Analysing War Poetry Essay, Research Paper
Comparing and contrasting the poems we have read, show how they convey the thoughts of the poets and their reasons for writing the poems. Refer in detail to the poems, using quotations from the poems.
There are five different poems to be looked at, all of varying style, and about different aspects of war, such as celebrations, mourning and reminisces. Also, they were written in different periods, i.e. The Soldier, which was written in 1914, before people were aware of how long and horrific the war was going to be. The poet, Rupert Brooke, was a soldier in the war, as were the other poets, but is writing early on so his manner tells me he almost expects not to die, and that the war will be over quickly. The way he says, If I should die, tells me that dying, in an all out war, only remains a possibility to him, but a possibility he has prepared for, quite evidently, by writing such a poem.
Rupert Brooke believes, that if ever he dies on foreign soil, that soil will become English soil, and that it will be a victory because a man, born and bred in England, has, in one form or another, claimed land for his country.
That there s some corner of a foreign field
That is forever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
He claims the land in the form of a richer dust the richer dust being his dead remains that will slowly decompose into the soil, making it English soil.
Brooke is very sentimental about what his country has given him in his lifetime, and this is shown throughout the poem, but especially here:
A body of England s, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by the suns of home
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given.’
He perhaps sees that, in dying for his country, he is paying it back for all that it has given to him during the course of his life, described at the end of the poem.
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.
It could also be said that he has called England her, out of affection, as sailors do for their boats.
The style in which Rupert Brooke wrote is entirely different to how Wilfred Owen wrote Dulce et Decorum Est , the difference being that Brooke wrote about the good of dying for your homeland, and Owen wrote the exact opposite.
Dulce et Decorum Est translates to It is sweet and noble to die for one s country, and Wilfred Owen is trying to disprove this saying by describing something saw that was so horrific, he can still see the man dying in smothering dreams that he has.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
At the beginning of the poem Owen is describing to the reader the terrible condition he and his fellow comrades are in as they are making their way back from the warzone, and does this by using similes and metaphors.
Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Drunk with fatigue;
These descriptions give you the impression of troops of men trudging along, ill and war-torn in the most literal sense, struggling to keep awake, let alone be alert for enemy attacks. Onomatopoeia is used to describe the muddy conditions, sludge being used first and then trudge, as if the ground is so soft that their feet are sinking in and they cannot move well.
The next stanza changes pace dramatically with a few short sentences, and also there is onomatopoeia throughout the stanza, used on every line but one to good effect.
Gas! GAS! Quick, boys! An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And flound ring like a man in fire or lime
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
The squadron of men are rushing to get their gas masks on and in the panic, one man fails to do so. The use of the word floundering in this sentence has a great effect, because to see a man falling about, unable to keep steady, floundering is a hugely appropriate word, even by the sound of it.
Owen says he says he saw the man drowning under a green sea, through misty panes. I can see the thinking behind this because with a big mask on he could have felt like it was a diving mask, and the dirty visor coupled with the green tint in the atmosphere would have set the scene even more. Also the man s slow actions of grasping his throat whilst gradually sinking to his knees would liken it to an underwater situation yet more.
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
This is the part of the ordeal that must stand out the most in his memory, and he makes it stand out in the poem by writing it into a small stanza, and using alliteration to make that line unique in the poem.
The final stanza tells of the distressing task he and the rest of the squadron had, that being having to fling their fallen comrade into the back of a wagon, and watching his twisted face as he goes through the final motions of death.
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil s sick of sin;
Onomatopoeia is used in the writhing eyes in the man s face, as if it is twisted, as I said earlier, and contorted. He also says the man s face is like a devil s sick of sin. This could mean that since no-one has actually seen the devil, it can t be known how bad the devil looks, so in the same sense no-one could quite know how awful this man looked without seeing him in the flesh.
The end of the poem reads like this:
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.
These final lines hold the message of Owen s penmanship in them, that war is not a place for teenage males to be seeking glory, it is place of slaughter and merciless killing where no-one should be.
This poem was obviously written after the war, after the full horror of it had been exposed to Wilfred Owen. Dulce et Decorum est is a poem about a man who died during a situation in the war, whereas another poem, The Hero by Siegfried Sasoon, is about a woman who believes her son has died for the cause similarly, when he hasn t.
