Analysis of “Aftermath” by Swanson “Aftermath” was written after the war In 1920. While other war poems composed by Swanson, such as “Base Details” and “Wirer’s”, which were written from the point of view of a soldier during war, Swanson sets the readers of “Aftermath” as post-war civilians, and uses many dark images of the battlefield to emphasize the Importance of no forgetting what has happened in the past. From the very beginning of the poem, Swanson demands for the readers’ attention with the rhetorical question: “Have you forgotten yet? Which is italicized with the first rod written in capital letters, which puts even more emphasis on the question. The ellipsis that follows leads to a pause or a caesura that forces the readers’ to stop and contemplate about what the speaker had Just said. The first stanza is mainly focused on the minds of the soldiers at present (post- war). Swanson uses a simile to compare post-war life to the traffic on city roads. “Traffic checked while at the crossing of city-ways” (line 3), which shows that the days have passed busily and repetitively with no big excitement, similar to the cars passing on the busy streets.
However, the war has obviously left Its Imprint on the soldiers’ mentality, as there Is a “haunted gap” (line 4) In the soldiers’ mind, a void that he will have to fill with fluffy light thoughts in order to avoid the painful memories of the past. The capitalization of “Time” (line 6) emphasizes the time wasted on war which accomplished nothing but destroyed the innocence of youth and countless lives. In reality, the soldiers who have survived the war have to now spend more time to fill their minds with things irrelevant in order to recover the traumatizing experience in war.
This contrasts with the fact that the soldiers now eave time and “Joy to spare” (line 6) whereas the dead soldiers did not. Swanson describes the war as a “bloody game” (line 7), a Juxtaposition that shows how the soldiers were being used as pawns, sacrificing their lives all for a “game”. In the last “line of the first stanza, Swanson commands the readers to “look down” (line 9), to show the remembrance and respect associated with the action of looking down and swear to never forget what happened in the past. Images in the second stanza illustrate experiences in the chaotic war zone.
Swanson uses the repetition of the word “remember”, which contrasts with the word forgotten” used in the rhetorical questions, to remind the soldiers of the constant struggles and bad conditions of the battlefield. The conjunction word “and” is used consecutively to show the monotonous and endless exhaustion of the continuous warfare. The unpleasant imagery of rats and “hopeless rain” (line 14) serve as a strong reminder for the readers to remember the past, as the speaker fears that if the lesson from the past Is not learned, history will soon repeat itself.
The third stanza brings In the idea of the unknown chaos of war, where each solider lives by the moment, since each moment could be their last. Swanson brings the soldiers back to the past by the Imagery of “the doomed and haggard faces” (line 18) of their comrades. He is asking us as the readers to imagine the strong emotions AT anger Ana compassion Tanat ten soldiers nave Tell at Tanat moment, Ana to never forget it so it will not happen again.
Swanson also shows what the war has taken away from the young men as he contrasts the “lads who were once keen and kind and gay’ (line 21) to the dying men with “dying eyes and lolling heads” and “ashen-grey masks” (line 20-21). This not only demonstrates the gory and graphic part of the war, UT also represent the lost of individuality of the soldiers, as each of them have the same mask of death. Swanson ends the poem with the command of “look up” (line 23), which is the opposite of the “look down” in line 9.
The action of looking up symbolize the motion of moving forwards, as the speaker hopes that people will remember the past mistakes and move on with life with a brighter future (as indicated by the “green of spring” in line 23). Throughout the poem, Swanson address to the readers as “you”, which establishes a personal connection between the readers and the speakers, as Swanson is speaking erectly to them. The readers are able to take a part in this poem, as the speaker asks many questions that start with “do you remember…? , which involves the readers in Season’s past memories. This makes the images much more realistic for the readers as they can image themselves going through the same thing as the speaker. The repetition of the rhetorical questions throughout the poem sends a strong message to the readers. By asking “Have you forgotten yet? “, Swanson emphasized the need for everyone to remember the most difficult times, so that the sacrifices of the soldiers’ lives will not be wasted.