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No Men are Foreign Summary in English by James Kirkup

No Men are Foreign by James Kirkup About the Poet

James Falconer Kirkup, (1918 -2009), was an extraordinarily prolific writer in many genres. Though perhaps best known as a poet, he was also an accomplished translator of verse, prose and drama, a fine travel writer, a dramatist and an autobiographer of distinction. Kirkup started writing simple verses and rhymes from the age of six and his first poetry book, The Drowned Sailor was published in 1947.

His published works include several dozen collections of poetry, six volumes of autobiography, over a hundred monographs of original work and translations and thousands of shorter pieces in journals and periodicals. His skilled writing of haiku and tanka is acknowledged internationally. His home town of South Shields now holds a growing collection of his works in the Central Library, and artefacts from his time in Japan are housed in the nearby Museum. His last volume of poetry was published during the summer of 2008 by Red Squirrel Press, and was launched at a special event at Central Library in South Shields.

Poet Name
James Kirkup
Born 23 April 1918, England, United Kingdom
Died 10 May 2009, Andorra
Genre Poetry, fiction, journalism
Books I, of all people, No More Hiroshimas
Education Grey College, Durham, Durham University
No Men are Foreign Summary by James Kirkup
No Men are Foreign Summary by James Kirkup

No Men are Foreign Introduction to the Chapter

No. Men are Foreign can be described as a post-colonial poem which talks of globalisation and its resultant human unity worldwide. The poem was written in the late 1940s when World War II had come to an end, and dissidents were revolting against the oppressive rule of the colonial powers. The sense of racial superiority of the colonial powers was being rejected by the local citizens. Kirkup’s poem echoes these sentiments, and he wants his readers to celebrate these differences rather than be enslaved because of them.

No Men are Foreign Summary in English

In the poem No Men Are Foreign the poet tells us that no human beings are different. Beneath the superficial differences in appearance or behaviour, all human beings have similar feelings, emotions and reactions.

The poet begins by telling his readers that human beings are not different from each other simply on the basis that they hail from separate countries. Soldiers from one nation or the other may fight in the army of their nation, but underneath their different uniforms, they are all essentially similar. They live on the same earth and breathe the same air as their enemies and one day all of them shall be laid to rest in the same earth.

In these lines, the poet gives further evidence of the unity of man. He says that in times of war or peace, those who hail from countries other than our own also depend, like we do, on sun and air and water for their survival. Like us, they, too, have seen periods of peace and periods of war. In times of peace, they have experienced abundance and prosperity, just like us. Again, just like us, they have known shortage of food and famine during war. They have worked as hard as us and their hands show the lines of toil just as ours do.

The poet tells his readers to remember the fact that our enemies have eyes like ours and sleep and wake just like we do. We all have physical strength that can be won by force and the strength of the heart that can be won by love. All human beings use their inner strength to help their fellow beings and this strength is nurtured through love. Despite the differences between various nations, the common people live the same kind of life everywhere. Therefore, you can recognize the pattern of life no matter where you travel in this wide world.

The poet raises his voice against those groups that encourage us to wage wars against our brothers. The poet believes that we must all remember that whenever we are brainwashed and compelled to hate and kill our brothers, we only deceive, disown, betray and condemn ourselves; that this is a form of self-destruction. Any hatred that we may harbour for any member of the human race is a betrayal of the entire species and our condemnation of its future. If we kill people of any other nation, we are in fact endangering the human species as a whole and its survival on earth. He says that if we, the guardians of the earth, pick up arms against our brothers, and die as a result of the war, then there would no one left to take care of the home that our ancestors had passed down to us.

Comparing wartime with hell, the poet says that when war breaks out between two hostile nations, we pollute our mother earth to such an extent that we create a living hell of dust and fire that violates the purity of our surroundings including our thoughts and actions. In war as in hell, there is fire and smoke everywhere. As a result of this, the earth is becoming poisoned. The very air that we breathe is becoming impure and will not be able to sustain human life for much longer. That is why the poet encourages us not to wage war on our fellow men thinking they are foreigners and that their countries are unlike our own.

No Men are Foreign Theme

In No Men Are Foreign, James Kirkup reminds us that the man-made differences are baseless and they have caused endless wars and bloodshed. Divisions based on superficial differences are senseless since we all need the same basic resources for our survival. We are all descended from a common source and therefore, we must shun all violence and unite to make our lives better. Armies of the different countries wage war against their brothers.

They do not understand that there is an inherent similarity between all human beings. It is only in the times of peace and harmony that civilization progresses and people are content. In fact if a war is raging in a country then that country faces the threat of starvation since all sorts of production comes to a halt.

No Men are Foreign Tone

As we can see from the word ‘remember’ the poem begins on a didactic note which gives us the lesson that all humanity is alike in their heart and spirit. The poet wishes to show his readers the ultimate effect of hatred for fellow human beings to make them realize how bad it can affect them. He forcefully asserts that people of different countries are in no way different even though they wear different clothes and speak different languages. Emphatically stressing the futility of war, the poet points out that we only defile our own earth and pollute the very air we all breathe.

