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'Flag' by John Agard

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Talia Size

on 29 August 2013

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Transcript of 'Flag' by John Agard

'Flag' by John Agard
What is the meaning behind it?
What's that fluttering in a breeze?
Its just a piece of cloth
that brings a nation to its knees.

What's that unfurling from a pole?
It's just a piece of cloth
that makes the guts of men grow bold.

What's that rising over a tent?
It's just a piece of cloth
that dares the coward to relent.

What's that flying across a field?
It's just a piece of cloth
that will outlive the blood you bleed.

How can I possess such a cloth?
Just ask for a flag my friend.
Then bind your conscience to the end.
Structure
The poem contains five regular stanzas with the commonality of all having 3 lines. The opening line of each stanza consists of a question which is later answered in the following lines. The first four lines have an identical second line, "it's just a piece of cloth."

Each stanza follows an eight-six-eight syllable count which gives the poem a very fixed and professional form with little variation. More than one voice appears in the poem, one is asking the question and the other answering.

It also has a rhyme pattern, for the first three stanzas, the last word on the first line rhymes with the last word on the third line, the second line being the neutral balance.
Imagery
Military is the theme, each scenario throughout the poem can relate back to war. The first stanza states that the flag referred to as a piece of cloth "brings a nation to its knees," this can be perceived as a representation of a specific country after/during a war. Stanza four has a flag written to be flying across a field, the field could be a battlefield or the green pastures of a rural and agricultural area, it's not exact.

The use of personification enhances the imagery, " fluttering in a breeze" the use of the word "fluttering" gives the flag qualities of butterfly. Although flags can't fly, the statement "flying across a field" is used. This relates a common motion seen often, to an event in the poem; therefor, enabling the reader to picture the action performed clearer.
Effect
The last stanza is philosophical. Out of the previous five stanzas it is the only one that differs. It states that after obtaining the flag talked so highly about throughout the poem "it will blind your conscience to the end." This is the last thing the reader sees, finishing the poem on an indefinite meaning.
Defined by a dictionary, a flag is piece of cloth or similar material, typically square and attachable by one edge to a pole or rope and used in a symbolic manner. The description the poem gives of a flag is it's "Just a piece of cloth." This contrasts with the motivational words followed, stating something as simple as "just a piece of cloth" can bring " a nation to its knees."

A flag itself can not make "the guts of men grow bold" but the symbolic meaning reflects the actions taken by others. Personification is applied to a flag based on what effects and beliefs a flag can contain, it highlights the importance using emotionally captive words.

This poem implies objects have a greater meaning than their appearance, simple things can withhold large beliefs and the significance of an object is commonly overseen. In material terms a flag is of course a mere piece of cloth, but flags are very powerful symbols.
Conclusion
Flag, by John Agard highlights the symbolism of a flag and its meaning to others. It is set out in 5 stanzas and follows an eight-six- eight syllable count. Personification is used to enhance the imagery and it finishes with a philosophical, indefinite statement. "A piece of cloth" can destroy nations or bring them together.
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