Steven Spender's Poem "Memento"

Essay by MccaddenSucksUniversity, Bachelor's October 2004

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By: Lee A. Zito

In Stephen Spender's "Memento" the first line says, "Remember the blackness of that flesh." It is important that we understand that Spender is not asking us if we remember, he is telling us to remember. To remember the horror, the injustice, and every last detail. This includes the burning of bodies, the despair, and the camps where countless of innocent people were murdered. This poem is truly a "Memento". It is a reminder of a the terrible period in our world's past that must never be forgotten.

The first stanza contains the description of burning bodies. "The blackness of flesh tarring the bones", these are the remains of the people who suffered at "Belsen Theresienstadt Buchenwald". During Spender's description, despair is the only emotion mentioned. This despair comes from the victims, those who were burned by people with the intentions to exterminate an entire race.

They were only burned because of sheer hatred.

Spender goes on describing the dead in the second stanza with, "Their eyes sunk jellied in their holes". This is followed by, "Were held up to the sun like begging bowls". Those lines still describing the bodies, but now there is a comparison. The sunken jellied eyes are compared to "begging bowls". These eyes were desperate, they were hungry, they're were begging for help.

The Final stanza continues with another simile. This time it compares the victims hands to "rakes with finger-nails of rust." Those who were imprisoned in camps and were not sent directly to die, were immediately put to hard labor. These people were literally used as the Nazi's "tools". The comparison to the rake makes complete sense. What happens to a rake after it is used for an intense amount of work and never...