The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“Wildpeace” is a free-verse denunciation of war in elegiac mode. It is one of several poems pleading for peace by a poet who fought in two major wars and survived a bloody century. His fate was to always be in the location of some of the most violent conflicts. Though “Wildpeace” is one of Yehuda Amichai’s shorter poems, it is direct and pungent.

The poem is divided into two stanzas; the first has eighteen lines, and the second, no more than a coda, which reiterates and punctuates the larger statement, has only four. Without any tricks of rhyme or confining meter, impact is achieved by graceful rhythms. Some are the simple cadences of everyday life, while others echo stately pronouncements from antiquity. Likewise, words and images of both secular diplomats and holy prophets intermingle.

The poet’s cynicism is clear but never harsh. He distrusts the usual mechanics of peace: cease-fires that are often broken before the ink on peace documents is dried; the grand visions of ancient prophets whose knowledge cannot possibly encompass the modern apparatus of warfare; the platitudes of duplicitous statesmen. Eloquent words from Scripture about beating swords into plowshares are often quoted, even while a perverse society sends a message to the young, still in their playpens, that it is manly and commendable to murder for one’s country.

While Amichai has little use for the platitudes and clichés of the official peacemakers, and no faith in their lasting success, he still expresses the wistful hope that eventually the world will be exhausted with carnage and nauseated by the endless parade of orphans all wars leave behind, orphans who provide an unbroken line of desolation from antiquity into the modern age. At that time, finally, on fields formerly saturated with blood, peace may descend like the unpremeditated wildflowers of the field, which no one plants or tends. While the poet’s experiences in battle may have exhausted him, they have not yet led him to abandon hope. The life force that runs through nature may succeed where the words of prophets, messiahs, poets, diplomats, and statesmen have failed.