The poem No Men are Foreign written by James Kirkup is about universal brotherhood, love, harmony and equality. In this poem, the poet says that we all live on the same earth, have same body, emotions, food etc. There is no difference between us. Hence we should never consider people from other nations as aliens or strangers.
The poem has been divided into five stanzas having four lines each. We will learn the poem word by word in order to understand the meaning of lines as well as the hidden meaning.
The poet says that we should remember that no men on earth are strange and no countries foreign. Beneath (under) all the uniforms (clothes) there is a single body which breathes. In other words, all the people on the earth have same bodies. Hence we should never consider people from other countries as strangers.
In the third line, the poet says that our brothers (people from other countries) also walk upon the same earth on which we walk, i.e. earth is same everywhere on which we all lie. Note that the poet calls people from other nations as our brothers.
According to the poet, people in other countries are also aware of sun, air and water i.e. like us they also get the same sunlight, air and water.
Like us, they also love peaceful harvests after suffering the winter of war. Peaceful harvests symbolise peace and war’s long winter starved symbolises destruction caused by wars. These wars are fought in the name of nationalism which the poet does not like.
In the next line, the poet says that the hands of foreigners are also like ours and they also work hard to earn their bread and butter like us.
The poet says that we should remember that they have eyes like ours which either wake or sleep. They also have strength (emotions) which can be won by love. In every land (country), people live a common life which we can recognise as well as understand.
In this stanza, the poet says that whenever someone asks us to hate our brothers (i.e. those living in foreign countries), we should keep in mind that we are hating none but ourselves.
We will be dispossessing (take away things or land from others) or betraying (deceive) or condemning (abuse) or taking weapons against none but each others. Hence we should keep in mind that we are hurting none but ourselves.
In the final stanza, the poet says that it is the human earth (that land of human beings) which we will defile (destroy). The hells of fire (hatred) and dust (ignorance) will take away the innocence of air (i.e. beauty of air) which is our own everywhere.
In the last line, the poet says that we should remember that no men are foreign and no countries strange.
James Kirkup is an English poet who has seen the destruction of earth because of world war II. He knows well how ultra-nationalism can destroy the beauty of earth. This poem is a message to all the human beings that we should love each other and never consider anyone as stranger.