This poem follows a common meter that consists of an iambic tetrameter followed by an iambic trimeter. It contains five stanzas in quatrains each following an ABAB rhyme scheme. This meter and rhyme are very commonly found throughout poetry and as such convey a sense of commonality. This commonality helps us more easily identify with the universal message conveyed by Housman about the futility of war. Housman’s deliberate omission of the “young man [’s]” name further accentuates the idea of this poem being a universal message.
In the first two stanzas, Housman creates an image of a person being drafted into the army, and eventually losing his identity and independence. The first line: “The queen she sent to look for me” subtly indicates that the soldier has been drafted, but it does not tell the reader outright. The surprise the reader gets in finding out in the next line that the soldier is drafted is akin to that of the “young man” who learns of his draft notice. In the last line of the first stanza, Housman uses symbolism to foreshadow the imminent death of the soldier. He does so by the skilful use of the number thirteen: “young man, a soldier will you be for thirteen pence a day”. If a soldier were paid “thirteen pence”, thirteen being an unlucky number, he would surely die on the battlefield. Thirteen pence is also a very small amount of money even in tho...
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...how he will “have to bate [his] price even further than a measly thirteen pence. Thirteen pence is a recurring line which ties into Housman’s understanding of the apparent cheapness of human life during war. For thirteen pence a young man has been forced to give up his identity, for thirteen pence he has died in a war, for thirteen pence more young men shall die, and when he dies he will lose even those thirteen pence.
In conclusion, the poet very effectively uses his imagery, and correctly, portrays the despair felt by a dying soldier, reinforcing that point is the rampant use of symbolisms that help the reader draw their own conclusions. Moreover, the common meter, and rhyme scheme helps us more easily associate the poem to a broader range of people. Housman has shown with his skill in rhetoric the cheap price of human life during a war for his poem “Grenadier”.
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