The two poems “peace” and “dulce et decorum est” are two poems about the First World War, but they show two different views of the war. Rupert brooks “peace” poem is highly patriotic and displays a positive feeling about the war, Wilfred Owens “dulce et decorum est” highlights a very different view, a view of disgust, a view of the true horrors of the war. the poem seems re-open some of Owens wounds, revives memories he has from the war, memories that will be with him forever. Brookes on the other hand, had no first hand experience of the war.
The title for both of the poems is highly ironic, “dulce et decorum est” means “it is sweet and honourable to die for your country”, the actual poem totally disagrees with that statement, it is not sweet and honourable to die for your country. The title of “Peace” for the Brooke’s poem is ironic due to the fact that it informs you the poem is about peace, it is in fact, about war.
Dulce et decorum est is a poem about a company of men in the war. The men in the company do not have a human description, but seem to be describes as though they have aged in this war, “bent double, like old beggars…”. Everyone seems to be in a trance, there is no conversation, just a slow silent march, the men have all been de-humanised and now, they are nothing, their minds destroyed. But, when the gas attack occurs, they seem to spring back to life. Alas, one man can not get his mask on his face for some unknown reason and runs through the “green sea” of gas, he was “drowning”. The drowning man then proceeds to throw himself at Owen “guttering, choking, drowning”.
Once the gas has passed, and the man has died, the dead are flung into a wagon, as though something to be thrown away and forgotten about, not a tear is shed, nothing. Then, Owen uses a large amount of vivid and sickening description, such as “like a devil sick of sin” or “obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud”. Then, for the last 4 lines Owen states:
“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”
The final line is the most interesting, translated into modern day English it means, “it is sweet and honourable to die for your country”. Perhaps it is honourable to die for your country, but sweet? The final 4 lines are warning you that children should not be told this, it is not right, it is not
How things should be done, it is a lie. War is to be avoided, men are nothing but scum in war, senses of compassion are lost and men, de-humanised.
The Brooke poem, “peace” is about what happens to the world if there is no war. With out war, the world is asleep, we are dirty, and only war can cleanse us. Out youth are woken by war, “And caught our youth, and wakened us from sleeping”. Everyone should attend war, nothing can be lost, nothing, except an human body, the soul is left intact, and then you may join god in his kingdom of heaven. You will not loose, you have served and lost you human body for your country, is this not honourable and good? Brooke seems to be convinced that war is good, and without it, everyone becomes lazy and weary, war is necessary for the world to carry on turning. I do not think many will agree with his view in this poem.
The two poems use different styles of language, dulce et decorum est uses a more informal language, as though it is a story warning the reader about the war. The language is hard-hitting and effective, description is plentiful and vivid, the story needs to be read no more than one time to understand it fully.
Peace’s language is more formal, and it seems to flow like a speech, with a build up to a dramatic ending, it draws the picture in your mind of a man standing on a podium shouting the final lines to the gathering crowds. It must be read a few times to be understood fully, due to the language used, it is more complex.
There is only one thing that the poems seem to share and that is they both have this use of water. Dulce et decorum est has the men “as under a green sea, I saw him drowning” you cannot drown in gas, you suffocate, and the gas being described as a sea of gas. In peace the water reference is “to turn, and swimmers into cleanness leaping”, give you the picture of men diving into water and sighing a breath of relief as they feel their crimes and sins lifted from them.
And so, I draw my conclusion. The two poems are the two different views it is possible to have on the war, dulce de decorum est argues the war is terrible, whereas Peace argues that it is a good thing, and needed for life to continue. Can we judge as to which one is correct? I don’t think that is possible, although at times, Brookes view seems a little innocent, and he lacks real experience of the war, unlike Owen. I feel we must turn to Owens poem as the answer, no one should have to experience what men on the front line experienced, and everything should be done to prevent war, it does not bring people back to life, it de-humanises and destroys them.