‘Lament’ by Gillian Clarke


For the green turtle with her pulsing burden,

in search of the breeding ground.

For her eggs laid in their nest of sickness.

For the cormorant in his funeral silk,

the veil of iridescence on the sand,

the shadow on the sea.

For the ocean’s lap with its mortal stain.

For Ahmed at the closed border.

For the soldier in his uniform of fire.

For the gunsmith and the armourer,

the boy fusilier who joined for the company,

the farmer’s sons, in it for the music.

For the hook-beaked turtles,

the dugong and the dolphin,

the whale struck dumb by the missile’s thunder.

For the tern, the gull and the restless wader,

the long migrations and the slow dying,

the veiled sun and the stink of anger.

For the burnt earth and the sun put out,

The scalded ocean and the blazing well.

For vengeance, and the ashes of language.

Cormorant, tern,  gull and wader –types of seabirds

Iridescence-a surface of shimmering colours


Dugong-large aquatic mammal

56 thoughts on “‘Lament’ by Gillian Clarke

  1. Gillian Clarke has created a very accessible homepage on
    the internet (http://gillianclarke.co.uk/home.htm). On it she
    explains ‘Lament’ is an elegy, an expression of grief. It can be a
    sad, military tune played on a bugle. The poem uses the title as
    the start of a list of lamented people, events, creatures and
    other things hurt in the war, so after the word ‘lament’, every verse,
    and 11 lines, begin with ‘for’.

    The poem is about the Gulf War, which happened in 1991
    when Iraq invaded Kuwait, and the United States and its
    allies came to the aid of Kuwait, overthrowing the Iraqi regime
    of Saddam Hussein.

    War can’t be waged without grave damage to every aspect of life.
    All the details in the poem came from reports in the media of the day.
    There were newspaper photographs of cormorants covered with
    oil – ‘in his funeral silk’.

    ‘The veil of iridescence on the sand’ and ‘the shadow on the sea’ show the
    spreading stain of oil from bombed oil wells. The burning oil seemed to put
    the sun out, and poisoned the land and the sea. The ‘boy fusilier who joined
    for the company,’ and ‘the farmer’s sons, in it for the music’, came from
    hearing radio interviews with their mothers. The creatures were listed by
    Friends of the Earth as being at risk of destruction by oil pollution, and ‘the
    soldier in his uniform of fire’ was an horrific photograph of a soldier burnt
    when his tank was bombed. The ashes of language are the death of truth
    during war.

    A lament is an elegy or a mourning of the passing of someone or something. Each
    item introduced by the preposition ‘for’ is being mourned.

    Line 1: the green turtle is found in the Gulf. Nesting beaches occur particularly in
    Oman and Yemen.
    Line 5: the veil of iridescence refers to oil slicks.
    Line 13: the hook-beaked turtles are an endangered species
    as is the dugong (Line 14), a large herbivorous marine mammal.
    The small population in the Gulf was further
    endangered by the spillages of oil in the Gulf conflict.
    Line 16: terns regularly migrate over enormous distances,
    some species from the Arctic to Antarctic. Some species of tern
    overwinter in the Gulf and some species breed there. Waders are
    long-legged birds which roam through marshes and coastal
    strips for food. Many of these also migrate. The word ‘restless’
    refers to its movements as it searches for food. It is estimated
    that between 1 and 2 million birds

    a. How does the last line shape your understanding of this poem?
    b. How does the structure contribute to the creation of tone?
    c. What, in view of this poem, is the greatest casualty of war?

  2. In the poem ‘Lament’ the poet is talking about war and other disasters, created by man, which destroys the world. She is talking about how the animals are affected and she uses them as a device for empathy from the reader.

    Even in the title she is starting with a gloomy picture. “Lament” means the expression of sorrow or regret. By not using a well known word such as ‘regret’ she is creating a sense of mystery and importance over the poem. In the line “For the cormorant in his funeral silk,” she is talking about death, where she creates the image of funeral, being black, and silk, being oil. It is well known that thousand of birds die each year because of the oil leaked into the ocean. Using oil as the “murder weapon” she is putting the blame on mankind, seeing us as the killer. This makes the reader feel guilty, and while putting a sense of guilt on our mind she raises the understanding of the problem we are creating.“For ocean’s lap with its mortal stain,” is a dark, terrifying picture, created by the poet to create disgust for what we have done. By saying ‘mortal stain’ she is again referring to the travelling oil, carried by the ocean, swallowing every bit of life in its path.In the line “the long migrations and the slow dying, the veiled sun and the stink of anger”, Clarke is showing that even though it is us humans who are the reason for war and oil leaks, we are also the victims. She is saying that you cannot generalize humans as one entity, that we all are different with individual opinions. And even though not everybody is to blame for wars and global warming, we can all do something to help.

