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At Fifteen I Went With The Army by Arthur Waley

A boy went with the army to a war at the age of fifteen but met a desolate or rather deserted home at the age of eighty .When he got to the village, he couldn’t recognize his home until a man he met in the village showed him what used to be his house (now outgrown by weeds, trees, and pheasants). According to line 9-10
“In the courtyard was growing some wild grain;
And by the well, wild mallows.”

The house was so taken by weeds to the extent that he made porridge and soup off the grains; sadly “no one to eat them with”. The unhappiness of the boy even extended till the end of the poem where he said
“I went out and looked towards the east,
While tears fell and wetted my clothes”

Probably, one may be forced to wonder why the boy looked towards the east. It might be that the only possible place his life could restart is in the east, it may also be that east is the cause of his sorrow.

“At Fifteen I Went With The Army” is a poem written by an unknown Chinese poet but translated by Arthur Waley. This’ another example of poem written about war or communal attack; (naijapoets has analyzed similar
poems such as “An Irish Airman Foresees His Death” by W. B Yeats, “The Dining Table” by Gbannabom Hallowell, “O Captain My Captain” by Walt Witman, etc) The total line of the poem is 16 which was not chopped into multiple stanzas, no end rhyme scheme and no specific rhythm. The poet expressed the negative effect of war on the returning soldier, which was shown from the boy’s point of view.

From line 1-4, is based on the departure and arrival of the boy. Line 5-13, tells condition of the boy’s home when he arrived. Line 14-16, shows the boy’s unhappiness towards his condition of loneliness. The poem has poetic devices such as imageries (rabbits had run in at the dog-hole), alliteration (by the well some wild mallows), and repetition (porridge, home, wild, mallows, soup). The themes in the poem are (1) Loneliness; which was seen in line 14-16. (2) Teenage participation in war; the opening lines of the poem tell that the boy was a teen when he joined the soldier. (3) Negative effects of war; the boy’s homecoming resulted in tears and sorrow. (4) Hopelessness; the family which the boy hoped to return were no more. (5) Time; the difference between the boy's departure and arrival is a very wide one in between which many changes have taken place.

At fifteen I went with the army,
At fourscore I came home.
On the way I met a man from the village,
I asked him who there was at home.
“That over there is your house,
All covered over with trees and bushes.”
Rabbits had run in at the dog-hole,
Pheasants flew down from the beams of the roof.
In the courtyard was growing some wild grain;
And by the well, some wild mallows.
I’ll boil the grain and make porridge,
I’ll pluck the mallows and make soup.
Soup and porridge are both cooked,
But there is no one to eat them with.
I went out and looked towards the east,
While tears fell and wetted my clothes.

Arthur Waley whose birth name is Arthur David Schloss, well known for his translations of Chinese and Japanese poetry. He was born 19th of August, 1889. According to wikipedia, "Waley avoided academic posts and most often wrote for a general audience. He chose not to be a specialist but to translate a wide and personal range of classical literature." Arthur Waley died on 27th of June, 1966.

Samuel C. Enunwa aka samueldpoetry
(the Leo with wings flying)
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