5 Ways to Kill a Man

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This poem by Edwin Brock is often considered a poem against war, whereas in fact it is a poem about the loss of humanity. It is written much like an instruction guide or recipe book, telling the reader the manner in which a man can be efficiently killed. Each stanza deals with one method of killing; each one distancing the killer further from his victim, till in the last stanza there is neither killer nor victim, but just a living death.

In the first stanza the crucifixion of Jesus is refered to. Here the reader is told that all that is required is a plank of wood and some nails and hammer to drive them home. This deliberately dead pan and emotionless tone underlines the lack of humanity that is fast becoming the hall mark of current war fare with its references to "collateral damage", a conveniently clinical term for civilan casualties.

In the second stanza the poet uses the War of Roses as a way to illustrate how wars were fought for the sake of crown and honour, whereas there was nothing noble in the brutal hand to hand warfare using common agricultural tools like bill hooks axes and hammers that pierced armour with ease. The armour is called "a metal cage", the weapons "shaped and chased in a traditonal way".All you need is a prince, two flags (representing the Houses of York and Lancaster) and the English countryside marred with the killings of battle. You require a castle to hold your banquet in to celebrate your victory while the brutal and ignoble nature of this war is hidden in the image of "white horses" and "English trees". In the next stanza we are told that we may dispense with nobility altogether as the poet brings our attention to the cruel practise of gas warfare in the First World War. "...you may if the wind allows, blow gas at him..." sounds as harmless as a child blowing bubbles or at the most someone blowing cigarette smoke in your face. In 1915 when the British used gas cylinders to send Chlorine gas towards the German front lines the...
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