Examine a Selection of Poetry by the War Poets Essay Sample
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Introduction of TOPIC
What do you learn of the different attitudes of the poets and their societies and which poet do you find the most effective at expressing their attitude?
What is war poetry? War poetry is, on a basic level just that… War-Poetry: poems about war and its effects on people. In the majority of cases war poetry is far more emotional and thought provoking than any other type of poetry especially when it is written with such experience and passion as Wilfred Owen. War poetry is written not only to inform and educate the reader about the horrors of war, but also to reflect upon events and to try and change the attitude of society. An example of my last point is, once again Wilfred Owen, his poem “Disabled” really does bring the side effects of warfare into perspective.
This essay will attempt to compare and discus the main themes running through a selection of Pre-Twentieth and Twentieth century war poetry and try and answer the question: “What do you learn of the different attitudes of the poets and their societies and which poet do you find the most effective at expressing their attitude?” The poems this essay will compare are: (Pre-Twentieth) “The Battle of Blenheim” by Robert Southey and “The Charge of the Light Brigade” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson and (Twentieth): “Who’s for the Game?” by Jesse Pope and the aforementioned “Disabled” by Wilfred Owen.
Before we get to the poems themselves, here is some information about society in Pre-Twentieth Century(s) and Twentieth Century Britain; during the 1800’s war was seen as “good”. People believed that Britain was all-powerful and should be allowed to go to war if and when she wanted to. People saw war as the “right” way to win arguments and to settle scores, also few people actually had been affected by war. In the 1800’s war was viewed as something fought “over there” something that did not, something that could not hurt them. The average person living in Britain in the 1800’s would only know of a few people killed during the war and even then, they were unlikely to be close family or friends. This is not to say no one died in Pre-Twentieth Century warfare only that the military covered it up more. Also, the sheer lack of available information made people believe that war’s side effects were a lot less severe. By the Twentieth Century, things had changed a little. For a start the way wars were fought were different. Gone were the noble cavalry charges and the heroics of old; now soldiers were faced with trench warfare.
Trench warfare was terrible from a soldiers point of view (a good source of this is “Dulce et Decorum Est” by Wilfred Owen). They were faced with; cold, wet conditions; rats; many different diseases and infections and perhaps most important; death. The whole world had never seen death on the scale of World War One before. Pre-Twentieth Century death tolls were at most ten to a hundred thousand, now these figures spiralled into their millions. Many soldiers left the army or became conscientious objectors because of the conditions. Day after day thousands of men were needlessly slaughtered or horrifically wounded during battle (one of these being Wilfred Owen). These high death tolls vastly increased the average Britons chance of being affected themselves and because more people were affected, society changed. War was still viewed as noble but more and more people began to doubt the reasons behind it. More and more people refused to fight and more and more people refused to at least aid the war-effort (i.e. becoming a field medic etc). All the horrors experienced during these periods of fighting made for compelling poetry, as we shall soon see.
The first poem to be disused is “The Charge of the Light Brigade” by Alfred Tennyson. Here is information about Tennyson and the Charge of the Light Brigade. Alfred, Lord Tennyson was born in Somersby in Lincolnshire in 1809. Alfred began to write poetry at an early age in the style of Lord Byron. After spending four unhappy years in school he was tutored at home. Tennyson then studied at Trinity College, Cambridge. After his father’s death in 1831 Tennyson left Trinity College and returned to Somersby without a degree. After marrying Emily Sellwood, whom he had already met in 1836, the couple settled in Farringford, a house in Freshwater on the Isle of Wright in 1853. In 1855 Tennyson read an article in “The Times” which was written by W.H. Russell, this inspired him to write possibly his most famous poem… “The Charge of the Light Brigade”.
Tennyson continued to write poetry until his death in 1892 at the age of 83. The subject of Tennyson’s poem was the ill-fated “Charge of the Light Brigade” which occurred during the Crimean War (1854-56). The war was fought between the Allies (Britain and France) and Russia because Russia attempted to take land from the recently deceased Turkish Empire. The actual Charge of the Light Brigade happened at Balaklava where the British Cavalry Commander misinterpreted an order to attack a Russian position. This “mistake” led to the death of over 200 cavalry, many more were wounded. Even though many men died and the battle was a defeat the 600 cavalry showed intense bravery and were awarded with a special medal. This bravery is one of the main themes in Tennyson’s poem. Also note that Tennyson was a civilian poet, he had no experience of war.
