Break of Day in the Trenches by Isaac Rosenberg

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This poem was written about and during the time of World War 1 from the perspective of Isaac Rosenberg. The poem is actually quite straightforward and simple despite its perplexing lines, and contains few allusions. One of the preeminent allusions was the one referring to the poppy. When he said, “As I pull the parapet’s poppy” (5), he was referencing the symbolism of the poppy which during the time of WW1 was the symbol of the war dead because it had a tendency to sprout up among the corpses of the fallen soldiers. By using the double meaning of the poppy Rosenberg was perhaps hinting at the inevitable death that awaited him and his comrades. The second allusion comes forth from the rat, which is observed throughout the poem. The poem is actually a conversation between the young soldier (Rosenberg) and the rat. He asks it what it “sees in our eyes” (20) and he treats it as if it has wisdom of which they are unaware. He is envious of the knowledge that the rat has in knowing that he will survive the war while Rosenberg will most likely be killed. He also uses the rat to show the connection between the two sides of the war, because the rat can cross freely and join either side while the soldiers cannot. He put forth this idea by writing “Now you have touched this English hand/You will do the same to a German” (9-8). The rat sees the entire war from both sides while the soldiers only see their one single-minded side of the battle. This line also gives a sense of equality to the soldiers, they all share emotions and also a common goal: get out alive. Another allusion is found in the line “Strong eyes, fine limbs, haughty athletes” (14), he is actually referring to all of the English soldiers at this point even though the poem only...

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...atopoeia is found once in the poem because of the word shrieking. The word makes you feel as if you are there in the trenches and can hear “the shrieking iron and flame” (20) just as Rosenberg can. Though the poem has an absence of similes it does consist of metaphors. In lines 23 and 24 Rosenberg wrote “Poppies whose roots are in man’s veins/Drop and are ever dropping.” He used the poppies to symbolize the dying and fallen soldiers. Then he goes on to say, “But mine is safe, Just a little white with dust.” (25-26). This shows that perhaps the poppy is a metaphor for his life. As long as he remains inside the trench, which has now come to be his home, he will remain safe and only “white with dust”. This theory was proved right by Rosenberg for when he stepped outside of his trench on April 1, 1918 he was killed and so joined the other soldiers among the poppies.

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