    In the poem Clarke is repeating the word “for” in front of many lines. This raises the question ‘What is it for?” and this makes the reader think a lot more about the meaning of the poem. An example is “For vengeance, and the ashes of language” which is the last line of the poem. Here the poet is putting the idea of people who want revenge and the ashes of language might be the metaphor for language being the start of war and how war is the fire and when it’s over, all that is left is its ashes. This is a gloomy picture, but when we think about how in the old days people used the ashes to grow their farmland and this makes us think that we can rise from the ashes.

    All in all what Clarke is saying is that even though we have some world wide problems, created by us, hope is not lost. We can still do something about it and save our planet.

    1. Great stuff Benedicte, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it as it not only keeps close to the theme of poem but also captures the mood. I like what you have written about the áshes of language’, and I agree with you that embedded in this line is the cycle of life, rebirth. You mention Pheonix in your assignment, and I think that this is applicable here, too. Well done, and keep it up.

  3. Explore the way in which Clarke has used language and other poetic devices in ‘Lament’ to convey her ideas.

    In Clarke’s poem ‘Lament’, she describes ‘the veiled sun and the stink of anger’, which gives an idea of endangered environment. This line illustrates that ‘the stink of danger’ is destroying our atmosphere. The ‘stink of danger’ represents the oil burning and oil leaks into the blue sea. In fourth stanza the poet says ‘for the cormorant in his funeral silks’, this line perfectly gives a felling of evil or black death.The ‘funeral silk’ defines body type, in this case its oil.

    Clarke’s ‘Lament’ is about our environment and species getting affected by oil. The poem specifically shows different stages of environment. It also describes how human have took over earth and tells how we have been destroying it, not curing it. This poem deeply mentions different animals, especially mammals. These animals are suffering because of our berserk mistakes. The last line of the poem ‘for vengeance, and the ashes of language’ illustrates our consequences, and ‘vengeance’ describes getting back at, which means that we will be in danger and the ‘ashes of language’ has a sense of no forgiveness or cannot be resolved. Gillian Clarkes poem Lament’ draws upon the themes of our endangered environment and poor environment causes bad hygiene and health for all of us, humans and animals.

    1. Adarsh I am really please with this summary as you showed your ability to write with speed with few mistakes. I especially like your analysis of ‘the stink of anger’ line as it is thoughtful. Well done.

      1. Core,I’m so much impressed with your analysis of the poem ‘Lament’.Though it’s historical,I’ll not hesitate to draw the attention of the readers to the present day happenings in our different countries. It was Iraq,but it’s ‘us’ now. How I wish the human species can put an end to this ,putting first,the safety of their lives and that of other humble creature. ‘War ‘,for any reason should not be encouraged.

  4. Clarke’s ‘Lament’ is about trying to convince the reader to help put an end to the deadly wars by using animal imagery and by describing what happens to them after an oil spill, most likely due to bombing. The very first word Clarke uses is ‘For.’ She repeatedly uses this word to give a sense that people should stop war because of all the suffering it causes to the wild animals. So basically, the poet is giving reasons why there should not be war. In the very first line, the she says ‘For the green turtle with her pulsing burden.’ The poet is describing the problem that green turtle’s face when finding a suitable place to lay their eggs. The word ‘pulsing’ suggests the heart beating fast, which also gives a sense of adrenaline, and nervousness to quickly find a place to lay her young where no predators can find them. In the fourth line, the poet again uses animals to help convey her message. This time however, the poet uses ‘cormorant’ which is a type of seabird. The poet describes the cormorant wearing his ‘funeral silk’ which means that the poor bird is wearing a layer of black, sticky oil. As funeral’s are sad, depressing times, it is traditional to wear only black. Incidentally, the colour of oil is also black, and oil spills are known widely as times of sadness due to the deaths of innocent animals. Also, silk is a smooth, shiny fabric, and again, it describes the properties of oil very well.

    In line eleven, the tone changes slightly from using animals, to now talking about humans. The poet says ‘the boy fusilier who joined for the company.’ In this line, the poet describes a boy who joins the army just because he wanted people to talk to. This possibly also means that he lost his parents due to war, and that gives a sense of sadness towards the boy, therefore, making the reader want to help put a stop to wars around the globe. Lastly, in line nineteen, the poet says ‘For the burnt earth and the sun put out.’ After reading this, the reader could be thinking that if wars and conflicts keep on going, the world would eventually be plunged into darkness. The poet conveys this message by saying the words ‘burnt earth’ and ‘sun put out.’ They both symbolise darkness as the sun is our only source of light during the day.

    1. Wonderful stuff Brian – I especially love the way you keep close to the animal imagery and decribe the slight shift from this to desribing people. Your writing is detailed and is increasingly more mature. Way to go, Brian!!

      1. corea chick what are uyou everyone’s teacher you yourself had a pretty pathetic analysis. you copied off the enote website…. come up with your own analysis then talk..

