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.)

Forms and Devices

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

In Of Poetry and Poets (1979), a book of lectures, essays, and interviews, Eberhart defines poetry as “a confrontation of the whole being with reality.” The soul, the mind, and the body struggle to comprehend life. Aerial bombardment brings untimely and terrible death. The poem is philosophical in its questioning, and the terrible meaning of humanity’s failure to live in harmony and peace is revealed through intricate manipulations of meter and rhyme.

Stanza 1 begins with a subjunctive enjambed line that carries through to a caesura after the third foot of the second line. The pause is preceded by the internal rhyming of “relent” in line 2 with “bombardment” in line 1. This pattern is repeated in line 3, where “silent” rhymes with “is meant” at the end of line 4.

Stanza 2 mirrors the pattern of stanza 1. It employs the subjunctive “would feel” in line 1, which matches the “would give” conditional in line 2. Again, a pause comes after “repent” in the middle of the second line. The verb “to repent” stresses humanity’s evil in causing mass destruction. The grammatical construction of the poetic lines emphasizes this and causes a further contemplation of humanity’s will to kill. Yet war fails to move God so that He “would give man to repent.” The first two stanzas establish the problem, “aerial bombardment,” and examine its cause. They balance each other in masculine and feminine rhymes,...

(The entire section is 405 words.)