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Explain the poem "Lament" by Gillian Clarke.

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pookie365 | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted July 9, 2009 at 7:49 AM via web

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Explain the poem "Lament" by Gillian Clarke.

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lit24 | College Teacher | Valedictorian

Posted July 9, 2009 at 3:29 PM (Answer #1)

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I'm quoting Gillian Clarke's  own explanation of her poem "Lament." This explanation can be found on her website and I have given the web link below.

"‘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, with Britain’s help, bombed Iraq. This war has never really stopped. As we begin a new school year, it still threatens the world.

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. 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 a horrific photograph of a soldier burnt when his tank was bombed. The ashes of language are the death of truth during war."

Ms.Clarke's elegy reveals in minute detail the comprehensive and catastrophic ill effects of the Gulf War. The Gulf War devastates not only the ecology but also the lives of so many people who die in the most gruesome manner for no reason of their own. But the sad truth which the "Lament" highlights is the fact that although it deals in particular with the Gulf War, war as a universal phenomenon  has and is and will continue to be the brutal means by which mankind will settle its problems.

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swimma-logan | Student , College Freshman | Valedictorian

Posted May 25, 2011 at 9:06 PM (Answer #2)

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For Gillian Clarke's poem "Lament," the stanzas shown use imagery and metaphors to describe the realities of what occurred in the Gulf War. (Poetry is very subjective, speaking to different people in different ways. These are my perceptions only.)

"For the ocean's lap with its mortal stain" refers to the blood of those killed that fills the water. (See note below.)

Gillian Clarke comments on her poem in the following lines:

‘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’."For the ocean's lap with its mortal stain" refers to the blood of the dead in the water.

"For Ahmed at the closed border" may simply refer to someone who cannot return home because of the war.

"The soldier in his uniform of fire" brings to mind a soldier who is on fire, perhaps the result of a the crash of a vehicle, or being hit by mortar fire.

"The gunsmith...armourer, The boy fusilier" (soldier who carries a light musket...gun) all refer to those responsible for making the trappings of war, or using them. The poet laments (mourns) for them.

"The farmer's sons, in it for the music" may refer to young men who lived in the country and wanted to be a part of something bigger, drawn perhaps by radios other soldiers carried, or even for the idea that people might sing of their exploits as has been done in the past for soldiers.

"For the burnt earth and the sun put out" could speak to the bombing of the earth that has scorched its surface, and the rising smoke from this that blocks out the sun because it is so thick.

"The scalded ocean and the blazing well" brings to mind the terrible heat from missile fire that destroys wells, and the ocean's surface because Kuwait (where this fighting takes place) rests on the shore of the Kuwait Bay/the Persian Gulf).

The last line refers to vengeance, and the sorrow the poet feels for death caused by a need for it; she also mourse for the loss of language, or the loss of voices to speak the language, perhaps the loss of the opportunity to find words of peace to stop the fighting.

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ellie-y | Student , Grade 10 | Honors

Posted April 11, 2010 at 3:44 AM (Answer #3)

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"Lament", is a poem by Gillian Clarke which discusses the devastating effects of the Gulf War. Clarke strives to inform readers of its effects from many different points of view; nature, the soldier fighting, and the "farmers in it for the music".

Clarke brings us readers into the realization that this war has put out light, and now the sea and sand are covered by a layer of black. The beauty of the arab nation is symbolized by the silk; what once made this land charming was stripped away by the unfortunate effects of war. The birds are now also covered with the layer of oil, symbolizing the weight of oppression and depression nature was left with.

In addition to being an elegy, it is also regarded as an ode, as Clarke dedicated this writing to both sides of the war, both humans and animals, all of which make up the fine elements of nature. "Lament'' is like a wake up call to everyone, reviving people into the reality that the nature in all its forms should not be destroyed due to political differences.

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cooleyes | Student , Undergraduate | eNoter

Posted February 16, 2012 at 11:59 PM (Answer #4)

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"'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, with Britain's help, bombed Iraq. This war has never really stopped. As we begin a new school year, it still threatens the world. 
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. 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 a horrific photograph of a soldier burnt when his tank was bombed. The ashes of language are the death of truth during war." 
Ms.Clarke's elegy reveals in minute detail the comprehensive and catastrophic ill effects of the Gulf War. The Gulf War devastates not only the ecology but also the lives of so many people who die in the most gruesome manner for no reason of their own. But the sad truth which the "Lament" highlights is the fact that although it deals in particular with the Gulf War, war as a universal phenomenon has and is and will continue to be the brutal means by which mankind will settle its problems. 

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, …
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madhurima13 | Student , Grade 10 | Salutatorian

Posted May 28, 2011 at 4:05 PM (Answer #5)

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Here's Gillian Clarke's own explanation of her poem "Lament." This explanation can be found on her website and I have given the web link below. 

Clearly any teacher would know of this so work to process this in your own words. Here's her comments:

"‘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, with Britain’s help, bombed Iraq. This war has never really stopped. As we begin a new school year, it still threatens the world.

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. 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 a horrific photograph of a soldier burnt when his tank was bombed. The ashes of language are the death of truth during war."

Ms.Clarke's elegy reveals in minute detail the comprehensive and catastrophic ill effects of the Gulf War. The Gulf War devastates not only the ecology but also the lives of so many people who die in the most gruesome manner for no reason of their own. But the sad truth which the "Lament" highlights is the fact that although it deals in particular with the Gulf War, war as a universal phenomenon has and is and will continue to be the brutal means by which mankind will settle its problems.

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lnj10 | Student , Grade 9 | Honors

Posted February 27, 2012 at 7:05 AM (Answer #6)

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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.

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catdalton112 | Student , Grade 9 | eNoter

Posted February 7, 2012 at 3:07 AM (Answer #13)

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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

Fusilier-rifleman

Dugong-large aquatic mammal

 

She is sad that the animals are being abused by humans and our rubbish, and the world seems to be rebelling against the animals and hurting them when they're in their own environment. They should be safe when they are in their homes, but the humans are destroying the world around us with pollution and rubbish

 

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watermeloncat | Student , Grade 9 | eNoter

Posted November 25, 2011 at 6:46 AM (Answer #18)

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It's beautiful

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