Conscientious Objector
What is a Conscientious Objector?
• This is a person who is strongly against war
and fighting and who refuses to fight on the
grounds of freedom of thought, conscience, or
Onomatopoeia adds to
the personification
Repetition shows that War is
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 cinches the girth.
And he may mount by himself; I will not give him a leg up.
Caesura draws attention
to the urgency
I will not help
Violence – suggests that he may
be provoked
A traitor to the army?
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 where the
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 profit from war,
like some do
Reference to racism and other victimised
minority groups
I will not tell him the whereabouts of my friends nor of
my enemies either.
Though he promises me much, I will not map him the
route to any man’s door.
This hints at the recruitment methods
used to get people to join up
Links to Other poems…
• Anti-War –
The Drum, Exposure
• Aspects of WarExposure, The Drum, O What is that Sound?
• Death –
Exposure, Your Dad did What?, The Drum, Our
Comparison Question
Compare how the writers of “Conscientious
Objector and one other poem use methods to
explore attitudes towards war.
Write about:
• What each poet’s attitude is
• How each poet organises their ideas
• How each poet uses language to present these
Possible Poems
• Exposure
• The Drum
• O What is that Sound?
• We will look at Exposure
What each poet’s attitude is
towards War…
• Each poem is anti-war
• Both refer to loss of life with a sense that this is a
• CO – the speaker plays no part in war and refuses to
help bring about Death. There is a sense that WAR is
the enemy
• Ex – the characters in the poem are fighting in the
war. They face Death daily. The enemy here is the
weather and the opposing soldiers.
How each poet organises their ideas
• Throughout, the poet presents a list of things she won’t do.
Single line first stanza - stands out – sums up poet’s main
• Eight regular stanzas with stanzas 6 referring to the past.
Repetition of verse form in the final line of each stanza with a
shorter line to sum up the soldier’s feelings. “But nothing
happens” x 4 suggests war is pointless.
There is a repetitive strain in CO – “I will not…” and “I shall”
which reflects the poet’s determination to be a pacifist.
How each poet uses language to present these
• Personal pronouns – lots of “I” on CO – very personal
– sense that she may be alone in her ideas. Lots of
“we” and “Our” in Ex – emphasises that many men
were in this position.
• Language to suggest violence in both
• Onomatopoeia – appeal to sense of sound
• Imagery – Personification throughout CO – suggests
that Death is the only winner in war and betrayal.
Also – personification of the weather in Ex- to show
how deadly an enemy it is – again – death is the only