More Light, More Light

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 10th grade October 2001

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More Light, More Light The poem "More Light, More Light" is poem that explores the depths of humanity. The portion of humanity that is often hidden, the cruelty and emotionless side of humanity.

The first three stanzas take place in London. It details the death of a predominant bishop, Bishop Ridley, of the mid 1500's. He was executed in these stanzas for the betrayal of Princess Mary, when he had attempted to place Lady Jane Gray in the throne. Hecht states in the first stanza that the Bishop was composing these verses: "I implore my God to witness that I have made no crime" as he was being brought to the stake for this crime. He states that he was courageous although the death was a horrible death.

He was to be burned at the stakes, but the gunpowder used to ignite the bunch of sticks used for burning did not ignite, therefore the death was not a quick one but a long and agonizing.

During this he howled for the Kindly Light, making reference to the words of the hymn the "Pillar of the Cloud". The hymn is a hymn about death, asking the Lord to lead him in his path although it may be dark he has a newly founded trust in the ways of the Lord. He was then prayed upon by the people of Oxford because they pitied him and prayed for his soul because he was soon to be judged by God.

Stanzas 4-8 take place in Buchenwald in 1944 portraying an equally gruesome scene. Buchenwald was the first concentration camp to be broached by the Western Allies, during the holocaust.

On June 28th of 1919 Germany and Allies signed the Versailles Treaty ending the Great War, and putting Germany in even worse debt than they were already in, causing feelings of need for change in the German people. In this climate, several small political parties began to spring up. One of these parties the German National Socialist Party began to gain popularity. Adolf Hitler joined this political organization and began to galvanize ideas of taking over Munich and the rest of what they had lost, returning Germany to its true values and traditions.

In 1934, Hitler became the president of Germany. He then began to resurrect ideas of inferiority in the Germans, claiming that only Germans were Aryans and that everyone else was subhuman. He began to blame the Jews for the great wounds inflicted upon humanity. Hatred for Jews spread throughout Germany and Jews were forced out of Germany and Austria. (Holocaust) They were then forced into concentration camps, like Buchenwald to be tortured and some killed. Stanzas 4-8 give us an accurate portrayal of one such event that occurred at Buchenwald.

In the first stanza we learn that the location and event has changed we are now in Germany and we see three German officers ordering three men to dig a grave. Two of the men are German and one is Polish. The two Germans are to be buried alive by the Polish man. During this period of time several Poles as they were called were Jewish, but it is uncertain as to whether this Polish man is Jewish or not, but I would assume he is not.

In the third stanza we first see the idea of no light in the poem, this is repeated throughout the poem and is suggested to mean several things. No hope, no life, no faith, no God. We then discover that the Polish man refused this could be for one of two reasons. Either he felt such hatred for the Jewish men that he, like his German captor, felt like he could not kill him himself, or because in a glimpse of humanity realized what he was about to do. He was then ordered to take the place with the two Jewish gentlemen. As for them, they had already experienced such lack of humanity with the deaths of those around them they seemed numb to the idea, and had no emotion towards burying the Polish man. The Jews were then ordered to stop and the Polish gentleman was to trade places per se with the Jewish men.

In stanza 4 we see again the repeated no light theme. The Polish man is said to have no light in his eyes, possibly meaning that he had no humanity left in him, his fear of death had caused him to kill two other man. Much like the Jewish mans fear of death had caused them to begin to bury the Polish man earlier. Ironically the German captor then killed him. And unlike the Bishop Nicholas Ridely, no prayers or incense rose during the hour after his death, or for the year after thereafter during the holocaust. The world stood by and watched as millions of Jewish and non-Jewish men, women and children were tortured and killed in Germany.

When reading this poem the reader is left with feeling of somewhat disbelief, but these incidents are only a portion of the cruel aspect of humanity. The holocaust was a horrible event that took place, and we sometimes forget that a human being was the cause of all this pain. Anthony Hecht reminds us how inhuman humans can be.

"Holocaust" Overview of the Holocaust. 21 Oct. 2001

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