Comparing Dulce Et Decorum Est, The Charge Of The Essay, Research Paper
Choose three poems and Show how the Poets Attempt to Either Contribute to,Or Destroy the Myth of Heroism Widely Upheld in Britain during the Crimean war and the Great War By Kevin Baldwin 11R War between nations’ stirs up immense patriotism between the different nationalities. Soldiers are often commended for bravery, nurses are commended for their aid, and without war, the world would be a totally different place. The Great War and the Crimean war were of no exception to this. However, as with all wars one casualty is eventually truth. Propaganda portrayed war as being glorious; it was patriotic to die for your country. Propaganda encouraged people to fight, and die, for their country. People wanted to believe in the myth of heroism, but censorship prevented the public from finding out the truth. The Crimean war of 1853 to 1856 is remembered because of the heroic soldiers of the ‘Light Brigade’. Lord Tennyson was in favour of the myth of war, and his poetry reflects this. The myth of heroism peaked in Britain when she was an Empire. It was an honour to die in warfare for such a glorious nation, and on the eve of the First World war, thousands of Britons signed up to the army expecting the war to be over by the Christmas of 1914, and to return home as heroes. World War one wasn’t over by 1914. It carried on for four years in the inhumane and intolerable trenches. Men could drown in the mud, and rats gorged on the dead bodies in no-man’s land. Soldiers such as Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon used poetry as an emotional outlet. Some of the most compelling poems in history were written at these times, and the dramas within them informed people of the truth. Lord Tennyson was never involved in direct warfare during the Crimean war. He was an onlooker and never experienced the horror of facing cannon fire. This was unlike the soldiers who perished. During the Crimean war, Britain was an Empire, one of the strongest nations on earth. To be a member of the world’s elite army would have been a privilege. The army was still divided into classes; Lords and Barons made the highest ranks, whilst the lower classes were the ordinary soldiers. Britain eventually won the Crimean war, but the Battle of Balaclava which is where the ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’ occurred, was fought under anarchic conditions. Lack of communication between the soldiers and their peers led to the heroic, but catastrophic charge. The ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’ is a poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson that concentrates on the tenacity of the soldiers. No mention is made of administrative errors. Lord Tennyson makes good use of repetition throughout the ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’. The first two lines in the opening stanza make good use of this technique. ‘Half a league, half a league, half a league onward’ was the distance the Light Brigade had to travel whilst under heavy fire. If the words are spoken appropriately, they sound like the hooves of galloping horses. The third and fourth lines of the first stanza use metaphors – ‘All in the valley of Death, Rode the six hundred’ contrast between light and darkness. ‘Death’ takes the role of darkness. ‘Forward the light Brigade, Charge for the Guns!’ is when they are given their orders, and ‘Into the valley of Death’ is repeated to empathise the soldier’s dire situation. Repetition is used to imply that the men knew what was happening. Nobody turned back on the order ‘Forward the Light Brigade’ in the second stanza, even ‘tho the soldier knew someone had blundered’. The cavalry knew that they were going to die; the repetition and alliteration in ‘Theirs not to make reply/ Theirs not to reason why/ Theirs but to do and die’ empathises the fact that they were a tool in Britain’s war machine, but their bravery and honour kept them going forward. The metaphor ‘Into the valley of Death ‘ is used again at the end of the second stanza. This also has religious significance, as it is similar to a Psalm. This makes the reader aware that the cavalry are like biblical heroes. ‘Cannon to the right Cannon to the left Cannon in front of them’ is simple, factual language. The repetition shows the reality of the situation and the inevitability of death, therefore reinforcing the cavalry’s bravery. The reader perceives the loud, powerful and threatening noises of cannon fire. The soldiers are ’stormed at with shot and shell’. The alliteration uses strong words, but ‘Boldly they rode and well’. The cavalry were proud of their livery and rode onward ‘Into the jaws of Death, Into the mouth of Hell’. These metaphors were used by Lord Tennyson to create the imagery of death. The fourth stanza is a brief account of the violent action. The cavalry draw their swords to intimidate the cannons, but this was to no avail. The Brigade was ‘Charging an army ‘ and they were hopelessly outnumbered and certain to die. The Light Brigade charged through ‘Cossack and Russian’ lines, and as they fought the cavalry showed their obedience, bravery and courage. They had battled so far, yet they had nowhere to go, so ‘ they rode back not the six hundred.’ The fifth stanza contains a lot of visual imagery and metaphors. On the way back the Light Brigade had nowhere to run or hide. There were ‘Cannon to the right Cannon to the left Cannon behind them’. The repetition of this phrase not only shows the cavalry’s position, but also enforces the fact that they had to proceed through artillery bombardment twice. The middle section of the fifth stanza is similar to the third stanza. The cavalry was ’stormed’ at again and ‘horse and hero fell’. They had fought so well, but they had sustained a vast amount of casualties. Only a few had somehow come ‘Back from the mouth of Hell’. The sixth stanza contains the message of the poem to ‘Honour the Light Brigade’. Lord Tennyson is glorifying war, and is contributing to the view of heroism upheld in Britain during that period of time. The poem was written to commemorate and praise the heroic charge of the Light Brigade. The poetry of World War one was the opposite of this. Poets such as Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon destroyed the myth of heroism. The poem “Dulce et Decorum Est”, an anti-war poem by Wilfred Owen, makes good use of vivid imagery, and compelling metaphors. This poem is very effective because of its excellent execution of emotional, poetic use. Owen’s use of exact diction and vivid figurative language emphasises his point, showing that war is terrible and devastating. Furthermore, the use of extremely graphic imagery adds even more to his argument. In the first line, he describes the troops as being “like old beggars under sacks.” This not only says that they are tired, but that they are so tired they have been brought down to the level of beggars who have not slept in a bed for weeks on end. They were men destitute of everything. They were marching towards ‘distant rest’, which is symbolic of their death. They were exhausted – ‘Men marched asleep’, and they had lost all sense of humanity and had suffered many hardships. They had ‘ lost their boots, but limped on, blood-shod. All went lame, all blind’. The metaphor ‘Drunk with fatigue’ is used to empathise the soldier’s exhaustiveness. They were ‘deaf even to the hoots of gas-shells ‘ In the second stanza, they are subjected to a gas attack. The short, sharp words ‘Gas! GAS! Quick boys!’ gives feeling to the second stanza. The reader can associate themselves with the soldier’s, and as the word ‘boys’ is used, it suggests that many of the soldiers were young men – a generation of men that would be lost. It was a mad rush in a life and death situation. In ‘An ecstasy of fumbling’, the soldiers managed to fit their ‘clumsy’ gas masks just in time.
One of the men didn’t fit his gas mask in time, and the second half of the stanza is full of vivid imagery of men drowning and being eaten alive by the poisonous gas. One soldier was engulfed ‘ under a green sea, I saw him drowning.’ In the third stanza, Owen goes on to say that in his nightmares, he can still see the same unfortunate man being suffocated by the ’sea’ of gas. Words like ‘guttering’, ‘choking’, and ‘drowning’ not only show how the man is suffering, but that he is in terrible pain that no human being should endure. The words are also harsh, and sound unpleasant reinforcing the fact that the man died an awful death. In stanza four, Owen writes about disposing of the body. The man was ‘flung’ in a wagon, showing the urgency and desperation of the fighting. The alliteration in ‘ watch the white eyes writhing in his face’ tells the reader of the violent pain the soldier had to endure. The descriptive and vivid imagery in the middle section of the fourth stanza evokes the reader’s mind into thinking about the painful picture of death. The dead man’s face is compared to a ‘devil’s sick of sin’ using a simile. The inhumanity of death during world war one is made apparent when Owen says, ‘If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood/ Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs/ Bitter as the cud’. Another effective metaphor is ‘ vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues’ which compares the soldiers memories, and untruths about war to a kind of cancer. Their memories are terminal, and they will never be able to recall anything without remembering the violence and painfulness of war. The last section of the poem is calmer, and more personal to the reader using the phrase ‘My friend’. This is of great contrast to the main bulk of the poem, but it is also bitter and destroys the myth of heroism by saying that it is a lie. ‘Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori’ translates as ‘It is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country’, and Owen enforces his statement that it’s a lie by using vivid comparisons and graphic imagery to make