Flag - John Agard

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"...fluttering...unfurling...rising...flying..."
The verbs in each stanza describe simple movements but as readers we make them more powerful in our minds. The sense of the Flag's power increases as the poem goes on, as the verbs become more intense as each stanza comes - begins to seem sinister.
1 of 14
"What's that fluttering in a breeze?"
The word 'a' suggests that the flag could be anywhere - it shows how widespread its power is. Different countries have different flags, but in reality they are all the same.
2 of 14
"...just a piece of cloth"
The repetition of this phrase reminds readers that there is no reason for a flag to have this power - we are the ones who give it the power. This hints at contempt for the flag. We also think of 'cloth' as cheap and insignificant.
3 of 14
"...to its knees."
This is open to alternative interpretation - a) War bringing an enemy down b) Praying for hope and freedom c) A sign of respect d) People may go to war for the wrong reasons, i.e. patriotism e) Patriotism can reduce a person's independance.
4 of 14
"...guts"
This is a very gruesome and harsh-sounding term. It could be reflecting the injuries of war or bravery - the flag plays on our emotions.
5 of 14
"...dares the coward to relent."
This is open to alternative interpretation - a) The flag of a country inspires men to fight despite their natural fear b) The unpatriotic c) Giving up being a coward d) Enemy is giving up.
6 of 14
"...just a piece of cloth"
The enjambment on the first four stanzas puts focus on the word 'cloth' - a word with very mundane connotations, compared to the power a national flag can have. The 'cloth' image is juxtaposed with the effects of patriotism.
7 of 14
"...that makes the guts of men grow bold."
This is again open to alternative interpretation - a) Injuries b) People feeling proud and respectful c) Reflects the courage of the soldiers.
8 of 14
"...that will outlive..."
The word 'outlive' gives the impression that perhaps the flag is alive and doesn't care how many lives are sacrificed for it. Or maybe it suggests that the flag will 'outlive' your memory if you die - it's constant.
9 of 14
"...the blood you bleed."
The alliteration emphasises the violent reality of war and death.
10 of 14
"How can I possess such a cloth?"
The word 'possess' is very phycological. This question is a metaphor - the questioner wants what the flag represents (pride, respect, memory etc).
11 of 14
"...my friend...to the end."
The last two lines of the poem rhyme, which creates an almost bitter punch-line. It is very emotive and keeps the reader in touch with the message of the poem.
12 of 14
"...blind your conscience..."
This suggests that you have to ignore your moral sense to bqe patriotic - this is what others have done in the past. Patriotism blinds your sense of right and wrong. The whole tone of the poem is sombre.
13 of 14
(End of each stanza)
Each stanza ends with an image of the effects of patriotism. Each image is very oppressive and the ower of each image forces the reader to reflect
14 of 14

Other cards in this set

Card 2

Front

"What's that fluttering in a breeze?"

Back

The word 'a' suggests that the flag could be anywhere - it shows how widespread its power is. Different countries have different flags, but in reality they are all the same.

Card 3

Front

"...just a piece of cloth"

Back

Preview of the front of card 3

Card 4

Front

"...to its knees."

Back

Preview of the front of card 4

Card 5

Front

"...guts"

Back

Preview of the front of card 5
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