Vergissmeinnicht

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“Vergissmeinnicht” (translated “forget me not”) by Keith Douglas is a realistic poem outlining a soldier’s firsthand account of his return to the site of a fierce battle. Upon his arrival, “three weeks gone” (1) since the battle, he finds the deceased German adversary, simply known as “the soldier” (4), who had fired at his tank just before his demise. The poem stirs the emotions of the reader, utilizing specific descriptions of the scene and bringing the feelings of loss and despair felt by the woman, Steffi, who has lost her significant other into the mix. Through a varying rhyme scheme, stable yet altering structure, and vivid imagery, Douglas describes the conditions and brutality of war and how each soldier will be remembered by both lover and killer alike. Throughout the poem, the rhyme scheme is constantly changing from stanza to stanza, each involving end rhyme. In stanza one, Douglas rhymes the words “gone” and “sun” in lines one and four, and the words “ground” and “found” in lines two and three, thus giving the stanza an abba rhyme scheme. This differs with the following stanza which contains near, end rhymes of the word “gun” (5) in each of its lines. Moreover, each additional stanza is, at the least, a slight variance from the other stanzas. At first read, this makes the poem difficult to read. The first stanza causes the reader to anticipate the beginning rhyme scheme to stay somewhat similar as the poem progresses, so an alteration in the scheme is unexpected and causes the reader to misread the poem. The reason for these differences is not apparent until examining the poem’s content and its possible correlations to the rhyme scheme. Like the rhyme scheme, war is an unstable environment. The conditions are constantly changing and these changes, like this poem’s rhyme scheme, are unanticipated. Additionally, the reader, like many soldiers entering a theatre for the first time, starts off without knowing what to expect from the experience ahead of...
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