Mametz Wood Analysis by Owen Sheers

This article is an analysis of Mametz Wood by Owen Sheers.

Analysis of the Mametz Wood:

The poem describes the uncovering of the remains of bodies from the Battle of the Somme. The Battle of the Somme was a bloody and brutal battle in the First World War where many young men on all sides lost their lives.

Form:


  • Uniform three-line stanzas
  • Varying line lengths
  • Full stops at end of stanza 1, 3, 4, 6 & 7 indicate a pattern or 1-2-1-2-1

Varying line lengths produce an uneven poem, breaking up the neatness of uniformity, resembling the turning over of the earth by the plough and the disruption to the lives of the soldiers by WW1.

The single stanzas in the poem (stanza 1, 4, 7) represent the earth whilst the stanza pairs (stanzas 2&3, 5&6) represent the soldiers.

Language:


  • For years
  • Now
  • This morning
  • Plain, simple language
  • Language evoking a
  • sense of time

The language is plain and unambiguous which reflects the fact that the unearthing of bodies from the battlefields has become normal.

The references to time in the poem convey how, even after decades, bodies are still being found. There are still literal reminders to WW1 in Mametz Wood and the area provides a lasting memorial to the dead soldiers.

Imagery:


  • China plate of the shoulder blade
  • Relic of a finger
  • Earth stands sentinel
  • Boots that outlasted them
  • Linked arm in arm
  • Dance-macabre
  • Notes they had sung
  • Use of metaphors show the remains to be fragile and precious
  • The earth is personified as being a guard
  • Material objects contrasted with their lives
  • Bodies in a mass grave are united in death
  • Sound images in the final stanza

The ’China’ and ’relic’ metaphor represent the fragility of life. The china plate resembles the shoulder blade and China shares the same brittle qualities as a bone. A relic is a sacred and precious artefact and, in describing the remains this way, Owen Sheers can write with respect without avoiding the brutality of the image.

The earth standing sentinel reflects its permanence whilst contrasting it with the transience of human life. Their boots remaining also reinforces this image. Life is fragile and will end yet material objects and the world will remain. The word 'sentinel’ has been used to emphasise the language of war.

The final images of the soldiers found in the mass grave evoke a sense of unity and comradeship in those that have died in battle. The music and dancing suggest joy which contrasts with the tone of the poem and makes their passing more poignant to the reader.

Rhythm/Rhyme:

The changing rhythmic pattern of the lines represents the uneven field as a result of the ploughing with the longer lines possible signifying the bones rising up out of the surface of the earth.

The lack of a rhyme scheme helps to reinforce the solemnity of the poem.

Tone:


  • The wasted young
  • Tended the land back into itself
  • Like a wound working a foreign body to the surface of the skin
  • Sense of loss
  • Images of repair and recovery
  • Bodies and earth finally presented as united in song

As if the notes they had sung
have only now, with this
unearthing,
slipped from their absent
tongues.
The poem is sombre as it presents the loss of life in WW1 to be a waste. There is, however, a sense of hope in the images of the earth repairing itself. The simile of the wound and foreign body shows how the earth can recover from the horrors of war.

Mametz Wood Analysis


The final stanza shows the soldiers unearthed and unites them in song. The unearthing of the remains also frees the bodies and they sing to celebrate it. The soldiers have been uncovered and recovered for a proper burial offering full closure to the ultimate sacrifice they have made.

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