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English Literature – War Poetry Essay Sample

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Introduction of TOPIC

During the First World War many poets published their poems to encourage people to enlist in the army. Special spaces were left in newspapers for recruiting poems, for writers such as Jessie Pope. However, there were also some individuals such as Wilfred Owen who were against the idea of glorifying war.

In this coursework I have firstly decided to analyse two poems by the war poet Wilfred Owen, taken from his writings on the First World War. Both ‘Dulce et Decorum est’ and ‘Disabled’ show the true reality, horror and vivid imagery of war. Then I will analyse a very different poem ‘Who’s for the Game?’ written by Jessie Pope, and finally contrast this with the poems by Owen.

The First poem I am going to analyse is “Dulce et Decorum est” written by Wilfred Owen. Dulce et Decorum est Pro patri moria translated in to English means It Is Sweet And Fitting To Die For Ones Country. Owen wrote “Dulce et Decorum est” in order to inform people about the terror, torment and realism which was experienced during the war. It was written through his own eyes and based on his own experiences and views of the war. The recruiting poems make the war seem like a game and that you would be missing out on a big opportunity if you don’t go, when really you would be better off safe at home!

Verse one tells us a lot about the condition, both physically and mentally of the men and it gives us an idea of the appalling conditions! He portrays this by his continuous use of similes, metaphors and vocabulary. He uses similes such as, “Bent double, like hags”, this simile shows how many of the men fall ill! Owen also uses metaphors such as, “Drunk with fatigue”, to display how tired the men are, this metaphor leads us to believe that the men are so tired that they are unaware what is happening around them! He also uses onomatopoeic words like ‘trudge’ and ‘sludge’ making the reader more interested and attached to the poem. Owen says, “Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs”. The soldiers are fed up. They are so tired that even when the flares go off behind them they don’t have the energy or even feel like turning around to see them. They are just being led like zombies.

The pace of the poem quickens in the second verse. The soldiers are awoken by a gas attack. This shatters the mood that Owen has told of us in the opening verse. The soldiers are now awoken by the fact that their lives are in extreme danger and they now have to be fully aware of all their surroundings. The majority of them hurry and get there gas masks on, but unfortunately one of the soldiers miss out. Owen says, “Dim through the misty panes and thick green light, As under a green sea, I saw him drowning” The green light Owen talks of is the sight through their gas masks. Owen uses a simile saying that the man is drowning in a green sea. The reality of this is that the man is drowning in a sea of his own toxic blood. Owen also tells us how this memory has stayed with him. The sickening sight of a man struggling. Owen seems to have a great fear of the gas attacks when he talks of them.

Owen talks of all of the nightmares he has had because of the war and this event in particular Owen says “In all my dreams before my helpless sight” He describes how the man was taken away and the narrator Owen walked behind and saw his face. Owen is still haunted by the nightmare.

“We flung him in” The dead bodies are treated like meat there are so many deaths it becomes like a routine thing. He sees the horror that is standing behind the man who has been gassed to death. “My friend, you would not tell with such high zest to children or ardent for some desperate glory.” Owen is saying that if you could see the things he had seen then you would not believe the lie. By saying this he is expressing the bitterness he has not only for the army but the situation as a whole. Owen adds more examples of this throughout the last verse.

Owen is trying to put people off the war in this verse! It shows his anger towards the poets who glorifying war without experiencing it. He wants to show the true reality of war and it makes us angry and bitter too. Owens main question to the reader in the last verse is before going into the army think carefully of what you are doing as you might get and see something in great contrast to what you may have imagined.

The poem is describing a terrible shocking death by gas, how can it be sweet and fitting to die for your country if one die like this. This is the country that sold him the lie. “Dulce et decorum est pro patria moria.”

The second poem I am going to analyse is “Disabled” also written by Wilfred Owen. In the poem Owen is describing someone that he knew in the army. He has had his leg blown up. He has no legs and his arms are sewn at the elbow. He is in an institute, like a nursing home of some sought.

He wants for dark because then things will be quiet. He is fed up with life and is waiting to die. Owen uses the simile “suit of grey” to describe the boring, colourless life he has now. It also shows how grey he looks and feels. “Voices of boys rang saddening like a hymn”. He hea

rs voices of boys singing, these are voices of people playing just as he had once played. It reminds

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him when he was younger, not long ago for him. It once made him happy, now it just makes him sad and depressed. His life is such a contrast from how his life was then and how it is now.

He talks about the evenings. “About this time town used to swing so gay”. He says that at this time the towns atmosphere was fun and happy everyone is dancing having fun. He is very sad that he will never again experience this again. He liked going out and socialising with his friends, but now there reluctant to even go near him. “And girls glanced lovelier as the air grew dim”. He says the girls look upon like he has some kind of disease. He talks of how he will never again feel the waist of a women, he also talks about how he threw away his knees in the war. It was his own fault for signing up and he didn’t see the reality of war at that time.

