What is the summary of the poem "No Men are Foreign" by James Kirkup?

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The poem details why it is wrong to hate others based on differences such as race, culture, or geography. The speaker goes through points of how all people are similar and part of the brotherhood of man. By the poem's end, the speaker mentions war and how unnatural it is because it is fighting against ourselves.


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Kirkup's 1966 poem "No Men are Foreign" focuses on the commonalities between all people. The poem's speaker states of foreigners:

They, too, aware of sun and air and water,

Are fed by peaceful harvests, by war’s long winter starv’d.

We are all united, the poet says, by sharing the same planet, as well as by work, by sleep, and by love. The speaker does not identify himself with any nationality, tribe, or group: he could be anyone from anywhere reaching out to fellow humans and expressing what we all share. This may reflect the fact that Kirkup, although English, did live in various parts of the world, including Asia and America.

The poem becomes an expression of anti-war sentiment as it states:

whenever we are told

To hate our brothers, it is ourselves

That we shall dispossess, betray, condemn.

When Kirkup ends the poem with the line:

no men are foreign, and no countries strange

he echoes John Donne's idea that "no man is an island." We are all one, bonded together in a common humanity.

Today we would most likely use the word human or humankind instead of "man" or "men" (also, we tend to call people from other parts of the world not foreigners, but internationals), but Kirkup means to include all genders in his poem. His simple, straightforward language makes a clear point: since we are all one, we should try to get along.

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In this poem, the speaker argues that people and countries are all fundamentally the same. No person is really strange and no countries are so different. We all breathe the same air and walk the same earth, and we will all be buried in that one earth we share. All people experience the sun, eat the food the earth provides, suffer in the winter or during war. We all do the same kinds of work. We all have eyes, we sleep and we awaken, and we all love.

Every country shares a "common life" that we all recognize and understand. We should not hate one another because the "other" is truly ourselves. When we lash out against others, we hurt ourselves. When...

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