Maybe I'm wrong, but I come across numerous analyses of Beach Burial where people seem to want more meaning from the poem than I believe the poem contains - 'futility of war'; 'man's inhumanity to man'; 'bravery, love, sacrifice, dignity, non-judgemental neutrality of those going out and burying the dead'; 'the folly of people allowing themselves to be fooled by political deception'; 'the opposing struggle of good against evil and final forgiveness in the uniting of all peoples on the other front' - etcetera, etcetera. Why must we think there has to be profound meaning lurking in every great poem!? To me, in Beach Burial Slessor writes 'meaning' just as he saw it; - go back and read his despatches. I get a feeling of great pity from the poem, but I believe this is created from the brilliant construction and form that Slessor renders in the poem rather than any 'meaning' he has woven or wishes to express in content.
If I were a year 12 student again, then I would accept the content of Beach Burial for what it says, and use it as a poem that shows me a lot about construction. What strikes me in the construction of the poem is the use of part-rhyme and the repetition of sounds. Part-rhyme at the end of the second and fourth lines of each quatrain and within every third line. Five beats to each verse first line (trochee feet?). The repetition of dominant sounds – ‘signature’, ‘driven’, ‘written’, ‘perplexity’, ‘pity’, ‘begin’, ‘pencil’, ‘drips’, ‘inscriptions’, ‘lips’……….
2011. I reflect on the loss, and recent discovery of HMAS