How does Gillian Clake make the reader sympathise with the suffering in "Lament"?

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accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Clearly the major wa in which this occurs is through the painting of very strong and stark visual images that help to convey the suffering that has been created thanks to the war. Let us remember that this poem is written about the Gulf War of 1991 and the subsequent damage caused to all aspects of life. One of the things that Clarke is trying to stress and show is that war affects the environment just as much as it does people, and each stanza serves to powerfully reinforce this by creating unforgettable images of nature suffering thanks to the chaos of war waged by man. Let us examine the following example:

For the cormorant in his funeral silk,

the veil of iridescence on the sand,

the shadow on the sea.

Note how reference is made to the pollution of oil in the ocean, and how it forms a "veil of iridescence" on the sand, capturing the beauty of oil and the many colours it produces, yet combining it with the "veil" of death it has created for the cormorant and so many other examples of nature. The poem refers to several other casualties of nature thanks to the war, and also human casualties as well, but perhaps it is the final stanza that presents the starkest image of what is really being lost:

For the burnt earth and the sun put out,

the scalded ocean and the blazing well.

For vengeance, and the ashes of language.

The strong images of how the earth itself is "burnt" by the momentous and tragic events of war and the ocean is "scalded" draw our attention to the wider cost of the conflict. The terrific final line itself represents a lament of how war and the way that truth is sacrificed to justify it results in a situation where "language" itself is burnt, leaving nothing but "ashes" that are used to form half-truths to justify such desolation.