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The Shield of Achilles Analysis | WH Auden Poems

WH Auden Poems | The Shield of Achilles Analysis

Dotnepal presents an analysis of W.H. Auden’s poetry. Download a file from the given link.

The Shield of Achilles

Analysis of The Shield of Achilles | Download


Auden in his poem “The Shield of Achilles” presents the non-human and grief-striken people who were not aware of their rights, are imposed to the war by some force, they are forced to forget the feeling of neighbourood. As the poem goes:

She looked over his shoulder

For vines and olive trees,

Marble well-governed cities

And ships upon untamed seas,

But there on the shining metal

His hands had put instead

An artificial wilderness

And a sky like lead.

A plain without a feature, bare and brown,

No blade of grass, no sign of neighborhood,

Nothing to eat and nowhere to sit down,

Yet, congregated on its blankness, stood

An unintelligible multitude,

A million eyes, a million boots in line,

Without expression, waiting for a sign.


The above stanzas present the realistic picture of pathetic outbrust of human emotion. First of all, the poet presents the well-managed city. The first picture that the poet presents the world as a bare and brown due to the war. The poet further says that ‘no sign of neighbourhood’; it means to say that the humans are fighting but they are not aware that they are the neighours. The poet, exactly shows the realistic picture after second world war. Further the ground is given the adjective of ‘bare and brown’, which means to say that the earth lacks its originality due to the bombarding; there is also no place to sit down because everywhere there is no sanctuary place which is not destroyed and with no sign of war.


The second picture that the poem shows is military in their ready position to fight, are waiting for the single command of their commander. If the command is given they are ready whether to kill or get killed in the war. They are not aware that they are going to fight for nothing; their sacrifice is for the benefit of some cruel person or they are going to kill their brothers. The words ‘million boots’, ‘million eyes’ and ‘waiting for sign’ symbolizes the picture of war where the millions of people are going to kill or get killed. The poem further presents:

Out of the air a voice without a face

Proved by statistics that some cause was just

In tones as dry and level as the place:

No one was cheered and nothing was discussed;

Column by column in a cloud of dust

They marched away enduring a belief

Whose logic brought them, somewhere else, to grief.


Here, the poet presents the third picture that shows the commander’s command to attack the next party and the miserable condition of the people who were imposed in war. The command of the commander was given as ‘without a face’, the person who commanded was not seen because the mass of military was such a huge mass and the military also can not see their commander, only they heard the voice. It also tells that the cause of war was not a great which ‘some cause was just’ proves that there is no such a cause to fight. The military does not reply or discussed with what the commander said, they were imposed to do what the commander said ‘no one was cheered and nothing was discussed’ shows that the military were imposed to do what is said. The poet presents the ‘cloud of dust’ by the boots of the military going to certain direction to fight and the words ‘marched away’ suggests that they left their place and went to the place where they have to kill or get killed. But, the poet also presents that the military were not happy for what they were doing ‘grief’ shows their unhappy feeling.


The poet, now, suggests that by abandoning such wars, the human civilization can be get rid of, the fighting, killing, stabbing are the sole cause of human destruction.

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