'Bayonet Charge' - Key Quotations

"Stumbling across a field of clods towards a green hedge / That dazzled with rifle fire"

- STANZA 1 -

CONTEXT:

The speaker describes what it must have been like for the soldier taking part in the charge - the intensity, the disorientation. A "clod" is a lump of earth.

THEMES:

Danger; Conflict; War

LANGUAGE:

Verb = "stumbling" suggests an unsteadiness. Perhaps the soldier is dazed by all that is going on around him.

Personification = From the soldier's perspective, it is the hedge that is shooting at him. There are so many bullets flying around that he can't see that they're coming from other men.

Adjective = "dazzled" suggests that the soldier has been temporarily blinded by the flashes of the gunfire, disorientating him as he charges.

"The patriotic tear that had brimmed in his eye / Sweating like molten iron from the centre of his chest"

- STANZA 1 -

CONTEXT:

The speaker describes the honour and sense of patriotism that would have been surging through the soldier during the charge, inspiring and motivating him.

THEMES:

Patriotism; Honour; Duty

LANGUAGE:

Noun phrase = "patriotic tear" implies that the soldier is so proud and honoured to be fighting for his country that he has been overcome with emotion.

Simile = "Sweating like molten iron" - molten iron is incredibly hot and would prove massively damaging to a human. Perhaps Hughes is making the point that the soldier's blind patriotism is as dangerous and deadly as molten iron.

"In what cold clockwork of the stars and the nations / Was he the hand pointing that second?"

- STANZA 2 -

CONTEXT:

In the second stanza, the speaker implies that the soldier begins to feel some hesitation and doubt about whether or not he should carry on with the charge.

THEMES:

Doubt; Uncertainty

LANGUAGE:

Alliteration = the "c" and "k" sounds in "cold clockwork" are hard sounds, suggesting they are harsh and unforgiving, much like the war.

Metaphor = "cold clockwork" could represent the machine that is the army. The commanders give the orders, the soldiers have to follow through with these orders, soldiers are killed, new soldiers join, and then it repeats. The adjective "cold" implies that this system is uncaring and ruthless.

Question = suggests that the soldier is suddenly wondering how much control he actually has over his own fate. Ultimately, it is incredibly likely he will be killed; if he continues the charge he could be killed by the enemy, yet if he retreats and flees he would be killed by his own army for cowardice. He has no real control over his life.

"Listening between his footfalls for the reason / Of his still running"

- STANZA 2 -

CONTEXT:

The speaker continues to describe the soldier's hesitation and doubt.

THEMES:

Doubt; Uncertainty; Honour

LANGUAGE:

Phrase = "the reason of his still running" suggests that although he having doubts about whether or not he should continue, and why exactly he is fighting, he still continues to charge anyway, as if it is an automatic action. Perhaps this is the honour and patriotism driving him forward through his worries?

"King, honour, human dignity, etcetera"

- STANZA 3 -

CONTEXT:

The soldier continues the charge with these ideas driving him forward.

THEMES:

Bravery; Uncertainty; Curiosity

LANGUAGE:

List = the list here shows the ideas that are driving the soldier forward. He believes he is fighting for his king, for his honour, for human dignity.

Adverb = "etcetera" at the end of the line invalidates everything that came before it in the list, making the whole thing seem unimportant. This suggests that Hughes believed these ideas, the ones that motivated the soldiers, were untrue and meaningless.

"To get out of that blue crackling air / His terror’s touchy dynamite."

- STANZA 3 -

CONTEXT:

The final two lines of the poem. The soldier's terror is abundant and he wants to flee, but he knows he can't, so he continues fighting. Soldiers who fled from battle would have been arrested and, later, executed for cowardice and desertion.

THEMES:

Terror; Fear; Death

LANGUAGE:

Description = "blue crackling air" describes the environment and the atmosphere the soldier is facing. The adjective "crackling" suggests the air around him is exploding with gunfire.

Metaphor = "terror's touchy dynamite" implies that his fear is consuming him, possible building up to a point of explosion.

Noun = "dynamite" suggests that time is running out for the soldier. The final 'explosion' when it finally does run out is likely to be his seemingly inevitable death on the battleground.