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Compare and Contrast ”Dulce et Decorum Est” and ”Joining the Colours” Essay Sample

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Introduction of TOPIC

Both of the poems named above are about war. They are on the different aspects of war from two peoples’ point of view. ‘Joining the Colours’ is by Katherine Tynan, a woman who did not go to war and stayed at home. She did not know what life was like in battle but wrote her thoughts and feelings on the matter and the soldiers. Wilfred Owen wrote ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ and was in the First World War. He was hospitalised for shell shock and after returning to the battlefield, he died one week before war ended. He wrote from experience.

Although ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ and ‘Joining the Colours’ are seen through two points of view they are still similar. Both the poems are based on World War I and young soldiers. They focus on the horrors and the lies of war. In ‘Dulce’ the last lines read:

The old lie: Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori-It is sweet and honourable to die for your country.

Wilfred Owen is telling you here that the saying is not true and tries to persuade you that it is hell out there in the battlefield and on the front. In ‘Joining the Colours’, ‘In to the dark’ and ‘Love cannot save’ are referring to the soldiers, walking in to their own graves by marching into war. Even the love of friends and family cannot stop them. So from this they are both showing how horrendous war is and how much it can affect you and others. The poems are tragic in the sense that the soldiers are dead, dying or will die and this shows the reality of war. This is what happens in war. Family and friends are left behind, soldiers can be killed, injured or become disabled and if they come out alive are traumatised for life:

In all my dreams before my helpless sight

He plunges at me guttering, choking, drowning.

This is from ‘Dulce’ and it was a recurring nightmare and an image not easily forgotten. The memories of war never go away.

‘They pipe their way to glory and the grave.’ The soldiers are still young and they are cheering themselves on to what they think will be glory but for some will be the death of them.

The first noticeable difference between the two poems is the fact that there are soldiers marching in to war full of spirit and enthusiasm and there are the other soldiers in retreat dying and injured, unable to continue.

‘ There they go marching all in step so gay!’ From this line you can tell that they are going into war as they are marching and ‘all in step so gay’ are the soldiers being in rhythm with each other and high in spirit.

‘Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots.’ The soldiers are ‘drunk with fatigue’, too tired to continue and are walking with no boots on, in bare foot. They are ‘bent double, like old beggars under sacks,’ the men’s’ conditions are so poor to be able to be compared with beggars. They are crouched and dragging themselves ‘through sludge’. This first stanza sets the scene for the rest of the poem. In contrast to the soldiers going off to war they wee ‘Smooth-cheeked and golden,’ in the best possible condition; fit, healthy and ready for battle.

Another difference I noticed is the style of writing. ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ is like a story being told. All the events in the poem have already occurred and Wilfred Owen is just recalling them. Katherine Tynan writes as if she is telling the story there and then, it is in the present, it hasn’t already happened like in Owen’s poem.

Something else observed is that one of the poems is written by a male and the other by a female. There will be two separate points of view because of the two sexes, also as Owen was involved in the war and Tynan wasn’t. As Owen was a soldier and involved in the war the type of poems he could write would be with first hand information from his experiences where as Tynan could only write about what she heard or felt. Owen would illustrate his poem differently as he has knowledge of what life was like in the war and of the army. Owen was also seen as heroic as he fought for his country and in the poems written by him, he could make it seem as he and others were heroes doing great things. Tynan was wasn’t a soldier therefore not a hero so it is quite possible she couldn’t write about the same things the same way because of this. With ‘Dulce’ all of the soldiers and Owen are seen as great men as they have just been fighting and then you have the ‘Gas! Gas! Quick, boys!’ so there is someone taking command and alerting everyone else.

In Tynan’s poem ‘Joining the Colours’ the soldiers going off to war are seen not so much as heroes but foolish as they are young and naive and haven’t had the experience of fighting. The atmospheres of the two poems are entirely different. ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ is more emotional and in a battle seen so all is going to be more daunting; Whilst ‘Joining the Colours’ is more cheerful and jolly. To me it appears like a typical propaganda film/poster made to try and persuade young men to recruit in the army and to fight for their country. There are words you could compare between the two poems that are opposites such as ‘wedding day’ and ‘haunting’.

The scene

for the wedding day, is all of the soldiers marching merrily as if they were going to a wedding. For

the ‘haunting’ it is more of a scary atmosphere as the flares of the enemy go up and the soldiers realised they have been spotted. There are the ‘smooth-cheeked and golden’ boys who are young and fresh and in a good state for action versus the ‘lame’ and ‘blind’ soldiers being compared to ‘hags’. They are compared to ugly, old women because of the condition they are in so their state must be really bad. The soldiers marching to war ‘pipe their way to glory’ with plenty of confidence and courage of defeating the enemy but the other soldiers are ‘under a green sea’ of gas. They then watch their comrade ‘drown’ in it and are too helpless to do anything to help. The soldier drowning in the gas is similar to a soldier drowning in water as it has the same effect.

The forms of the poems are quite similar. They both have four stanzas and a regular rhyming scheme of alternate lines. Lots of similes are used and others as well as assonance. There are mostly ten syllables to a line in each stanza. There is plenty of alliteration in both poems such as ‘Knock-kneed’ with the two k’s and in ‘beggars’ with double g. Also, there is sibilance like in the word ‘sacks’. In ‘Joining the Colours’ there is sibilance in three words ‘shells’ and ‘street stares’. There is a good use of assonance in the second line of the first stanza of ‘Joining the Colours’ with oo and ee sounds. They appear in the words ‘smooth-cheeked’ and ‘food’. Having these sounds makes the words stand out. It emphasises a point wanting to be made or it can just make the word/s or line appeal. The important words become clear. In stanza two there is a repetition of the word ‘row’, alliteration of the letters t and c and some sibilance too. Again in stanza three there is alliteration in the words ‘with’ and ‘whistles’.

