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The poem, What Were They Like? It has a very unique structure, split into two verses. Reasons for structuring the poem like this are given in the annotations that follow: Did they hold ceremonies to reverence the opening of buds? Were they inclined to quiet laughter?


All the questions asked Compare what were they like with the poem are in past tense so that it can give the impression that life has no meaning and no existence. The poem begins with numbered questions: In the poem, Denise Levertov employs the public event of the Vietnam War as her canvas on which she sketches the lyrical, strong, and sometimes sarcastic images by creating the thought-provoking and intriguing juxtapositions for her readers.

About Denise Levertov Denise Levertov is well-recognized to combine her own personal experience with historical facts. Through her poetic skills, she is able to build up a new poetic vision.

However, just as she mediates or translates her personal experience into words, it shows her great poetic skills. In What Were They Like? The way she makes use of irony, it makes their lot seem even more disastrous.

Analysis of What Were They Like? The questions appear to suggest an ancient, religious civilization, grounded in old skills and an appreciation of nature.

The questions continue like a catechism… and answers seem to be required. The material seems to be almost primitive and traditional. As we know Denise Levertov hated war, and had always protested the loss of human lives. In this poem also, he protests the war, and criticizes the American military for its operation against the Vietnamese.

This very first part of the poem is replete with sarcastic questions, and is an attack on those who do not understand the value of the lives of human beings.

Through the questions, poet wants to make her readers think about and then look for the answers. Here, the poet plays a sympathy card on behalf of Vietnamese, and try to create sympathy among the hearts of her readers toward the people of Vietnam, and sadden them by highlighting the simplicity of Vietnamese in front of her readers.

The poet says they were happy villagers, who lived in harmony with nature. In the starting six verses of the poem, most of the questions are about the culture of the people of Vietnam.

The poet has used these types of questions to tell the readers that the primary object of her poem is to teach the readers how the culture of Vietnam was severely affected by the war.

Second Stanza Sir, their light hearts turned to stone. Where in the first stanza, a speaker questioner asks questions, in the second stanza, there is someone who gives answers to the questions of the first speaker. As we go through the verses, it becomes clear that the first speaker is a man, and the second might know what has happened.

It is just like a soldier answering their commander, but it might be false respect. The poet might have used this style to make her readers think back, and know what they did in the past. All their cultures and traditions have now been completely wiped out due to the repercussions of war.

This phrase also suggests a strong sense of community, which used to live in harmony with nature, but is now nowhere to see.

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Of course, the word bitter here may have two meaning: This is chiefly poignant here, as the quite laughter has turned into the appalling sufferings.

This alliteration lays emphasis on the hurt and pain the Vietnamese might have gone through. Ornament is for joy.

All the bones were charred. All the human beings are now transformed into charred body. They either might have been set on fire, or killed. It is silent now. Answering to the questions of the speaker, the respondent in the third stanza of the poem says that there was a time when the peaceful clouds used to reflect their paddy fields, and the water buffalo used to step along the terraces.

He gives the longest answer of this question by describing what and how was the culture of Vietnamese before the war. He says that they used to live a very simple life. They were stable and calm.

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Did the people of Viet Nam.

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