the reader feel disgusted to what war is capable of. Siegfried Sassoon was another soldier during the First World War. He was also a recognised poet in England before and after the war, and like Owen, his poetry during this period destroyed the myth of heroism and contrasted greatly to Lord Tennyson’s ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’. A lot of emphasis is made on the appalling conditions and the soldier’s health in his poetry, but ‘Wirers’ was written to honour the men who risked their lives to fix the barbed wire on the Front line. ‘Wirers’ is a poem of tragic irony exposing the soldier’s situation. In the first stanza, Sassoon tells the reader that a wiring party is going out into no-man’s land to mend the wire using everyday speech. This makes the reader aware that risking their lives was an everyday occurrence. ‘They toil with stealthy haste and anger in their blood’ because they don’t want to die a slow, painful death in no-man’s land. They are angry as they won’t gain anything by fixing the wire – it impairs themselves as well as the enemy. In the second stanza, the wiring party is exposed by the ‘Boche’, which was slang for the Germans during World war one. The use of slang allows the reader to associate with the poem more. ‘The Boche sends up a flair ‘ and the wiring party is silhouetted against the skyline. The soldiers are still with fear, as ‘Black forms stand rigid there’. The alliteration in ‘Stock-still like posts’ reinforces the fact that the soldiers are scared. When the flair burns out, ‘the clumsy ghosts’ stagger slowly to find an escape route, because they are exhausted. The soldiers ’stride thither and thither, whispering, tripped by clutching snare of snags and tangles’. The repetition and alliteration emphasises that they are clumsy. Ironically, the wire that is meant to be their ally impedes their withdrawal. The wiring party did return, only to face a new day of carnage. ‘Ghastly dawn with vaporous coasts’ is symbolic of poison and mist, and evokes the reader into thinking about the lethal gas attacks. The new day meant that the ‘night’s misery ‘ was over, but it shed fresh light onto new horrors. In the last stanza, ‘Young Hughes was badly hit; I heard him carried away, moaning at every lurch; no doubt he’ll die today’. The anecdotal, frank language suggests to the reader that death was an everyday occurrence. A painful, prolonged death was nothing that Sassoon hadn’t seen before. The whole of the last stanza is sad and pessimistic, which puts emphasis on the pointlessness of the soldier’s mission. The wire is only going to be cut again the next time the soldiers go over the top of the trench. It wasn’t worth the sacrifice, and the tragic irony present throughout the poem is concluded in the last line ‘ we can say the front-line wire’s been safely mended’. Sassoon’s and Owen’s style contrasts greatly to Lord Tennyson’s. Lord Tennyson quite clearly contributes to the myth of heroism upheld in Britain when she was an empire. From his poetry it is evident that he believed that war was a time when one could be brave, heroic and patriotic for one’s country. His pro-war view in the ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’ is what keeps many of us from forgetting about the Crimean war and the Battle of Balaclava. He praises the heroic charge, and his focus of attention is on the bravery of the cavalry. The reader’s mind is evoked into thinking about the cavalry’s obedience and bravery, and how willing the Light Brigade was to die for the British Empire. If a child were to read this poem after the Crimean war, they would see how brave the cavalry was, and they would also read how glorious it was to die in this manner. Seeing the immense patriotism and believing in the myth of heroism, they would probably be willing to die for their country.This attitude remained right up to the beginning of World war one. Thousands of young men signed up to the armed forces during the prelude of war, expecting it to be over by the Christmas of 1914. It wasn’t, and was fought at a stalemate for four years. It was the first war to include aircraft, gas and the machine gun, and nearly a generation of men was lost. Owen and Sassoon destroy the myth of heroism, and to make the readers aware of the true horrors of war, they wrote anti-war poetry. This poetry contained vivid graphic imagery and compelling metaphors. Even the language used can make the readers bond easily with the poetry. Even though people wanted to believe in the myth of heroism, such vivid and shocking images could not be ignored. People began to doubt the propaganda, and it wasn’t until after the First World War, the death toll and the true horrors were discovered. The world had never seen suffering on such a large scale before, and even nowadays in Britain, war is seen as being a time of immense loss and pain. The myth of heroism was destroyed by Owen, Sassoon and other war poets, probably never to be restored, as was intended in their poetry. By Kevin Baldwin 11R