There is similar sounding because of the w, t and h and because of the assonance of the letter i. There is also alliteration with the letter g in ‘glory’, ‘grave’, ‘gay’ and ‘golden’. In the last stanza there is repetition of ‘High’ and of ‘mist. Exclamation marks are used whenever there is an important point or once again, to emphasise something. The last lines of both the poems are short, this is to stress a point, and so you can understand what is going on. Katherine Tynan and Wilfred Owen both used similes like ‘singing like the lark’ and ‘Bent double, like old beggars’. Owen appreciates the use of similes more as he has another two in his poem, which are ‘coughing like old hags’ and ‘His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin’. Having similes creates a more vivid imagery so the reader can attempt to imagine what the scene is like and what is going on. Owen also makes use onomatopoeic words such as ‘sludge’ which has a gooey sound to it and you get the feeling of slime. Also ‘trudge’, you imagine the soldiers plodding along in their bare feet and slime all around them, it makes it a discomforting a atmosphere.

Like the difference in gender between the two poets can affect the content, it can also affect the form and the lay out of the poem for mainly the same reasons. The fact that ‘Dulce’ was written by a soldier could affect the way in which Owen layed out the poem. As Katherine Tynan is a woman, her views are most likely different and she won’t have the same knowledge that Owen has of the army and being a soldier, so she can’t write from that point of view. The way in which Owen wrote the poem is pretty horrific:

He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

….the white eyes writhing in his face……like a devil’s sick of sin.

He tried his best to make the poem as vivid as possible which worked very satisfactory. It’s extremely descriptive and somewhat violent and is set in a battle scene. ‘Joining the Colours’, although based on the same topic(war) is still very different. It portrays the soldiers before they have been to war and experienced what it is like and what will be the outcome. It is more emotional, especially in stanza four when it says:

….The poor girls they kissed

Run with them: they shall kiss no more, alas!

It is rather sad because you know that the soldiers are most likely to die and this is what Tynan is telling you. So this poem is really a mixture of feelings as half of each stanza is all blissful then it turns around and is sad and saying the soldiers will die. ‘Dulce’ is about twice the length of ‘Joining the Colours’. I feel that the poem is more of a very short story in the sense that it has a beginning, middle and an end. The first stanza sets the scene, then the action arises and there’s the moral right at the end. Don’t go to war. To me, ‘Joining the Colours’ just seems like a regular poem that it has stanzas of equal length, a rhyming scheme and a meaning to it. ‘Joining the Colours’ is a Regular form poem called Sapphics named after a female, Greek poet from the 7th century BC called Sappho. It consists of three lines then one short line. ‘Dulce’ is an irregular form poem with lines of different length. The stanzas are also of different length. Stanza three is two lines long.

Something mentioned before about ‘Joining the Colours’ going from good to bad in each stanza is contrasting. That is what was used in this poem, contrast. For example:

Drab streets……singing like the lark.

The streets are very gloomy then the soldiers are cheerful:

Too careless-gay for courage……..into the dark.

The soldiers are too carelessly happy/ high in spirit for courage then they are going into the dark, death. ‘glory……grave.’ You have greatness then death. By contrasting like this it sets two different moods. Using the quote above as an example, it has a high and then finishes with a low.

‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ is mostly made up of alliteration, the repetition of consonants and words, assonance and some onomatopoeic words. By having this it makes words stand out. The poem doesn’t contrast as much within itself.

In my opinion, ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ is the most successful poem. It has stanzas and lines of different lengths. It has vivid imagery that brings the poem to life and having a rhyming scheme it makes the poem more interesting and makes some things stick in your head. It is longer than ‘Joining the Colours’ and it is possible to try to work out the scene yourself. How everything happened, what it looked like. This poem is very descriptive and goes into great detail about everything mentioned.

When Owen talks about the soldier who died from the gas he explains everything from the moment the gas entered his lungs, to what he looked liked and what happened to him after he died. This is what makes a good poem, and it is the same with novels as well. If you pick up a book and it isn’t very descriptive then you can’t picture the situation and the book isn’t as good. ‘Joining the Colours’ is like that book where it isn’t so descriptive and doesn’t have a series of events. It is just soldiers marching down the street and the thoughts and feelings of others. The only description is of the boys. In ‘Dulce’ numerous things are happening and each one is described fully:

And floundering like a man in fire or lime………

…..As under a green sea, I saw him drowning……

…..He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning…..

…..And watch the white eyes writhing in his face……..

…..If you could hear……the blood/Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,

Everything that happened to that man was described to its fullest. His eyes rolling up into his head and blood gargle out of his mouth. All the adjectives are used so people can see what it was like on the battlefield and it wouldn’t be thought of as going out there, killing the enemy and being victorious. There is a lot of suffering. Also, it can appeal more to readers because most people tend to enjoy violence in films and in writing. So from all this and everything else I’ve said about this poem, these are the reasons I find it to be more successful. The poem is overall better and more successful than ‘Joining the Colours’.

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