The story behind this poem basically is that a man in the army tried to desert his trench, and perhaps got blown up by a mine whilst getting out, and so an officer brought a letter to his mother saying he had died in battle, to make her feel better.
She half looked up. We mothers are so proud
Of our dead soldiers. Then her face bowed again.
This line is saying indirectly that there are many other mothers who are also having the same lies told to them, and feeling the same emotions which, critically, have no substance.
The next two stanzas are concentrated on the Brother Officer s thoughts, about how he had told a lie which will live on as the truth in some poor old lady s mind for the rest of her life.
For while he coughed and mumbled, her weak eyes
Had shone with gentle triumph, brimmed with joy,
Because he d been so brave, her glorious boy.
I think this shows the feelings of both people. The awkward uneasiness of the Brother Officer, mumbling a lie he didn t want to tell, and the sad pleasure of the mother, whose son had died for England.
I think the title could be called ironic, but that depends on whose view it is. To you and me it is ironic because we know Jack is no hero, just a coward, but to his mother, he is The Hero.
The last two poems, Dulce et Decorum est and The Hero could be interpreted as completely contradicting one another, as the first says that going to war will not make you a hero, whereas the second says dying in battle would be heroic. This gives two opinions to think about, and the two poems could be written differently due to the different experiences the two poets had in the war.
The Send-Off is about men setting off to go to war, and what may be of them when they return.
The sombre mood of the poem is set in the first line with the use of the words down, close, and darkening. The fact that these men are singing on their way to war tells me that an act is being put on, and that is shown when the oxymoron grimly gay, is used. This says, indirectly, that the men are grim inside, but are acting happy for the onlookers, and perhaps even to raise their own morale.
Their breasts were struck with all white with wreath and spray
As men s are, dead.
This stanza could be interpreted as saying the soldiers could come back just as they left except laid out in coffins, with their breasts stuck all white with wreath.
The middle of the poem explains the quiet exit of the soldiers:
So secretly, like wrongs hushed up, they went.
They were not ours:
We had never heard to which front these were sent.
The exit of the soldiers appears to be almost part of a cover up for something, leaving without noise so no one would know. It might have been because they were foreign, or maybe their exit was made inconspicuous so it wouldn t be so obvious if they didn t return. Running up to the end of the poem the poet shows this by writing:
Shall they return to beatings of great bells
In wild train-loads?
A few, a few, too few for drums and yells,
May creep back, silent, to village wells,
Up half known roads.
There will be no celebrations, just the deafening sound of silence as soldiers are making their way back to the village, going unnoticed. As unnoticed as
when they left.
I think Wilfred Owen wrote this poem, like Dulce et Decorum est, to expose the fact that war isn t a place to make yourself a hero, but not in such an extreme fashion. He puts the point across by hidden messages in the poems, like, Their breasts were stuck all white. The term stuck can be used when an animal is slaughtered by having it s throat slit, and so could mean the soldiers are lambs to the slaughter if it is viewed in that sense.
I believe Owen wrote Exposure as another put off from war, but not like the other two poems of his I have looked at. In this one he writes of some of the terrible conditions faced during the war, and also how they affected him.
Our brains ache, in the merciless iced east winds that knive us
Alliteration is used here to create a cold, icy effect with the s , and the short words broken up give a twitchy effect.
The poem actually makes no reference to killing, just the burying of fallen soldiers at the end. I don t think Exposure was written to shock anyone, but more to get the reader thinking. This is shown with the sentence at the end of each stanza, which either poses a rhetorical question or makes a statement that to understand you would have to have read the stanza thoroughly. This leads me to believe that Wilfred Owen was a deep thinker and obviously had some terrible experiences during the war, and by writing about them in poem form could get normal people almost understanding what he went through with expressive language.
Having mentioned the sentences at the end of each stanza, I think they were his main thoughts whilst at war. For long periods, nothing probably did happen. He probably did wonder what he was doing there. He also probably thought about dying a lot.
Exposure is a difficult poem to analyse, but I think this poem tells you of not only the war, but also about Wilfred Owen and what the war meant to him. In not only Exposure but also the other two poems of his I looked at, he was more vivid in his descriptions than either Siegfried Sasoon or Rupert Brooke. Brooke wrote of his patriotism in The Soldier, whereas The Hero tells of the shame the war can sometimes bring, and Owen tells the full horror of the war in his poems. These men who have experienced war all have their own ways of telling it, but I have my own poem which I think sums up war perfectly: