Themes and Meanings

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 483

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“The Fury of Aerial Bombardment” deals with a single subject—war. The poet’s consciousness of death, seemingly senseless death, is the focus of the poem. The poem is short and compressed. The theme of death is a common one in Eberhart’s poetry, and a number of other poems address the particular issue of war.

The poet claims that “You would think the fury of aerial bombardment/ Would rouse God to relent.” “Rouse” is an interesting word, because it points to God’s indifference and to His design in creating humanity: Did He make humanity stupid? The topic of war and the theme of death are united in the inquiry that takes place. The poet makes it clear that “the infinite spaces are still silent.” Even the sight of “shock-pried faces” fails to move God to relent.

Stanza 2 moves to the world’s beginning. Humankind has possessed the will to kill since the days of Cain. Stanza 3 asks why this is so. All stanzas lead to the final lament, which is a recognition of the waste and futility of war.

This poem is one of a series of poems that deal with death and the senseless destruction of war. They reflect Eberhart’s assignments as a theoretical gunnery instructor in the naval reserve at Pensacola, Florida, and at Dam Neck, Virginia. The last three lines of a poem entitled “Dam Neck, Virginia” reiterate sentiments expressed in “The Fury of Aerial Bombardment”: “The truth of guns is fierce that aims at death./ Of war in the animal sinews let us speak not,/ But of the beautiful disrelation of the spiritual.”

“At the End of War” repeats the theme of death in war. Like “The Fury of Aerial Bombardment,” the poem addresses God, who sees men fight “in blindness and fury,” but in this poem God is asked to “Forgive mankind for its abominable stupidity” and for the “impenetrable fierceness” that God has put into them. Although the poet condemns humanity’s actions, there is recognition of the fact that God made human beings this way. The duality of blaming humanity for its tendency to kill and God for allowing it to happen is also examined in Eberhart’s poem “God and Man.”

Eberhart’s themes are philosophical. He is a man who questions how it is to live fully, to be alive in this world, to be a human. Perceptions and reason are components of the ego, of being and becoming. In order to comprehend existence, given the limitations of humanity’s vision, it is necessary to examine the problems of life. In a 1986 interview in the journal Negative Capability, Eberhart stated: “I am a meliorist, and I judicate between opposite ideas. I don’t accept anyone’s idea as absolute, or I try not to.” This explains Eberhart’s approach to poetry and his questioning stance in “The Fury of Aerial Bombardment.”