      2. Really? Please find me the endnote, I would appreciate reading it. Endnotes can be a useful starting point -remember Meo, the task is not to provide an original analysis, as there is no such thing as an original analysis. I actually never gave an analysis, so I am not sure what you are referring to, and the ones you have just read were completed in class. I only hope that your English improves by the time your exam comes up. This site is here to help you. Good luck.

  5. Gillan Clarke’s poem ‘Lament’ draws upon the themes of war and its effect on the environment. One of the effects that she discusses is the oil spill that occurred during the Gulf War. ‘For the ocean’s lap with its mortal stain’ describes the ocean, with puddles of oil covering it, as a mortal stain – something that brings death to the ocean, which on the contrary is associated with life. ‘The veiled sun and the stink of anger’ represent the smoke and the smell of burning oil, which rise above the ocean and cover the sky. The sun appears as though behind a black veil of thick smoke.Besides the water and the creatures living right in the ocean, others were harmed too. ‘For the tern, the gull and restless wader, the long migrations and the slow dying’ – is an image of the migrating birds that slowly die from inhaling the poisonous smoke of the burning oil. ‘For the cormorant in his funeral silk’ – here Clarke talks of a sea bird covered in a black, smooth coat of oil. Those images imply man’s power as destructive to nature, and in fight for it, innocent creatures are being killed.

    Yet she doesn’t only talk about the animals and nature as innocent victims, but humans too. ‘For the soldier in his uniform of fire,’ evoking an image of a soldier who, covered in oil, was caught by fire. The line ‘For Ahmed at the closed border’ represents the refugees that fled during the war, yet were trapped in a country of ‘the scalded ocean and the blazing well’.

    1. A clear and concisely written summary on the images, and you support your ideas well, Diana. I like how you ‘move’ through the imagery from nature to man.

  6. The poem, ‘Lament’ by Gillian Clarke is a poem about how the poet feels sadness and laments for the wild life that has been affected negatively by the Gulf War. The poet conveys her emotion of lament by repetitive words (anaphora), abstract comparison (metaphor) and frequently used words with the same letter in the beginning in a sentence (alliteration).

    Example of anaphora would be the usage of ‘For’ and ‘the’ in virtually every beginning of a line .The poet has used this to sculpt a constant depressing, gloomy feeling to the poem, perhaps reminding the reader of the sadness of the Gulf war. She uses ‘For’ at the beginning of every line because since the title is called lament, the word lament may fit before the words ‘for’ and ‘the’. This creates an imaginary line that goes ‘Lament for the…’ in every line. The poet has not included the word ‘lament’ before the ‘for’ and ‘the’ to possibly not irritate the reader, making him/her annoyed. This will interrupt the mood in the poem; therefore the poet may have not included ‘Lament’ in every line.

    The metaphors used in this poem are gloomy but shocking, creating a depressing and melancholic atmosphere in this poem. For example, the line ‘the dugong-missile’s thunder’ the poet used ‘thunder’ instead of ‘noise’ or ‘sound’. This metaphor creates a strong, bold and surprising effect in the line with the word ‘thunder’. The missile hasn’t literally stricken dumb the whale with thunder of the missile, so why would the poet use ‘thunder’? One might suggest that the thunder was a representation of the intensity and mass amount of sound of the explosion the missile made; hence struck the whale dumb by it.

    Alliteration is not frequently used through the poem, but is used to represent her ideals of peace and hope. For example, the line ‘the dugong-missile’s thunder’ contains 3 words that start with the letter ‘D’. Considering that this is not coincidental, the poet may have done this to create a sound that is very strong and tough, similar to war or fighting by the “d-“sound.

    1. You write about the use of language really well Arisa, and I thank you for sharing your ideas about the title of the poem in such detail, as I have never thought about it before. You have identified all of the main language literary devices, which is great – but try to discuss the themes of the poem first, then support you ideas by analysing the language, otherwise we might forget what the poet is trying to convey.

  7. Lament

    Explore the way in which Clarke has used language and other poetic devices in ‘Lament’ to convey her ideas.

    Gillian Clark who wrote the ‘Lament’ uses ‘For’ and ‘The’ which are examples of anaphora in this poem. The word ‘For’ and ‘The’ give us specific images which is happening in the world right now. Also, Gillian Clark explains and gives meaning in each stanza and line, that reader can actually feel the sadness and pain by reading the poem ‘Lament.’
    The first stanza, in line one poet use turtle, suggesting that the animals are the ultimate victims. Also, by saying ‘pulsing burden’ it gives us images of the new life from eggs. Next line ‘in search of the breeding ground’ presents that mother turtle is looking for safety place to lay her eggs The line three ‘nest of sickness’ explains that chain of life for animal was actually broken which means there are no safe places to breed.

