Uploaded by Heather Lee

ENG1327 Poetry Analysis

ENG1327 – Approaching English Literature
Poetry Analysis
Student Name: Lee Tsz Ting
Student ID: 11015000
In The poem “Flying the Flag in Bosnia”, the poet starts with the depiction of a
crying woman. The cross which has her son’s name on reveals the reason why
she cries - the death of his son. Then the poet begins to describe the burial
place of the dead man. There are some keys, a wallet, two lighted candles and
a cup of coffee. That cup of coffee is left by the grave digger. It shows that he is
sympathetic over what has happened and feels sorry for the old woman. It can
be concluded that the poet would like to express the feeling of sorrow and pity
about death. At the end of the poem, the poet mentions a flag-like shirt which
the country has too many. It implies that wars in Bosnia have caused the death
of many people. However, people there have no choice.
There are only two stanzas in this poem. The poet makes this arrangement
intentionally. The first stanza is the depiction of the old woman. This stanza
focuses on expressing miserable emotion. The second stanza is about the dead
man’s tomb. Through the portrayal of the tomb, the poet makes use of the
shirt, saying there are too many, to disclose the impact of war that men died
and many mothers lose their dear sons.
In terms of structure, apart from stanzas, the length of lines also assists the
conveyance of sorrow. There are both long and short sentences in this poem.
The poet sometimes uses long sentences to slow down the speed of speaking.
For example, “her face is hidden by her hands.” Long sentences can help
emphasize the mourning of the old woman as the long pace extends the pain.
For short sentences, it helps to highlight the cruelty left to people by death as
its quick speed of reading aloud seems merciless and indifferent. It acts like a
knife tucked into someone’s heart. For example, “too many”, which gives
reader a blow and a shout that war is an evil that kills a lot.
Moreover, the poet separates sentences diligently and this separation is
ubiquitous in this poem. For instance, the poet separates the sentence “she is
slumped by the cross which bears her son's name” and he stops the first part
at the word “cross”. It grabs readers' attention as they are now curious about
the cross and what its meaning is. Emphasis is thus put on the word cross
which implies death. Another typical example is “in a country which already
has” and “too many”. The poet decides to separates the phrase “too many”
and forms one line. It leaves a strong impression to readers that war in Bosnia
has caused a great number of casualties. It further develops a sad mood,
reveals the despair situation of Bosnia and leaves readers room to reflect on
the issue.
Similar to the separation of sentences, the poet also conveys meaning in a
special way through changing word order. The sixth line of the second stanza,
“draped on the cross”, diverts readers' attention from the coffee to the cross.
Readers then wonder what is going on with the cross. In the next line, the poet
tells us the answer – there is a shirt on the cross. It helps highlight the word
shirt especially its symbolic meaning - the negative effect of wars.
In addition to structure, it is also a pictorial poem. First of all, the poet
illustrates the image of the old woman. She covers her face with her hands
showing that she is crying. She also has her hair parted. It forms a sad picture
that an emaciated old woman is sobbing in grief. The way how the old woman
is portrayed greatly enhances the miserable atmosphere of the poem. Besides,
the poet also brings us the picture of the tomb. There are objects which would
not move such as the cross, some keys, a cup of coffee and a wallet. It
composes a lifeless picture which helps to construct a miserable atmosphere.
As mentioned before, most of the objects depicted in the poem are static. But
at the end of the poem, the poet suddenly describes a moving shirt. It changes
the original visual scene of the poem. In a place where everything is steady,
there is a waving flag. The theme of the poem becomes evident. The waving
flag expresses the poet's sorrow and sympathy to people's life. He is sad that
wars have killed so many people and filled the world with tears.
The poet also employs some metaphors. The cross is a conventional symbol
which represents the death of the woman's son. By using metaphors, reader
can understand the content with a more concrete picture and the meaning
would also be more profound. Metaphors can also enhance the content of the
poem. From the depiction of keys and wallet, we can associate them with the
life of the man before his death, which creates a contrast to the situation after
his death. For the shirt, it symbolizes all the death in the country. The shirts are
waving in the air, just like Bosnians are crying for their destined fate.
For the rhyming, there is not a regular rhyming system but there are some end
rhymes. For example, “cross”, “middle” and “candles”. It makes the poem
more harmonious when reading aloud.
There is also repetition of words, for example, “of the cross”, “on the cross”
and “by the cross”. This kind of repetition not only echoes the sound but also
puts emphasis on the word “cross” which means death. It consolidates the
theme of the poem.
In terms of point of view, instead of a first-person narrative, the poet adopts a
third-person narrative. It is because he would like to indicate how poor people
in Bosnia are. He hopes readers can also be sympathetic to them and
understand the negative impact of wars.
To conclude, it is really a well-written poem. Even though the poet does not
mention death and tears directly. Readers can easily understand the theme as
he adopts some metaphors and portrays a picture-like scene. He has uses
these skills wisely to achieve the best effect. We people should be conscious of
the bad influence wars would cause and contribute to keep peace.
Number of words: 1003 (quotations of the poem are excluded)