In “Here” by R.S. Thomas, the style is very direct and stark. The speaker is a young man who is fighting for a cause that he used to think was just. He has come to maturity, both physically and mentally. He realizes he no longer feels what he is fighting for is just.
In the first stanza, the speaker directs us to the fact that he is a man, and underneath his brow is “the place where the brains grow” (line 3). As with the rest of the poem, this stanza is both direct and metaphorical. The brains in his dead represent his realization of his situation.
In the second stanza, the speaker uses a simile to compare himself to a tree. Since most of the poem is devoid of figurative language despite the layers of imagery, this simile is critical.
I am like a tree,
From my top boughs I can see
The footprints that led up to me. (lines 4-6)
By using the simile of the tree and the metaphor of the footprints, the speaker is recognizing that he is the beneficiary of others’ wisdom. He follows in the footsteps of others who came before him. As we will see, he is beginning to doubt this wisdom. In the third stanza, he comments that he has lived well because he has not contracted the sexual diseases other soldiers have.
Why, then, are my hands red
With the blood of so many dead?
Is this where I was misled? (lines 10-12)
Although there is a consistent rhyme scheme throughout the poem, its simplicity lends itself to the meaning. Each stanza has three rhyming lines, and as this stanza shows, this leads to the rhythmic heartbeat of the poem.
At this point, the speaker is doubting not just his patriotism but his faith. He asks “Does God not hear me when I pray” (line 15) because he does not seem to see an end to his situation. In the end, he determines that there is nothing he can do but “stay” with the “hurt,” and the poem ends with a sense of resignation.