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Remember, no men are strange, no countries foreign
Beneath all uniforms, a single body breathes
Like ours: the land our brothers walk upon
Is earth like this, in which we all shall lie.
James Kirkup discusses an important and serious topic called 'equality' in his poem 'No Men are Foreign'. The poem is a wake-up call for people who believe in wars and violence to take over other people's land or identity. It starts with the word 'remember', indicating that he is about to speak on a significant subject that all human beings need to hark back on. Kirkup, having lived and experienced the trauma of the Second World war, where war destroyed human beings, stresses on how men need not fight against each other. He focuses on how men assume that other men who belong to a different race, colour, belief are their enemies and treat them different.
Kirkup says that no men are strange. They are all the same. This does not mean that all men look alike. Human beings can be tall, short, dark, fair, as they differ in terms of physical features. They can also belong to different countries across the World, thereby following their place's religious and cultural practices. But this does not make them strange. Accepting people's differences and understanding that people do not necessarily need to have similar likes, beliefs, looks etc, makes a person mature. Differences do not make people strange. The fact that people come from across boundaries also does not make them prone to unequal treatment. In fact, Kirkup says that no country is foreign. People created these rifts and boundaries and claimed those pieces of land as theirs. But in reality, the world is home to all people, and there is no such place that is foreign.
People are equal irrespective of differences
Making a reference to the Second World War, where men in uniforms fight each other, in the name of countries, Kirkup says that only the uniform is different and not the humanity inside them. A soldier who has pledged his allegiance to a particular country fights and kills soldiers who wear the uniform of other countries. But beneath the uniform of both countries, it is a single body that breathes, in the sense that both belong to the same human race. The body and feelings of all individuals are the same, even if the colour of the attire is different. Life thrives in that body just like all other individuals. The earth is home to all of us, and the land that we walk upon is the same land that the other person also walks. We do not have any right to draw a boundary and claim the earth as our own place. It belongs to all individuals born on earth. It is the same earth that we shall all be buried in after our soul leaves the body. This indicates that we can fight all we want for land and superiority, but ultimately it would not matter when we die.
Dragan Mujan Shutterstock.jpg
Soldiers in uniforms*
Meaning of difficult words:
StrangerAn unknown person
ForeignUnfamiliar and distant place
RacePeople who belong to or possesses the same physical traits
Hark back onRemember something from the past
SuperiorityThe state of being higher in authority
AttireThe dress/costume that one wears
RiftsA break in something
Physical featuresThings that can be visibly seen in a person, things, places
  • State Council of Educational Research and Training 2019. Term 1 English Standard - 10. No Men are Foreign - James Falconer Kirkup (pp. 179-182). Published by the Tamil Nadu Textbook and Educational Services Corporation.
  • Soldiers in uniforms*: Dragan Mujan / Shutterstock.com