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The poem entitled "Laments," by Gillian Clarke refers to the horror of war.
To best understand the relevance of the title, it is important to know the meaning of the word "lament."
Dictionary.com defines "lament" (used as a noun) as:
a formal expression of sorrow or mourning, especially in verse or song
Gillian Clarke wrote this poem after viewing pictures posted by photographers of the Gulf War in 1991. The images of war showed not only the impact of war on the land and the people, but also on the environment. The poem starts with...
the very foundations of earth, nature (including the oceans and the animals), progressing to human beings (the soldiers and the natives who have joined the war effort).
The sense of "lamenting" on Gillian Clarke's part is the mourning for all that/who she sees in the pictures:
"For the ocean's lap with its mortal stain" refers to blood spilled in the ocean.
"For the soldier in his uniform of fire" refers to a soldier who has caught fire.
"For...the ashes of language" refers to the words of peace that might have ended the war, which have been destroyed.
The title, then, is perfectly apt in that the poem revolves around the sorrow Clarke experiences in seeing how drastically life is fragmented and destroyed because of war.
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