“There was an artist silly for his face” He was once a lovely face now he looks old. His back is now in a brace this is the back that was not so long ago was a strong as anything. He has lost his colour just like losing blood. He feels as tough he has poured his life away down endless shell holes, he wonders what he has been given for this. Nothing. “And leap of purple spurted from his thigh.” He loves his youth. When his leg was blown away a massive part of him is now missing. One time he saw blood down his leg from a football injury, he thought this was great. Now he has no leg.

He wonders why he joined the army. He tries to impress people as they told him he would do well in the army. One reason he signed up was because his dear Meg would be pleased.

At the time he was not afraid. A soldier’s biggest worry is being afraid.

Owen says “And no fears of fear have come yet”

He had thoughts of all the swords and other weaponry that he would receive in the army. He had great thoughts of wearing the smart uniform and making those proud salutes. Smiling away they signed him away even when they knew he was too young at age. He said that before he never even thought of the Germans and he definitely had nothing against them.

He thought that playing football was great, the buzz he got from the cheering. People thought of him as hero. He thought that people would cheer for him in the army, he wanted to be a hero in the army. He tells about how he was given cheers and the noise of the drums as he leaves. He is so very optimistic.

When he is brought back the cheers were not like the ones before the cheers are in contrast to what he imagined. This is ironic to him. Only a few people cheered when he came back only one man inquired this man were the priest. This makes him feel in a way betrayed. He will spend the next few years doing as the rules say. People will just take pity on him. He talks of how the women ignore him for the strong people. People with all their body.

His final thoughts of the poem are one of total depression. He thinks that life is pointless.

He is so helpless he can’t go to bed without someone there to help him. He feels as though he only has a few years left. He wants to be put to death as he feels like he has and can do nothing that he feels will make his life tolerable and he feels as tough nothing that he does or feels will make him feel his life is worth it.

Owen’s main message is war isn’t a game or fun, you should be prepared to face thing like this. This person went to war for all the wrong reasons and didn’t look at the reality side of things.

The last poem I am going to analyse is’Who For the Game’ written by Jesse Pope to encourage young men to fight this was basically ethe fact that it was young men’s duty to go and fight for their country’s. This is apparent in ‘Who’s for the Game’. Jessie Pope makes us feel that war is not excruciating pain but just a game and this is apparent in the first two lines of the poem. Pope also repeats the word “Who” because she is questioning us and in the final two lines of the poem she tells us who this, who is and its you. She uses the word “you” to show who she is talking to..She refers to the country as being feminine because as it is every mans duty to protect their women, so it is also every mans duty to protect their country. This makes the poem more memorable.

These opening lines make us feel that war is a big game and fight and people play games to enjoy themselves and therefore this shows war as being enjoyable. When people read this poem it makes them think unknowingly that war is enjoyable. She also uses the word fight, which shows war to a scuffle between countries. When you fight all you end up with are bruises and this view was being imprinted on to people’s head. People were made to believe that war was a small and easy thing by calling it a fight. Pope also promotes loyalty for your country by saying that going to war is giving your country a hand. “Who’ll give his country a hand?” There was such an importance with loyalty that by reading just this one line men would want to join the war because who doesn’t want to help their countries. Pope also feels that war is a big show and the people who stay at home are just the audience and not part of this show. She thinks people who stay at home are in the stand in a football or rugby match. “Who want’s to turn to himself in the show? And who wants a seat in the stand.”

Jesse Pope thought of war as a small riot and the only motivation for men going to war was to shoot someone and hold a gun and this is shown when Pope writes: “Yet eagerly shoulders a gun.”

She persuades the men to join the army by making them feel false hearted and cowardly if they were to “lie low”. She also has a friendly manner in her poem as she refers to the men as ‘lads’. Pope also pressurises the men into joining the forces with her say that they’ll “come on alright”. She refers to the war as a sport maybe a football or a rugby game where a player would return with a minor injury such as a crutch that would be their souvenir from war she thinks that every man would want an injury rather than lying in the trenches and being out of the so called fun and do nothing. They would be seen as a hero. Jessie Pope also thinks that men who have come back unscathed from war didn’t have any fun. She thinks wars all fun and games.

Pope wrote this poem in four verses with a regular rhythm and rhyme scheme. Throughout the poem she uses simple language so that everyone can understand it and therefore it will have a widespread effect reach the masses. She also writes in a more conversational manner which makes the poem more memorable and persuasive. She is constantly playing with peer pressure. The atmosphere of the poem is cosy which is totally opposite to war. The poem would have probably been read with a buoyant, jolly and upbeat tone of voice. Within the poem, Pope uses of everyday language give the poem a less formal feel and inviting people to go to war. I feel when men would read this poem they would be intimidated so much they would feel it is their duty as being men to help their country.

In conclusion, I feel that all three of these poems are effective in studying the literature of the First World War as they both present such different pictures. Owen’s poems are an excellent example of poetry exposing the realism of war where as Pope’s poem is an excellent example of how she portrays the war as a game and encourages people to enlist. The contrast between the two allows the reader to see the reality of the First World War from two different perspectives. However, out of the three poems I still would think the Pope’s was the most effective poem that the reader would have followed.

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