    Also, in stanza two, first line ‘For the cormorant in his funeral silk’ presents that the problem that has actually broken the spirit of the animal which is oil, because first line gives images that is covering cormorant. In the stanza two in first line, the word ‘funeral silk’ is the metaphor of oil. The line two in stanza two which it says ‘the veil of iridescence on the sand’ explains to us that there is thin layer of the oil on the sand. Also, next line ‘the shadow on the sea’ gives us images of dark, black, deep, depression, and monster.
    In the stanza three, first line presents ocean is covered with death. The line which says ‘For Ahmed at the closed border,’ suggests refugees. . A poet tries to use common name to mention a lot of people at once, symbolizing the common man. In the last line by saying uniform of fire, poet gives us images of burnt alive and pain.
    In the end of the stanza poet’s goes onto a bigger scale, Earth. In the next line she gives us idea of revenge and oil explodes. And finally she gives and explores her arguments and conflict.

    1. Thank you Vicky for your contribution. You have identified meaning of some of the images and have tried to comment on the language features with skill. For future reference, it might be easier to write about what the poet is saying-the message-FIRST, then analyse the imagery etc.

  8. Gllian Clarke’s poem ‘Lament’ draws upon the themes of a destruction caused by humans. The poem has a background of a Gulf War; Clarke illustrates this based on oil spill causing colossal damage towards nature and animals (destruction by humans). She also uses different types of literature devices, contrasting the sense of depression of the oil spill in the ocean. In the poem line 6 she uses the imagery of “the shadow on the sea” which used to emphasize a strong sense of depression and the darkness of oil spill. The poem also mentions a product “silk” which symbolizes the beauty of Iraq, with what once made this land charming was stripped away by the unfortunate effects of war. In addition it seems like Clarke dedicates this writing to both sides of war, between human and the animals. I believe the title plays an important role in this poem, “Lament” giving a sense of giving a wakeup call to everyone around the world denoting the desire to stop the damage given to every aspect of life.

    1. Daniel this is really an interesting response, and is perhaps your best to date because you have striked a balance between the poet’s message and the literary (not literature) devices employed by the poet. Despite it being short, I think there is a good deal of potential. I must confess, though, I am not entirely conviced about the veil representing the past beauty of Iraq …or Kuwait, for that matter-but it is an interesting idea.

  9. In Clarke’s poem, ‘Lament’, she uses language to describe the pain of the animals and people caused by the Gulf War. The animals are being caught in the oil and then are covered. The animals then suffocate and die as she writes ‘the veil’, which is a piece of clothing that covers your faces; this symbolizes the animals covered in oil. The poet writes about birds, mammals and reptiles, showing how the oil affects all animals. She writes about a few roles of people in war, such as gunsmiths and armourers, portraying how war affects all the people. She describes the military uniform as ‘uniform of fire’. This portrays helpless soldiers who are ordered and forced to fight and wreak havoc on the enemy. Clarke’s ‘Lament’ is about mourning for all the animals and people suffering. She uses a typical Middle Eastern name, Ahmed, to symbolise all the innocent refugees. Gillian Clarke’s poem, ‘Lament’, draws upon the themes of oil staining the land and sea creatures. Where a cormorant is wearing his ‘funeral silk’; thus representing the oil’s colour and the oil’s way of murdering the cormorant. Another theme is about whales; she writes ‘the whale struck dumb by the missile’s thunder’, which are harmed by the missiles, with which the sound changes their sense of direction and they become beached. She writes of ‘the slow dying’ conjuring images of tedious, painful deaths of animals and people. Clarke uses personification while writing ‘the stink of anger’, which conjures up images of conflicts and greed between countries-symbolising human greed and anger-making the pungent smell of war. She also writes about the vengeance of the countries, providing an example of how vengeance affects all the people in the country. The poet writes ‘nest of sickness’ while writing about turtles; to show how much pollution there is and how it affects organisms, showing how huge human impacts are on the environment. Also in reference to turtles, Clarke writes ‘in search of the breeding ground’; this conjures images of difficult adventures looking for a suitable place to lay her eggs so her babies are healthy. Clarke uses alliteration to symbolizes death and danger, using the ‘d’ sound. Every single theme comes together to mean the same thing. Humans have damaged the environment which damages animals and people.

    1. Wow, Cara lots of ideas -you probably wrote about the whole poem here. You certainly have an excellent understanding of the poem as indicated by your detailed response. Try not overuse ‘çonjures up’ ánd perhaps see if you can structure your next one in paragraphs? Thank you for your detailed response.

