Ten Little Soldiers
Ten Little Soldier Boys went out to Dine,
one choked his little self and then there were nine.
Nine Little Soldier Boys stayed up very late;
One overslept himself and then there were eight.
Eight Little Soldier Boys travelling in Devon;
One said he’d stay there and then there were seven.
Seven Little Soldier Boys chopping up sticks;
One chopped himself in halves and then there were six.
Six Little Soldier Boys playing with a hive;
A bumblebee stung one and then there were five.
Five Little Soldier Boys going through a door;
One stubbed his toe and then there were four.
Four Little Soldier Boys going out to sea;
A red herring swallowed one and then there were three.
Three Little Soldier Boys walking in the zoo;
A big bear hugged one and then there were two.
Two Little Soldier Boys sitting in the sun;
One got frizzled up and then there was One.
One Little Soldier Boy left all alone;
He went and hanged himself and then there were none.
Summary of Ten Little Soldiers
- Popularity of “Ten Little Soldiers”: Published back in the 19th century, “Ten Little Soldiers” is a descriptive poetic piece. The poet, Agatha Christie, talks about the death of ten boys with a special focus on conventional themes of loneliness and death. She wrote this poem keeping in mind a mix of emotions that consume our happiness and drag us toward chaos and tension. This simple and short poem earned global fame due to the representation of death taking young fellows into its fold one after another.
- “Ten Little Soldiers” As a Representative of Death: This sad poem begins with the description of ten soldiers who go out to dine. Unfortunately, one among them chokes himself, leaving nine of them behind. The remaining nine boys sit up till late; later, one among them never wakes up. Thus, after two deaths, there are only eight soldiers. As the poem continues, the writer tells how the remaining boys die. For instance, one chops himself, one is stung by a bumble bee, and the bear eats another one. In this way, nine boys die through unfortunate happenings. The last boy witnesses his fellow soldiers’ brutal, horrific and sad passing. The use of images like choking, chopping, and being attacked by a wild animal can easily make a normal person go insane. Unfortunately, the last remaining boy witnesses all these brutalities and is unable to survive amid chaos and pain. Thus, he hangs himself to avoid the pain of loneliness.
- Major Themes in “Ten Little Soldiers”: Death, loneliness, fear, and unfortunate incidents are the poem’s major themes. This poem describes a series of incidents that brought death to ten soldiers. The poem begins in a joyous mood when ten little boys go out to dine. However, the excitement ends in the second line describing the first death. Throughout the poem, the speaker records the strange deaths of little boys, implying when death arrives, it never lets you finish your business. On the one hand, the poet talks about unavoidable death. While on the other hand, it shows how loneliness and depression lead people toward chaos. A depressed and lonely person becomes insane to the extent that he never hesitates to end his life. This is what exactly happens to the last boy in this poem. He fails to avoid the trauma and pains and finds escape in death.
Analysis of Literary Devices Used in Ten Little Soldiers
literary devices are tools the writers use to create meanings in their texts. It is through these devices they convey their emotions, feelings, and ideas to the readers. Agatha Christie, too, used some literary devices in this poem. The analysis of some of the literary devices used in this poem is as follows.
- Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line, such as the sound of /e/ in “Ten little Soldier Boys went out to dine” and the sound of /o/ in “Seven little Soldier Boys chopping up sticks.”
- Alliteration: Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line in quick succession, such as the sound of /t/ in “then there were four.”
- Allegory: It is a figure of speech in which abstract ideas and principles are described in terms of characters, figures, and events. This is an allegorical poem that speaks about isolation, death, and depression.”
- Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line, such as the sound of /t/ in “A bumblebee stung one and then there were five.” and the sound of /n/ in “One overslept himself and then there were eight.”
- Irony: Irony is a figure of speech in which words are used in such a way that their intended meaning is different from the actual meaning of the words. The poem presents dramatic irony as all the soldiers die mysteriously in the poem, paving way for pain and horror.
- Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. Agatha Christie used imagery in this poem, such as; “Five Little Soldier Boys going through a door”, “Four Little Soldier Boys going out to sea” and “Two Little Soldier Boys sitting in the sun.”
- Metaphor: It is a figure of speech in which an implied comparison is made between objects different in nature. The poet used horror and death as extended metaphors in the poem.
- Symbolism: Symbolism is using symbols to signify ideas and qualities, giving them symbolic meanings that are different from the literal meanings. The poem shows symbols, such as tension, terror, death, trauma, and depression to point out the nature of death and its impacts.
Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in Ten Little Soldiers
Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is an analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem.
- Diction: It means the type of language. The poem shows formal and poetic diction bedecked with figures of speech.
- End Rhyme: End rhyme is used to make the stanza melodious. The poet has used end rhyme in this poem such as; “zoo/two”, “sun/one” and “door/four.”
- Heroic Couplet: It means two verses having the same rhyme scheme. The poem is written in heroic couplets.
- Rhyme Scheme: The poem follows ABAB rhyme Scheme and this pattern continues till the end.
- Tone: It means the voice of the text. The poem shows a simple but tragic tone.
Quotes to be Used
The following lines are useful to quote when referring to the people who commit suicide for some reasons.
“One Little Soldier Boy left all alone;
He went and hanged himself and then there were none.”