Word cloud of keywords and phrases from the poem The Destruction of Sennacherib

Interpreting and analysing a poem is not necessarily a matter of finding the right answer.

Poems are complex creations and are open to many different interpretations. Your interpretation is as valid as anyone else's - as long as you can back it up with suitable evidence from the text.

Remember to avoid simply identifying what techniques or approaches poets use. Aim to show an understanding of how form, language and structure create meanings and effects.

Below are some differing interpretations of the poem. How would you interpret the poem?


Interpretation of the whole poem

InterpretationReason for interpretation
The reader may sympathise with the people of Jerusalem.The attackers are compared to a wolf hunting its innocent prey and the ‘fold’ refers to an enclosure in which sheep would be kept.
The reader is meant to sympathise with the Assyrians.So many Assyrians are killed that we are meant to be horrified by what has happened to them. We also learn about their grieving widows.

Interpretation of the lines: ‘And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold;/ And the sheen of their spears was like stars on the sea,’

InterpretationReason for interpretation
The Assyrian soldiers are described as powerful and strong.This is emphasised by the bold colours of their uniforms and the sheer number of their weapons.
The Assyrian soldiers are not as strong and powerful as they appear.The words ‘gleaming’ and ‘sheen’ hint that the Assyrian army is all about flashy showmanship and that they are not quite as powerful as they think they are.