New Zealand mosque shooting: The significance of the two poems in terrorist Brenton Tarrant's manifesto

Brenton Tarrant placed three poems inside his manifesto. Here's why we think he picked these poems in particular


                            New Zealand mosque shooting: The significance of the two poems in terrorist Brenton Tarrant's manifesto

The manifesto of terrorist Brenton Tarrant, 27, details his reasoning behind carrying out the attack and provides some insight into his psyche. In the approximately 17,000-word document, surprisingly, are three poems: Dylan Thomas' 'Do not go gentle into that good night,' an altered version of Rudyard Kipling's 'The Beginnings,' and William Ernest Henley's 'Invictus.'

'Do not go gentle into that good night' features in what is, for all intents and purposes, the first page of the manifesto, before he goes into detail on his motivations behind the attack. The poem features six stanzas, each of a different theme, and could serve to explain Tarrant's mindset while carrying out the shootings.

Dylan Thomas' 'Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night' featured at the start of the manifesto (Source: Brenton Tarrant manifesto)
Dylan Thomas' 'Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night' featured at the start of the manifesto (Source: Brenton Tarrant manifesto)

While the first two stanzas are mainly about Thomas' sadness at his father dying and the impact of artists, poets, and creators, it's the third that should be of particular interest. Thomas talks about the "Good Men," the so-called sages, saints, prophets, and messengers of God who devoted their lives to the betterment of mankind.

While they have been inspirational, they still feel they could have continued to make the world a better place and rebel against death, clinging to life despite all odds. It's very likely that, considering the nature of his other musings, Tarrant thought of himself as one of these "Good Men."

But it's also possible the 27-year-old thought he was one of the "wild men," i.e. the conquerors, emperors, dictators, and leaders, who had high ambitions. These are the men who had been extremely brave and adventurous and who listened to their own desires, never letting themselves get affected by the negativity around them. But they too die too soon and feel they could have accomplished more if they had lived more.

An altered version of Rudyard Kipling's 'The Beginnings' was the prelude to 'Section I' (Source: Brenton Tarrant manifesto)
An altered version of Rudyard Kipling's 'The Beginnings' was the prelude to 'Section I' (Source: Brenton Tarrant manifesto)

The second poem, an altered version of Rudyard Kipling's 'The Beginnings' called "The Wrath of the Awakened Saxon," comes at around a third of the way through his manifesto. It serves as a precursor to a section where Tarrant addresses conservatives, Christians, Communists, and Turks.

While the original version of the poem is about English people and how they transform from naturally peacefully people to becoming filled with hate, leading to the advent of a new epoch, the altered version sees every mention of the word "English" replaced with "Saxon." Kipling's original was thought to be in context of anti-German sentiment among the English public during World War I.

William Ernest Henley's 'Invictus' was featured at the end of the manifesto (Source: Brenton Tarrant manifesto)
William Ernest Henley's 'Invictus' was featured at the end of the manifesto (Source: Brenton Tarrant manifesto)

Saxons were the Germanic people whose name was given to a country near the north coast of what is now Germany, with the replacements meaning the poem was now about how the Aryan race was slowly becoming filled with hate and would rebel. It effectively rendered the poem an anthem for white nationalist and Neo-Nazi groups.

The last poem, 'Invictus,' features in Section IV, "In Conclusion." Invictus means "unconquerable" or "undefeated" in Latin and the poem was written by Henley about showing might in the face of adversity. The theme of the poem is the will to survive in the face of severe challenges and could have been Tarrant's way of indicating he did not plan to give up on his plans to carry out the shooting even if he came across resistance.