  10. The poet, Gillian Clarke, of the poem ‘Lament’ talks about how people are destroying nature and need to put a stop to it. The poem addresses on issues like refugees, arguments, animal casualties, man-made environmental disasters and soldiers from different cultures. In the poem every line starts with word ‘For’, which suggests that there is another word before word ‘For’ and it is ‘Lament’. This means that the poet feels sorrow about what happens to planet Earth and how we, people, are destroying planet Earth bit by bit. Gillian Clarke also gives us different examples if what we have done and how planet Earth is suffering from this. “For the cormorant in his funeral silk” is an example of how poor bird is suffering from human desires, like oil. The poet also talks about other disasters that are caused by human but here not only nature is suffers but human civilization, too. “For the gunsmith and the armourer, the boy fusilier who joined for the company, the farmer’s sons, in it for the music.”, which suggests that the disaster is war which probably was caused by disagreement of two or more countries. The poet tries to convince the readers that human race just think only about themselves and care about themselves first and cannot control themselves and eventually everybody and everything will die if we do not put a stop to it or try to stop it. The writer uses a few literary devices like personification, alliteration and metaphor to make a better picture of understanding what actually is happening in this world. She uses a metaphor in the second stanza of the poem “For the cormorant in his funeral silk”, which makes a picture of a bird being all in this black shiny substance called oil, which takes away the soul of the bird. Gillian Clarke uses personification in the second last stanza “For the tern, the gull and the restless wader, the long migrations and the slow dying, the veiled sun and the stink of anger.”, which suggests that veiled sun is oil spill and the stink of anger, could be nature being angry at us.

    1. This is truly a great piece of analysis Andrey, and you wrote it at top speed. I like how you not only deal with the poets thoughts, but develop them further by relating them to the stat of the world. You also keep very close to the language of the poem as well, making interesting comments about the use of language.

  11. Clarke’s “Lament” is about how oil spills and pollution affects the lives of different animals. The poet also talks about the wars that occur in the Middle East, which affects the lives of ordinary citizens that use to live there. In the first stanza of the poem, the poet describes how oil spills are affecting the life of sea turtle, by using words like “pulsing burden” and “nest of sickness.” In the second stanza the poet said “the veil of iridescence on the sand.” The poet is saying that there is black shining oil covering the sand like a veil. In the next line, “the shadow on the seas,” the poet uses the word “shadow” which represents the reflection of the pollution; the word also gives a sense of darkness which gives the reader an image of haunted sea. The poet starts the beginning of most lines with “For…” to show her pity for the animals and people who became affected by the war. The poem is written with a sad, pity tone, it is a poem that tells the readers how the poet feels toward the pollution that is damaging to mother nature.

    1. Clearly written Anna, and shows you understanding of the poem. I especially like how you are beginning to use enclosed quotations in your sentences when analysing poetry. Although a comparitively short response, you have expressed yourself well here.

  12. In Gillian Clarke’s poem ‘Lament’, she talks about the Gulf War and the large oil spills that occurred which took the lives of many animals. In the first stanza, she uses the word ‘pulsing burden’ to describe an innocent green turtle that is looking for a safe place to lay her eggs in the sand covered by oil. She also mentions ‘nest of sickness’, which gives a strong emotion of sadness and anger, the anger of humans injuring the innocent animals who have no idea of what oil is. In the second stanza she talks about the beautiful black cormorant looking for a safe place to stay and being taken into the black oil to give up its life forever. The poet uses words such as ‘funeral silk’ which describes the blackness of the sea and adds the words ‘veil’ and ‘shadow on the sea’ which describes it like a black hole; once you are in, you can’t get out. These words add together like a puzzle because a veil is a material that covers something like a face, and in the poem the veil is the oil. Clarke uses the word ‘For’ often to describe her feelings for anything happening, for example: ‘For Ahmed at the closed border’. “Ahmed” is used to describe a common Middle Eastern man, and could be a refugee. Clarke uses a very effective line by saying ‘For the soldier in his uniform of fire’, which portrays an image of war, of a soldier burnt by a bomb or exploding a bomb. In the fourth stanza the poet mentions ‘…the boy fusilier who joined for the company, the farmer’s sons, in it for the music.’ The poet tells us that a young man joined the war in the music band. We feel sympathy for the young man because he is involved in the Gulf War for something we commonly associate with enjoyment but is not the case. As she gets to the end of the poem, she mentions ‘and the slow dying’ which gives us a devastating image of poor, innocent animals falling for the trap of mother nature’s enemy and never being able to get out. She ends the poem by saying ‘the veiled sun and the stink of anger’. When the sun is setting in a very polluted area, it is a beautiful orange color with an oval shape. It is beautiful but also has a hidden meaning: that the pollution gives the beauty and shows how we are damaging the Earth slowly.

    1. Lovely piece of analysis Celeste as you really capture the mood of the poem whilst simultaneously commenting on the impact it has on the reader. All you need to do is see if you can find a literary device employed by Clarke, and that would mean you have dealt with the language explicitly. What I also admire about this piece is that you wrote it fairly quickly.

  13. Explore the ways in which Gillian Clarke has used language and other poetic devices in ‘Lament’.

    Clarke’s ‘Lament’ is about the expression of sorrow or regret towards the Middle East (Gulf) wars that destroyed the environment and burning oil wells. Clarke starts the poem off by describing how the faunas in the war areas were affected. ‘In search of the breeding ground’ suggests that the natural cycle of the green turtles have been broken, and now they are struggling to look for a new breeding and the place to lay their eggs. The poet also explores how the land or sea was affected by ‘For her eggs laid in their nest of sickness’ suggesting that the eggs the turtles laid their eggs were nested on polluted land. ‘For the cormorant in his funeral silk’ conveys the message that the birds are jumping into oiled seas, killing the bird. In this line ‘funeral silk’ suggests that the cormorants are jumping into their grave without knowing it. In the next line ‘the veil of iridescence on the sand’ suggests that the sea the cormorant got tricked by is only good looking on the outside as the oil makes the sea look unusually shiny and pretty, but actually bad and dangerous in the inside substances. This is because ‘veil’ means covering something; it can also mean clothing that you can use to hide your inner self.

    After the line ‘For the ocean’s lap with its mortal stain’ Clarke stops talking about nature and the effects, and she starts to talk about human catastrophes too. For example, the line ‘For Ahmed at the closed border’ suggests the pain of civilians in this war. Ahmed is a common Middle Eastern name which makes us think that Ahmed is not a soldier gone to war, but a citizen. By ‘closed border’ we know he is locked in the country; even though he wants to get out of the country he is not capable of getting out of the country. In the line ‘For the soldier in his uniform of fire’ conveys the message that soldiers fighting in war also got hurt and the ‘uniform of fire’ suggests that this soldier is on fire because of the war and we can feel the pain with him. The poet purposely uses the word ‘uniform’ because it gives us a feeling of order, which gives us a feeling that he is a person who is in a high rank in (war) society. Clarke uses the line ‘For the gunsmith and the armourer’ in order to describe people that work for war. We can see that the poet describes the people according to their jobs and we can also sense that they were dragged in to war because of their job. In this line it also gives us a feeling of contrast by using two very different jobs ‘gunsmith’ (attack) and ‘armourer’ (protection). In the line ‘the farmer’s sons, in it for the music’ suggests that even people that have nothing to do with war are forced into war and feels out of home and because of this he feels sad. ‘for the music’ in the same line means that there are different people having different roles in war.

    From this poem the reader can understand the effects of war; to both man and nature. The poet makes us think about this by using languages that has hidden meanings behind it. By ‘ashes of language’ people can understand that if war keeps up the world will turn into nothing but empty ashes. Left with regret and anger people will become hopeless.

    1. This is fantastic Nick, and I really admire the contrast you explored between nature and man (and I really like the ‘gunsmith’ and the ‘armourer” analysis.) Your response is sophisticated as you capture the mood of the poem and you provide a sensitive analysis of the imagery used by the poet. Well done.

  14. In Clarke’s poem ‘Lament’, Clarke uses many words that reminds us of pain, war, and death. For example in stanza four, she gives us the presence of war and how it is worrying everybody in the world. Also in stanza three, Clarke writes ‘For the soldier in his uniform of fire’. This portrays an image that there is destruction everywhere and there is war. In the poem, Clarke also writes about the environmental problems that will occur when there are oil spills. The poet refers the oil spills as ‘sickness’, ‘mortal stain’ and ‘veiled’. This is because oil spills sets a problem around the world to all the sea creatures around the world. She writes it as ‘stink of anger’, a form of personification. These oil spills are slowly killing many sea creatures such as the cormorant mentioned in stanza two. She writes how it is the ‘veil of iridescence on the sand’. She also refers it to the shadow of the sea. Also in stanza one, Clarke mentions that oil spills will be a burden to all creatures like the green turtle, for their breeding ground, and how it will be difficult for creatures to lay their eggs because of the sickness, referred to the oil spills. Clarke writes how after all this conflict and disasters, there will be nothing left in this world. The whole world will be at war, searching for revenge, vengeance and the world will be at flames, as well as the ocean, from the mess of the oil spills. In general, Clarke is telling us that the world is burning in flames and the only way to stop it is mankind changes the way of living.

    1. You have the right idea Se-One, though you need to keep with the poem. Towards the end you make a whole lot of generalisations which are not supported with evidence from the poem. Also when you mention a language feature like personification, which you identified very well, you need to discuss the ways (specific ways) on the impact/effect on the reader.

