‘No Men Are Foreign’ by James Kirkup is a subtle poem, talks about the impact of War on the life of people. Being published in 1966, the poem calls attention to the fact that humans are all the same, despite the differences in race, geography, or language. Further, if we are prejudiced in the name of countries, wage war against each other we bring doom upon ourselves only.
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Summary of No men are Foreign
The poem ‘No Men Are Foreign’ emphasizes the fact that all men are the same, and all men are equal. The poet tries to proclaim the idea of universal brotherhood. The poem’s title itself reflects the central idea of the poem that ‘No Men Are Foreign’. The title reverberates in the first and the last line stressing on the poet’s idea of “all men are the same.”
Kirkup made a comparison to the similarities in the human body between the people who live at different places to state that all are equal. Except for the man-made division in the name of borders and fences, or languages, or ethnicity, all of us live the same life. When we are alive, we walk on the same Earth. Similarly, when we die, we are buried on the same earth. People from different countries enjoy good food during peace and starve during the war and in winter, which is also common to all. Further, the poet draws similarities between the hands that do hard work and the eyes that see the same way when we are awake and closes when we are asleep.
As he concludes, the poet wants the readers to remember the fact that whenever we hate someone, we cheat and hate ourselves. Similarly, if we pick up the war against each other, we pollute the Earth and make it impure.
You can read the full poem of here.
Form and Structure of No Men Are Foreign
The poem ‘No Men Are Foreign’ is written in free verse. Therefore, there is no set rhyme scheme in the poem. The poem is on the whole written in twenty lines, divided into five quatrains. Though divided into stanza’s the poet’s use of enjambed sentences, makes the lines and meaning run between stanzas. All five stanzas are streamlined to convey the central idea of universal brotherhood.
Theme of No Men Are Foreign
The theme is the central idea of a poem that could be one or many. In “No Men Are Foreign,” James Kirkup, keeps on insisting on the one theme that is the “equality of mankind”. He is desperate to have the oneness of mankind, despite all the man-made differences of color, race, nationality, and faith. He proposes all men and women to be brothers and sisters.
Tone of No Men Are Foreign
James Kirkup in his poem ‘No Men Are Foreign’ uses a tone that sounds like a warning to those who are fighting with others in the name of the country and other superficial reasons. He also employed a serious tone to exemplify the impact of war on people.
Analysis of No Men Are Foreign
Remember, no men are strange, no countries foreign
( . . . )
Is earth like this, in which we all shall lie.
In the first stanza of ‘No Men Are Foreign’ the poet says that “no men are strange” and “no country is foreign”. Using a very serious tone, he reiterates that all people are equal under the sky, for everyone breathes like everyone else. He feels that if borders are removed from Earth, no country will be foreign, and everyone will be free to move around. For the borders is something that separates countries from each other. The poet iterates that the entire Earth is one and the people “Beneath all uniforms” who live on this Earth belong to one human race for they are all “a single body breathes like ours”. Further, we have all walked upon the same ‘Earth’, and when we die, we will be buried in the graves on the same Earth.
They, too, aware of sun and air and water,
( . . . )
A labour not different from our own.
In the second stanza of ‘No Men Are Foreign,’ the poet refers to the similarities between the people he belongs and the people from other countries. By ‘They’ he talks of people who belong to other countries. They too are aware of the “sun and air and water” which is the same to all on earth. When there is no war, we all do farming and enjoy the yields of the harvest. In the same way, during wars and winter, we all starve. Further, with “their hands are ours” he conveys that people different countries too have the same hands and work the same way as we and do. From all these examples, he suggests to the readers that there is no difference among the people belonging to different countries.
Remember they have eyes like ours that wake
( . . . )
That all can recognise and understand.
In the third stanza of ‘No Men Are Foreign,’ the poet calls out the readers to remember that even the foreigners have the same eyes. Like the poet’s country people, they also use it to “wake or sleep,” metaphorically marking the beginning and the end of their day. Similarly, we are given strength with that one can win through love. Moreover, in every land that is in every country, there is one common thing, that is life. If a person could recognize this universality, then the poet says there will be no fights or wars between countries.
Let us remember, whenever we are told
( . . . )
Remember, we who take arms against each other
The fourth stanza of ‘No Men Are Foreign’ ultimately reveals the central idea of the poem and the poet’s desire for peace among nations. He wants the readers, including himself to remember if someone hates the other in the name of the country, it is his own self the person hates. By hating “our brothers”, the fellow human beings, we deprive, cheat, and condemn our own selves. Further, he adds, when waging war against each other, the loss is common to both the side. So, one must understand it before drawing weapons against the other.
It is the human earth that we defile.
( . . . )
Remember, no men are foreign, and no countries strange.
In the fifth, concluding stanza, of ‘No Men Are Foreign’ he talks of the extended impact of war. War doesn’t affect just the lives on earth but it makes the Earth dirty. The fire and dust of war defile the pure air which is common to all the people on earth. Whenever war happens, it leads to a lot of bloodshed and death. The dead bodies accumulate on the Earth makes the innocent earth impure. Therefore, with all the situations considered the loss is common to all when we hate our fellow human beings. Since everyone is created equally on earth, he wants people to live in harmony. Finally, he repeats the first line “Remember, no men are foreign, and no countries strange” to revitalize the idea that everything is common and everyone is equal on earth.
About James Kirkup
James Falconer Kirkup, born on April 23, 1918, and died on May 10, 2009. He was an internationally acclaimed poet, memoirist, novelist, playwright, and translator. He wrote about 30 books, which include autobiography, novels, and plays. Kirkup was born and brought up in South Shields and educated at Durham University. He wrote his first book of poetry, ‘The Drowned Sailor at the Downs’ which was published in 1947. He was the first resident university poet in the United Kingdom.