like quality and adding to the ambiguity. And this is probably where the two poets differ, ‘Poppies’ can be understood from a wide variety f readers where as ‘Come on, Come back is so mysterious, its almost off-putting to those unwilling to seek the deeper meaning. Both poems are incredibly lyrical sounding due to the alliteration, for example in ‘Come on, Come Back Waiting and Whirling are used consecutively, creating a softer approach of the drowning of the young girl.
Metaphors and similes are used profusely throughout both poems. In ‘Poppies’ the metaphors are far more loving and far more hopeful. The mother describes the world to her son as a treasure chest, as if freedom is so appetizing to the boy with the world as his oyster. She also uses a metaphor of releasing a bird ND a dove for letting go of her son. “… Released a song bird from its cage. Later a single dove flew… ” This again is an example of the Juxtaposition between death and anguish, and beauty and hope.
A bond between a Mother and child is beyond powerful, however there comes a time when it is loosened and a child enters the world without a harness and free from guidelines and the Mother makes her peace with that (the symbol of the dove) Here the conflict isn’t really about war, battle and Jingoism… It is so much more than that. The conflict between wanting to protect a child and knowing that in the chem. of things you are helpless must be equally as difficult. Smith’s uses of metaphor holds much less hope, yet still considerable amounts of beauty.
For instance; “Seizing her in an icy-amorous embrace” Personally, even though on the surface, the phrase seems sinister, I feel the last word speaks volumes. It has an effect on me that this girl was finished fighting her battle- she was finished with the conflict within her own mind and she welcomes the cold, bitter waters of death. What she is leaving behind is much worse than what she is entering. This really shows the effect of conflict after the wars and after the violence, people’s minds are marred and they cannot return to their former selves.
A war is a cathartic experience for all, one impossible to prepare for emotionally and mentally and one even more impossible to forget. This phrase even reminds me of Aphelia in William Shakespearean ‘Hamlet. ‘ There was no fight left, no survival instinct, her mind was corrupted and there was no way to go back to normality, which is exactly the case in the poem. In a way, both poets present the same effect of conflict. Smith and Weir both seem to say that it doesn’t matter which point in history the conflict is occurring, the outcome is still the same.
This is shown as ‘Poppies’ combines old WWW references as well as present day attributes and in ‘Come on, Come Back it is set in the future yet we still have references to past battles. It doesn’t matter which conflict or which side you are fighting on, when it is all done, when lives have been lost and battles won, we all have to find consolation in the face of death. We may leave a scar on the land when we leave this Earth, hurting those who we once held dear or we may be on the receiving end and have to learn to deal with our spoiled conscience- whichever one, the effect conflict has is not victorious or proud but corrupt in every sense.