  15. The poem, “Lament” has 3 lines in each stanza and she uses “For” on the beginning of most of the lines which represents, what poet is regretting at. Clarke’s ‘Lament’ is about environmental impact after the Gulf War. Gillian Clarke expresses her feelings after watching how the war brought negative affect on environment as the result of pollution. In the beginning of the poem, the poet mentions some animals that suffered such as the ‘cormorant’, a seagull bird which was searching for a breeding ground and landed on a lake of oil. “For the cormorant in his funeral silk” tell us that the bird is covered with oil and is dead. The poet also describes oil as the “shadow on the sea” on line 6 which gives a feeling of darkness and harmful object that bring death to all living organisms. For stanza 3 and 4, the poet mentions the reason of why there is such a huge damage on the environment, ‘War’. In stanza 5, poet mentions, “the boy fusilier who joined for the company, the farmer’s sons, in it for the music.” This part has a tone of a criticism towards the war. It’s because many innocent people died but it contains another meaning which is war brings a humongous damage to environment. Then the writer describes several more animals that suffered after the Gulf War, “For the hook-beaked turtles, the dugong and the dolphin, the whale struck dumb by the missile’s thunder.” She uses alliteration in “the dugong and the dolphin”. The poet then conveys the sense of deep struggle of animals such as in line 17 with “the long migrations and the slow dying”. At the end of the poem, the last stanza, “For vengeance, and the ashes of language” has a meaning that war is useless, and there is nothing gained after the war except, regret and sorrow.

    1. This is quite good Tom as you demonstrate a terrific understanding of the poem, and your paragraph also shows how you are increasingly able to analyse and write about poetry with skill.

  16. Clarke poem ‘Lament’ is about a formal expression of sorrow or mourning especially in a song, elegy, or dirge. A dirge is a funeral song or one expressing the commemoration of the dead. It is mainly explaining the issues in the Gulf War, where America used it as a cover to expand American territory and get oil. The poet uses many poetic devices like personification, for example “the stink of anger”. She also uses repetition of “for” to emphasize that this poem is a lament, dedicated to those who were hurt, suffered and died. Also, she uses alliteration, “dugong and the dolphins”, to make the poem flow better. For a major part of the poem, she speaks about animals, the greatest casualty of the war, are being harmed when they get trapped in the oil spills, or hurt by military, like the whale which was, “struck dumb by the missile’s thunder”. She also talks about a sea turtle who, with her “pulsing burden”, the eggs which she is trying to hatch. She obviously cannot find a spot to lay her eggs, as the beach covered with “sickness”, with the oil covering the entire beach. Seabirds and how they are affected by this is also mentioned. The “tern, the gull, and the restless wader” have all been affected by the oil. The cormorant in its “funeral silk are like its death sentence, like the Christian funeral attire of black, because the oil, also being black shows.

    Oil spills are a major part of this poem. She first speaks about in when she talks about the sunset being “veiled”, or blocked by the calumnious clouds of smoke, created by the burning oil, spilled by the warfare. Beautiful sunsets are also created by humans polluting the air with smoke, causing the orangy, tangy feeling. Also, a visual picture of the oil being spilled can be visualized in your brain when she says, the shadow on the sea” and the ocean’s “mortal stain”. The “mortal stain” could refer to the oil spill, but it could also mean something worse; the spilt blood from the animals, caught in the oil spill, and died. The “scaled ocean” and “blazing well”, the oil rig further shows how the burning oil rig is burning the ocean. The poet also uses contrasting imagery to show the war can involve anyone from a “gunsmith” who makes weapons for a war to an “armorer”, who makes protection, making peace. The last sentence shows how the “ashes”, the charred remains of the many languages lost to war because of the people killed in the war. It could also convey the feeling of hurt, from the wounding words exchanged with the enemy in the war. Many people think they are really powerful, being able to help the world, but the damage of is war equally powerful, affecting all that is living around it.

    1. Over all this is a fantastic piece of writing Clarence as you delve into the contrasts subtely inherent in this poem. You still need to work on your introductory sentences – usually you should applied the terms of the question, or, keep it simple by introducing the poet and the title of the poem. Other than that, I think this anaylsis shows your skill as writer.

  17. In the poem ‘Lament’, Clarke expresses her ideas of sadness caused by the war in a very direct and touching way. The poet uses the ‘Gulf war’ as her inspiration for writing the poem, and in most of it she uses imagery of nature and humans to represent the victims of the war, thereby conveying some enthusiasm on the reader. Clarke makes use of different metaphors to represent the meaning of “oil”, which clarifies what has caused the most damage in this situation. Furthermore, the whole poem is written in the tercet form; all her ideas are written in three lines per stanza.

    Clarke first illustrates how the nature is never involved in the beginning of this kind of situation but in the end it is the one getting more affected. In the first stanza, we are told about a ‘green turtle’ searching for a place to lay her eggs, but her difficulty is finding the right place where the life of the baby turtles will not be limited. This stanza conveys to the readers fear of losing our own homes; if we lose this main shelter, the family bonds may get destroyed as well.

    In the third stanza, Clarke decides to show how humans get affected, and she approaches this by using a very common name that will symbolize everyone else, Ahmed. Ahmed represents all the refugees that are trying to escape from the war, and here is when the poet transmits the feelings/thoughts of the humans that are going through pain and that are searching for freedom. The poet then decides to close this stanza by stating a very strong line: “For the soldier in his uniform of fire”; which in my opinion transmits a strong image and heartrending emotion towards the reader. While reading this line it is very easy to imagine hundreds of people being forced to fight and ending up being surrounded or covered by fire. These unfair decisions break everyone’s heart.

