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Analysis of Beach Burial

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Beach Burial (Kenneth Slessor)- Analysis Softly and Humbly to the Gulf of Arabs, The convoys of dead sailors come; At night they sway and wander in the waters far under, But morning rolls them in the foam. Between the sob and clubbing of the gunfire Someone, it seems, has time for this, To pluck them from the shallows and bury them in burrows And tread the sand upon their nakedness; And each cross, the driven stake of tidewood, Bears the last signature of men,Written with such perplexity, with such bewildered pity,The words choke as they begin -"Unknown seaman" - the ghostly pencil Wavers and fades, the purple drips, The breath of the wet season has washed their inscriptions As blue as drowned men's lips,Dead seamen, gone in search of the same landfall,Whether as enemies they fought,Or fought with us, or neither ; the sand joins them together,Enlisted on the other front. Although not blatantly obvious at first, Kenneth Slessor's emotive and poignant poem Beach burial is a poem concerned with raising the awareness of national identity. Now I found this hard to believe at first - For me to be able to use this poem, (as it has been my one of my favourites for years)


The sailors are dead and there are lots of them. Slessor's precise words are "convoys of dead sailors", now, a convoy is defined as any group of vehicles travelling together and together is the key word here.All these dead bodys' personified actions and feelings are the same. Using muted adjectives "softly" and "humbly" Slessor elucidates how reluctantly but obediently they all come to shore, giving up their contented dawdling of the night before that is depicted through imagery in the line "At night they sway and wander in the waters far under". In the sea they are happy because they have their freedom and are far away from the harsh reality of war on the land. As soon as the bodies come on the land the verbs become rougher and impersonal "rolls" and "tread"..the personification of the bodies stops as soon as they are on land - now the bodies are inanimate objects.Slessor relies on imagery to depict the scene on the beach. From the line "between the sob and clubbing of the gunfire" because the gunfire is described as heavy and muffled the reader deduces that the battle is not on the beach but not too far away.When we think of sobbing, we think of a heavy muffled noise but there is also the connotation of some one crying.


The bodies were floating alongside enemies and allies, yet from the beginning of the poem Slessor made them all equal in death. As I pointed out earlier this can be seen in his reference to the dead sailors as convoys; groups of dead men that were travelling together with the same personified feelings and actions. World War 2 was, is in its simplest form, one nation against another nation, fighting for land, fighting to increase their national identity.For the expansion of their own national identity, humans were willing to kill other human beings. Just because of different national identities, the soldiers treated the enemy inhumanely."the sand joins them together, Enlisted on the other front" The land for which they fought, joins them together in death, the reference to 'enlisted on the other front is an eloquent metaphor for the sailors deaths. They are now enlisted into the world of the dead, just as they enlisted to join the navy. It is ironic that these men, so proud and patriotic of their national identity, have lost not only the record of which country they were serving but also their own identity. Websites http://ncowi ">... ">... http://www.123help ">... http://www.megaess ">... http ">... ">... http: ">... http://www.dire ">... ">... Books- (El Alamein) RETRO active 2- second Edition (Stage 5 Australian History) by Maureen Anderson, Anne Low, Jeffrey Conroy and Ian Keese.-(

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