Themes of Dying in if We Must Die and The Road

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In poetry, everyone seems to know that it tells a story, whether it is a good one or a horrible one, but there is always a story. Some poems are similar, but they are mostly different in their own ways. These stories can be about love or a loss, or an adventure the poet had. Anything can happen with a poem because poems have their own ways of telling a story. As well as lyrics from a song, the lyrics can also have a meaning that may have the same feel of a poem. From those readings of different poems, one poem that stood out the most was “If We Must Die” and the song lyric that I chose was from one of my favorite songs, “The Road” by a band named Asking Alexandria. These two different forms of art are somehow similar, but of course, they are both different.

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The poem that I chose was “If We Must Die” by Claude McKay in which the poem talks about how dying for your country is an honorable thing to do. The play was written in 1919 in which was doing war times and this was right after the First World War. during this time, families are still mourning over the deaths of their husbands, fathers, sons, and brothers who did not make it back home safe and sound, or they did make it back safely but not the same emotionally. During wartime, especially the first world war no one did not seem to know what they were going to expect. And of course, any man who was 18 had to young the battle and with other poems be written and banners being made, war sounded as though it was something men should be honored in the fighting.

The play starts with, “If we must die, let it not be like hogs

Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot,

While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs,

Making their mock at our accursèd lot.” With this tone of the first sentence, you can tell that it is a Sargent giving their soldiers to be prepared for anything and not let their death be as simple hogs being hunted by dogs. They are men and men are superior to hogs. Of course, some men might be afraid to die because they do not know what to expect and not knowing what is waiting for them out in the fields. So a small pep talk like that can boost some men’s egos and pushing their fight to win the war. The pattern of this part of the poem is “a, b, a, b,” with how the last words rhyme with every other word.

The next sentence goes, “If we must die, O let us nobly die,

So that our precious blood may not be shed

In vain; then even the monsters we defy

Shall be constrained to honor us though dead!” This sentence seems simple enough- telling the men that if they were to die, their deaths will not go down in vain because they sacrificed their lives for their country and thus making them look like heroes. Now, this type of pep talk may motivate the men because in their minds, even if they were to die, they will know that they were not going to be looked down upon. With this type of mindset, their drive will keep on going even if their life ends on the battlefield, they know that their fight will be told to their families and be told to other soldiers as a type of motivation for them to fight on. This part of the poem’s pattern is “ c, d, c, d”.

The last four sentences go as follows:

“O kinsmen! we must meet the common foe!

Though far outnumbered let us show us brave,

And for their thousand blows deal one death-blow!

What though before us lies the open grave?

Like men we’ll face the murderous, cowardly pack,

Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!”

These last four sentences sound as though it is the last reminder or their last push before going into battle. A small reminder that they are strong and that no matter what, they need to keep on fighting no matter what. It is almost like a chant of motivation for them to push on. Though in the end, the men may see their fellow brothers fall in battle. The final part of the poem’s pattern is different by it going, “e, f, e, f, g, g” which is saying that the last two lines of the poem may be important.

Now the song that I chose was from the band Asking Alexandria. The song is named, “The Road”. For many years, the band has been a part of my life and their lyrics touch a special place in my heart. “The Road” was one of the last songs the band wrote and sang together before the main singer, Danny Worsnop, left the group to pursue his dreams of going solo.

In the first verse, it begins with “Street signs, so many street signs pass me by every night and I know tomorrow I won’t recognize the world…” From this first part, it reminded me of my dad because he is a truck driver and he has to be out on the road every week for three to four days a week and he passes so many different cities. He is out of town a lot and recently out of California every week to travel to Washington state. This part is talking about how traveling across the country, you see so many different signs and places and faces that it becomes almost a new world every trip that you won’t recognize. This is tied with my dad because he is always seeing different things and he is getting tired of the same old thing.

The chorus begins with, “I wanna go home I wanna sleep in my own bed I want a normal life again…” With this, the singer is saying that they are sick and tired of being away from their family and their home, but they know that this is how they are supposed to support their family and this is the way they chose to do it and this is connected with my dad because he is always telling me that he is always tired and that he just wanted to have a normal life, to be able to see his family every day, but he knows that this is the life he chose and that I should do better than what he is going to have a better life. It is also saying that whenever you are far away from home for so long, you get homesick and you just want to go home.

In the second verse, one part says, “You don’t see the pain in my eyes? You don’t hear the pain in my words?” This ties again with the singer that they are tired of touring across the country and just want to be home with their family, feeling safe and not having to worry about the outside world. As well as being a symbol, of tiredness and desperation for an escape because with the line,” The pain in my eyes… the pain in my words” by showing as though their eyes are begging for freedom and their words becoming scratchy and rough.

The chorus comes again and with the lyrics saying, “No matter how hard I try, all I know is the road... “ symbolizing that no matter how hard they try, they will always end up on the road because life continues on and all they know is the road. It is almost with the saying, “You cannot show an old dog new tricks” because it has been so many years that the dog does not want to change their life since it has been so many years of the same routine and that they feel comfortable and safe.

With the breakdown, it can show a bit of the literally breaking point with the lyrics saying, “And you wonder why I’m out of my mind?” because living the safe life and seeing no change whatsoever can make a person break down and can have them lose their minds a bit. But at this point as well, everyone needs someone/some people to be there for them and show them that they are not alone and that for them to keep on pushing because, in the end, it would be worth it.

With the poem and the song lyrics, they are both similar because both the poem and song lyrics are talking about how they would want to go home. The poem is talking about going home whether in person or as a hero while the song is talking about wanting to go home after a long day of traveling. The difference of course with the poem is that it was talking about being in the perspective of being in the first war and how no matter what happens, they will be seen as heroes because they died for their country. As for the song, it is talking about how being on the road can change someone and make them desperate to be home since being away from their safe haven can affect the way someone can be. 

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