    “The long migrations and the slow dying” is the second line of the sixth stanza, where Clarke goes back to mentioning about the animals. This line goes back again to the same idea she had that is based in humans, the refugees trying to escape. The long migrations means that the birds, no matter how hard they are trying to fly away, are having difficulty to achieve that goal due to the trials nature is going through. ‘The slow dying’ refers to all those animals that got injured but did not completely heal or die at the moment; they are all going through massive pain. ‘Dying’ is a very strong and scary word for some, which here reinforces and reveals the real meaning of what occurs in a war.

    Throughout the whole poem, Clarke writes metaphors for ‘oil’-“mortal stain”, “funeral silk”,” stink of anger”, to accuse oil as the responsible thing for all the damage caused. The tone the poem contains is quite strong but containing sadness at the same time, and the language and imagery that Clarke uses reminds the readers what the meaning and consequences of war is. The message behind this poem really sticks in the readers mind.

  18. A lovely response Abby, as you move through the whole poem, commenting on the imagery, the language features employed and often the effect it has on the reader. I especially like how you explored the tone of the poem. It is exceptionally detailed and well structured, and reflects the developing maturity in your writing. Well done.

  19. this was not very helpful. you know why?? there is nothing about the stucture of the poem, and i spent a freaking hour reading everyones comments. grrrr i dont know about the stucture. help!

    1. Sorry that you found it unhelpful. There is no specific structure to the poem, in that it doesnt follow a particular style. But I would consider looking up Elegy, and comment upon the repetition of the lines ‘For the…’

  20. these were very good comments on the poem .i li9ke the way the writers carefulkly analyse the poem and show all the alliterations ands types of speeches.thank you this really helped

  21. Sitting in front of her television set, watching the images of the gulf war, Gillian Clarke was horrified by what she saw. She was angered by the futility of war and saddened by the amount of life it took – animal and human. She considered war to be an act of immaturity, one that benefited no one and destroyed all. All of these thoughts are reflected in the poem “Lament”.
    The poem is composed of seven triplets with no evident rhyme scheme. Each triplet seems to focus on a different aspect of war. They are similar in the fact that they all point towards the futility of war and the destructive toll it takes on the environment. Nearly every line in this poem begins with the words “for the”. This anaphora makes the poem seem like a plea; a plea to end the war. The entire poem is saturated with apocalyptic imagery.
    Clarke, first, illustrates the effect of war on nature and the local animal population. She speaks of a pregnant turtle, desperately searching for a nesting ground.
    “For her eggs laid in their nest of sickness”. It is sad and disturbing to imagine that young, new life must be born into this hell. But the plight of the cormorant is no better. The thousands of gallons of oil split during the gulf was have taken their toll on him, for the cormorant now lies covered in a thick, black layer of oil. The words “funeral silk” take on a double meaning here. Even the mighty whale is not spared from the wrath of the war. He is “struck dumb by the missiles thunder”. Nothing survives the deadly weapons man has manufactures. Even the seemingly immortal ocean now has a “mortal stain”. The mortal stain here once again refers to the oil, that blanketed the entire region.
    “For Ahmed at the closed border”. The reason Clarke uses the name Ahmed is because the reader connects this name to the common man of and this evokes pity and sympathy. The “closed border” may be interpreted as a metaphor for the plight of the average man; Ahmed. He is trapped by war. Old, rich men declare war but it is the poor, young man who must suffer the consequences of that decision.
    The futile nature of war is brought out by the words ” for the gunsmith and the armorer”. What is the point of war if we create weapons to kill one another and then create armor to protect ourselves against the very weapons we created in the first place? Like so many others, the “farmers sons” and the “boy fusilier” have been brainwashed into enrolling. They have no idea what lies ahead of them. The war has pulled in young generations and ruined their lives.
    The mood in the poem gradually changes from an initial sense of pity and despair to anger and frustration towards the end of the poem. No words better communicate this sense of frustration than the words”stink of anger”. War is basically an act of anger, and it is this same anger whose odor envelopes the battlefield. What is perhaps the saddest thought of all is that all this destruction has stemmed from the “ashes of language” and the breakdown of diplomacy. This is a testament to the immaturity of war and violence. It is not an act of honor or valor. It is nothing more than a despicable act of vengeance.

  22. Question: Comment on the title of the poem and state how it is related to the poem.
    Answer : The poem Lament, by Gillian Clarke, describes the aftermath of an uncalled for and brutal war. The war had devastated the habitat of many species who were not even involved in the combat. The title of the poem , lament , means to grieve or bemoan, which is exactly what Clarke does in each stanza.
    In the first stanza the poet laments for the burden on the turtle caused by the war. ok ef it!

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