Come on Come Back Analysis by Stevie Smith

This is an analysis of the poem Come on, Come Back by Stevie Smith.

come-on-come-back-analysis

About the Poem:

The poet imagines a future war and tells the story of a female soldier left on a battlefield with no memory.

Form:

Left by the ebbing tide of battle
0n the ?eld of Austerlitz

The ski soldier Vaudevue sits

Her fingers tap the ground, she is alone

At midnight In the moonlight she is
sitting alone on a round ?a‘ stone.


  • Written in free verse
  • Loose ballad form
  • Each stanza tells a distinct part of the story

The poem has a strange and unsettling form and structure as it tells the story of Vaudevue. The free verse reflects her loss of memory and the confusion that she has as a result of the conflict.

The poem is loosely a ballad as it is telling a tragic narrative but there is no refrain other than, arguably, the title which is repeated three times.

Each stanza tells a part of the story but the meaning is ambiguous and this adds to the confusing nature of the poem. The reader shares the confusion of the central character.

Language:


  • References to historical events
  • Ambiguous language
  • Lots of repetition
  • Use of assonance and alliteration

The ambiguous language and imagery in the poem create a confusing and unsettling effect on the reader. Not only do we share Vaudevue’s confusion but our search for meaning in the language suggests that the poet is forcing us to search for meaning in war.

The repetition of words, sounds, and letters through the poets use of assonance and alliteration show the repetition of conflict in the world. The war in the poem is an imagined war but we see references also to the past highlighting that history will always repeat itself. The soldier’s name, itself, shows repetition in the letters and this again highlights the reprise of conflict.

Imagery:


  • The central image of the song
  • Images of memory loss and secrecy
  • Dreamlike images of moonlight
  • Threatening Images turn into pastoral

The title of the poem is shown to be a popular song of the soldiers in the war, possibly a marching song. Songs in wartime are used to build morale and offer comforting reminders of the home; the title suggests a return to home and a return to normality.

The images of memory and secrecy add to the confusion in the poem. Secrecy suggests the sinister aspect of warfare but Vaudevue’s memory loss could reference how we do not remember past con?icts and continue to repeat our mistakes by ?ghting wars.

The image of the guard is initially one that is threatening but as we continue to read we see it turn in to a pastoral image of a shepherd. This highlights how war can distort our perception on of things and people and that we do not always see things clearly.

Rhythm/rhyme:


  • Written in free verse
  • Some internal rhyme
  • Use of rhyme in the last two lines of stanzas in the first half of the poem

The use of free verse and lack of a consistent rhyme scheme adds to the disorientating effect of the poem. The poem is difficult to read as it is to understand perhaps being a comment on the war itself.

The last two lines of the first three stanzas rhyme reflecting how Vaudevue is trying to search for answers, meaning, and explanation. This ends as the poem progresses and after Vaudevue has drowned in stanza 4 and 5.

Tone:


  • The tragic end to Vaudevue
  • Death described as a lover
  • Sombre and fatalistic tone

The fate of Vaudevue is made more tragic as she is a survivor of war. Her life had been irrevocably damaged by war and we are left with sadness as we are told that she will never hear or sing the song again. That her death is ‘amorous’ suggests that it is welcomed by Vaudevue and that she is finally escaping an awful life. The poem is fatalistic in that it represents life as repeatedly damaged by the conflict of humankind.
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