James Martin Fenton was born on the 25 th April 1949, in Lincoln. He has worked as an English poet, journalist, book reviewer, war correspondent and literary critic. He was a former Oxford Professor of Poetry. Fenton travelled to Southeast Asia in 1973, where he experienced the civil wars of Cambodia. He has won many awards, such as the Queens Gold Medal for Poetry in 2007.
Cambodia is about the Vietnam War in 1959-1975 that killed over 2 million civilians. The American troops did illegal bombing in Cambodia. The bombing killed 750,000 innocent people. Fenton was disappointed with the people who had the power to stop the wars and save the innocent. All the people dying were ordinary citizens, not experienced soldiers or people of higher class. This poem is about the everyday people who were affected by the war.
One man shall smile one day and say goodbye. Two shall be left, two shall be left to die. There are multiple ways to interpret this: 1. Man fare- welling comrades. 2. Being called up for battle, fare- welling family. 3. Sudden death, how war affects people. Smiling one minute, and dead the next (mentally or physically). In this line, we are given false hope. The first half gives us hope of survivors, before the poet cruelly tells us they are going to die.
One man shall give his best advice. Three men shall pay the price. This shows how terrible the military are. Taking their men to war and ultimately leading them to death. One man shall live, live to regret. This once again gives us false hope: Even one who survives is scarred for life.
Four men shall meet the debt. Reason for survivors guilt: He questions why he gets to live, but his comrades dont. This relates to the poem, My Dreams Are Of A Field Afar One man shall wake from terror to his bed. After effects of war, the horrific nightmares, flashbacks, and haunting memories. A simple line, yet a vivid and strong image is conveyed.
Five men shall be dead. The reality that haunts the speaker. War traps people in continuous nightmare of memories. One man to five. A million men to one. Emphasizes that the one man who started this war will result in a million people having to pay the price and suffer the consequences. Could mean that for every one man that does not go to war, five men must die or vice versa.
And still they die. And still the war goes on. A disturbing reminder to us that war still goes on – there is no end. The line is full of anger, accusation, frustration and grief. Repetition of And still emphasizes how the war and the after-effects of it continue.
A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic. Fenton uses this to an advantage by keeping the numbers low throughout the poem. When he talks about a million men to one, we are reminded that one person caused all these deaths. This shows that when one person dies, everyone mourns for that one person. But when a million people die, our feelings of loss is lessened. Joseph Stalin was a dictator that caused the death of tens of millions of people during his rise is power in the 1920s and 1940s.
There are rhyming couplets in every stanza except the last one (above). This removes a feeling of finality that rhyming couplets give to enforce the idea that the war still goes on. The side effects of war will haunt people forever. One man to five. A million men to one. And still they die. And still the war goes on.
Rhythm: simple and sharp, making it straight to the point Form: 5 stanzas of 2 lines, with rhyming couplets. It is simple, playful and child-like. Tone: frustration, anger, accusation, regret, grief and guilt Themes: Grief, haunting memories of war, survivors guilt, casualties from war are unbalanced, interaction between east and west, war as an economic activity, human inability to prevent evil Comparisons: My Dreams are a field afar, by A.E Housman. Both poems are short with strong messages, talks of survivors guilt, war poems, rhymes that diminish the severity of the issue. Also Reservist, by Boey Kim Cheng, as it also talks about war. Rhyme: AABBCCDDEF – There are rhyming couplets through the poem except for the last two lines.