A Mad Negro Soldier Confined at Munich

Stephen Yenser: On "A Mad Negro Soldier Confined at Munich"

For the "Mad Negro Soldier Confined at Munich," love has dwindled or hardened into sex alone. . . .

[T]he black soldier is the man fallen victim to the disordered and disordering world. His alienation is witnessed not only by his confinement following World War II, and not only by his color, but also and most poignantly by the drubbing given to him by two other black American inmates. That insanity is the nature of his environment as well as the state of his mind is indicated by his claim that he receives attention only from those with whom he was supposed to be at war, "'a Kraut DP'" and a "'Fraulein.'" In his isolation, madness, and tendency to violence, he foreshadows the poet-speaker in later poems in Life Studies; and in some respects he is a forerunner of the persona of For the Union Dead. At the same time, he is less a model for Lowell's later speakers than a spectre of what they might conceivably become, an image of the threat with which they are faced.