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16 pages 32 minutes read

Maya Angelou

A Brave And Startling Truth

Nonfiction | Poem | Adult | Published in 1995

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Themes

Peace and Warfare

Much of the poem’s impact comes from juxtaposing the effects of war with the beauty of international harmony. The first instance of this contrast is in the second stanza, when the speaker aspires “To the day of peacemaking / When we release our fingers / From fists of hostility” (Lines 8-10). Here, letting go of violence is a “release” of tension, a period of rest after an era of hardship—the intention is to make unclosing our “fists” a welcome and hoped for outcome. The following stanza layers imagery that further enhances this idea: “faces sooted with scorn” (Line 14) bring to mind the blackened ash of battlefields, and the innocent young people who “with the bruised and bloody grass […] lie in identical plots in foreign soil” (Lines 17-18). This imagery reminds the reader that in death, there are no nationalist or class divides. The poem here uses a transferred epithet, a poetic device in which an adjective is transferred from the noun it logically modified to another for emphasis and unease. Here, while the grass is “bloody” because it has been stained with war wounds, it is only “bruised” because the bodies littering it are bruised. Using the adjective in this way demonstrates the far-reaching effects of human warfare, which has a real and measurable impact on the very earth that sustains us.

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