Isaac Rosenberg: “Returning We Hear the Larks”. What Ideas + Attitudes About War Does He Express in the Poem? Hoe Is He Using Language, Form and Structure to Express Those Ideas Effectively?

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Date Submitted: 11/03/2014 02:14 PM

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In “Returning We Hear The Larks”, Rosenberg uses sound and music to represent hope and joy, though there is little of it. What he does very cleverly is adding a sinister twist to all of the seemingly hopeful metaphors, including the song of the lark. In the last stanza he talks of “a blind man’s dreams on the sand”, which could easily be suggesting that the men are blind to the reality of war, and they’re expecting it to be a “dream”, like an adventure. But as Rosenberg goes on to describe, they are “by dangerous tides”, and a man without sight is at great risk. This could again relate to the dangers that the propaganda avoided, and the soldiers are unprepared for such threats. The last two lines are also a very interesting way of hinting at the hidden pitfalls of war, again involving dreams with “no ruin”, as there may be in warfare. But the final line concludes that she also dreams of “her kisses where a serpent hides”, connoting the lurking danger behind something beautiful and fragile - the unexpected anguish. The biggest reflection of the unexpected anguish is in the lark song, as the soldiers find a “strange joy” and optimism in the “unseen larks” song. However, there are also two sides to this. The lark sings both to attract a mate, which is another romantic and beautiful element in the poem, but it also ‘sings’ as an alarm call to fend off predators. In this sense, the word “unseen” becomes more relevant, as the soldiers don’t know why the lark is singing, but it brings happiness nevertheless. This links to the metaphors later on in the poem as they are again blinded to the (possible) reality of the lark-song - it could be an uncovered danger, or symbolize that death may be imminent, and the lark is almost prophetic. 

Sassoon described Isaac as a ‘sculptor’ and an ‘artist’ as he was able to illustrate his thoughts so eloquently, and this is shown so fluently here in this poem. The rhythm is plodding, reflecting the exhausted soldiers (“Dragging these...