The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“The Fury of Aerial Bombardment” is a short poem of four stanzas. Stanza 1 rhymes abba; stanza 2 rhymes bccb, although “centuries” rhymes weakly with furies. Lines 1 and 4 rhyme in stanza 3, and in the final stanza, lines 2 and 4 rhyme. The title of the poem defines its subject—aerial bombardment. It also suggests the author’s attitude toward his topic: moral indignation toward humankind and God.

The first three stanzas employ a persona who refers to himself as “I” in stanza 4. The poem traces Richard Eberhart’s experience as a theoretical gunnery instructor for the United States Navy in 1942. The speaker ventures what “you” or every person who has confronted war thinks and feels about the fury of aerial bombardment.

Stanza 1 uses the subjunctive to point out a discrepancy between what the situation actually is in relation to war and what one would presumably think—that the fury of aerial bombardment “would rouse God to relent.” Eberhart states that “the infinite spaces/ are still silent.” God’s inaction seems incomprehensible. He looks on “shock-pried” faces and does not relent; “History, even, does not know what is meant.” Stanza 2 again uses the subjunctive to point out a condition contrary to fact: “You would feel that after so many centuries/ God would give man to repent.” “Give” here means “cause,” but God has not “caused” humanity’s repentance. Cain was...

(The entire section is 417 words.)