No Men are Foreign Message

The poem No Men Are Foreign gives a very important message. The poet tells us that some people have ceased to believe in the essential unity of man. They believe that a man hailing from a different country is to be hated and discriminated against. Such people are the ones who cause wars due to their false beliefs. The poet assures his readers that man is just the same everywhere. He experiences the same joys and sorrows and has been descended from the same ancestors. Therefore, he is justified in asking his readers to expel hatred for their fellow humans from their minds and hearts

No Men are Foreign Title

The poem No Men Are Foreign has an apt title. According to the poet we should not consider anyone as foreign or ‘strange’ as we are the children of the same God. The Earth is the common property of the mankind and we are the citizens of the world and not a particular country. We must give up narrow nationalism as humanity is the same all over the world and in harming anyone we are harming ourselves. The poet emphasises the futility of hating those who belong to other countries. When we wage war against others, we only defile our own earth.

No Men are Foreign Setting

The setting of this poem is the post-war modem society. Colonial powers had suppressed the others for centuries, creating the myth of white supremacy. Kirkup rejects racial superiority of the colonial powers and celebrates differences between people.

No Men are Foreign Literary Devices

Apostrophe is a poetic device where the speaker of the poem addresses a dead or absent person, an abstraction, or an inanimate object.

Example: In this poem, the poet uses the device of the apostrophe as he addresses all his advice directly to his readers.


Enjambment is when a sentence, phrase, or thought does not end with the line of poetry. Rather, it carries over to the next line.

Example: Remember they have eyes like ours that wake
Or sleep, and strength that can be won
By love. In every land is common life
That all can recognise and understand.


A metaphor is a comparison between two concepts, tightened by the omission of any adjoining words.

Examples: In this poem, the poet uses metaphor in the line
Like ours: the land our brothers walk upon
as he compares his fellow human beings with his own brothers.
He again uses it in the line
Are fed by peaceful harvests, by war’s long winter starv’d.
when he compares war with winter since reduced resources are available at both those sides.
He also uses it in the line
Our hells of fire and dust outrage the innocence
Of air that is everywhere our own
when he compares wars with hell.

Transferred Epithet

A description which refers to another character or event but is used to describe a different place or character.
In No Men Are Foreign the poet uses transferred epithet when he writes Are fed by peaceful harvests, by war’s long winter starv’d.

Here, the phrase “peaceful harvests” is a transferred epithet. It is not the harvests themselves that are peaceful, but peaceful social and political conditions that prevent a shortage of crops or famine and make harvests possible.

No Men are Foreign Summary Questions and Answers

Question 1.
What does the poet mean when he says “Remember, no men are strange, no countries foreign”?
The poet is making an impassioned plea telling readers to give up extreme nationalism and perceived differences between people belonging to different nations. We are brothers because we inhabit the same planet, drink the same water and breathe the same air, but we feel different and behave like enemies at times. The poet wants us to give up our misplaced patriotism and live in universal brotherhood.

Question 2.
How does the poet prove that there are no foreign countries?
Everyone shares the same sun, earth and air. They have the same body structure and its functioning elements. So there should be no biased attitude towards anyone.

Question 3.
What is meant by uniforms? What is there beneath all uniforms?
The word “uniform” refers to the distinctive clothing worn by members of the same organization or body or by children attending certain schools. In this poem, the poet uses “uniforms” to mean both the uniforms worn by soldiers and the varied traditional dresses belonging to different cultures and civilisations of the world, or the different clothes that symbolise who the wearers are. Beneath all uniforms lies the same human body.

Question 4.
Bring out the irony in the use of the word “uniform”?
Uniform implies a dress, costume or identification code that is similar to a group or organisation. Uniforms are necessary especially during war in order to differentiate between and identify soldiers on different sides who would otherwise appear to be same. But uniforms give rise to differences. Because every nation has a uniform, the world remains divided rather than united.

Question 5.
How are all the people of the world brothers?
All human beings are similar in structure as we are all flesh and blood. We walk on the same land as long as we are alive and will be buried in the same earth when we die. We also use the same sun, air and water.

Question 6.
How can we be one people though we belong to different nations?
Even if we belong to different nations, we can be one people because we all have the same body and we live and die on the same planet. All of us enjoy the same sun, air and water.

Question 7.
What are peaceful harvests? What do the peaceful harvests symbolise?
Peaceful harvests are the bountiful crops grown during times of peace. They are said to be peaceful because they can be nurtured only during times of peace. They symbolise happiness and prosperity.

Question 8.
What does the poet mean when he says “by war’s long winter starv’d”?
If a war is raging in a country then that country faces the threat of starvation since all agricultural production comes to a halt. Just as there are no crops in winter, war renders a land barren. That is why there is a shortage of food in winters and in times of war, too, there is deprivation and famine. People starve to death. Thus, starvation is associated with war and with winter.

Question 9.
What do you understand by “Their hands are ours”? What are their lines? How can we conclude that their labour is same as ours?
Their hands are ours means that people living in other countries have hands just like ours which toil hard to earn a living. Their lines mean the lines on their face and body which are just like ours. Hence, we can conclude that though they belong to another land, they have worked hard throughout their lives, just like us.

Question 10.
The poet says that men from other countries have the same basic requirements as us. Elaborate.
The poet says that men from other countries have the same requirements as his own countrymen by saying that they enjoy the same sunlight, breathe the same air and drink the same water. Not only this, they also work hard to earn a living. They too eat when their harvest is plentiful during times of peace and starve during war.