The poem opens with the words:
“Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward”
This statement immediately sets the tone for the whole stanza. The words create a prominent rhythm, which sounds almost like the galloping of horses. The repetition of the words “Half a league” in a way creates a feeling of urgency, that the cavalry were spurred into motion.
“… valley of Death”
This metaphor found in lines 3 and 7 adds to the already heightened imagery and exonerates the extreme bravery of the cavalry, they knew they were heading into the “valley of death” yet they continued.
“‘Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns!’ he said;”
This statement sum’s up the mistake made by the Cavalry Commander; charging into a valley with cannon and guns firing at you is always going to lead to many deaths, but at the same time as it is pointing out the incompetence of the British Officer, it adds to the sense of bravery which surrounds the Light Brigade.
“‘Forward the Light Brigade!’
Was there a man dismay’d?
This quote again emphasises the bravery and fearlessness of the Light Brigade, no one was dismayed, no one turned back, they knew it was a mistake to charge the valley but they did it anyway. Also in this extract, Tennyson has deliberatly missed out letters in the word dismayed to keep the rhythm and flow of the poem going.
“Their’s not to make reply,
Their’s not to reason why,
Their’s but to do and die:”
This is once again a tribute to the Light Brigade, it says that the cavalry didn’t waver, they didn’t question orders, they knew their role and they furfilled it.
“Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them”
This repetion of the words “Cannon to … of them” creates the feeling that the soldiers were trapped, that they couldn’t escape from the so called “valley of death”. This also reinforces the stupidity of the officer in charge… the battle was allways going to be a failure, it ended up being a wadte of two-hindred lives.
“Volley’d and thunder’d;
Storm’d at with shot and shell,”
The words volleyed, thundered and stormed (all shortened to keep the rhythm) create the image of a lightning storm. This imagery makes the reader relate to the soldiers more and more, everyone has experienced a lighting storm and how uncormfortable it can be when your outside during one; the soldiers were experiencing this uncomfortableness ten-fold. Also the words “stormed … shot … shell” are alliteration which adds to the rhythm.
“Boldly they rode and well.”
This statement can tell us tow things about the Light Brigade; i) the Light Brigade had no regrets about what they were about to face, they rode boldly, without thinking of the consequences ii) even though the Light Brigade were face with to say the least; an uphill struggle, the men still tried to pull a victory out of the bag, “… they rode and well”: they rode and they did it well.
“Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell”
This personification of death and hell adds tension to the poem. The euphemisms (“Jaws of Death”, “Mouth of Hell”) are both linked to the mouth, it makes the valley seem like it is going to swallow up the men, this adds to the tension of this stanza. These euphemisms also sound very noble which again adds to the sense of bravery and courage surrounding the Light Brigade.
“Rode the six hundred.”
This has been repeated at the end of the first three stanzas. It represents the loss of life. Also note that the cavalry still rode… none had died yet.
“Flash’d all their sabres bare,
Flash’d as they turned in air,”
Here Tennyson uses the repetition of the verb “flashed” to give a vivid impression of the battle going on around. The passage is quite powerful in the way it describes the fighting, it leaves enough to the readers imagination to make the reader actually think about what’s going on, but gives away enough information as to not leave the reader in the dark so to speak.
“Charging an army, while
All the world wonder’d:”
The first line of this particular extract “Charging an army” adds to the courageousness of the men even more. Tennyson exaggerates the enemy’s forces to make it sound like the Light Brigade attacked not just a Russian position, but a whole army! The second line gives the impression that the whole world eagerly awaited news of the Light Brigade before and during the battle. This implies that the Light Brigade were hero’s before their ill-fated charge, the reality being… they were not. The second line also contains alliteration and word shortening for the already written reasons.
“Cossack and Russian
Reel’d from the sabre-stroke”
This statement implies that the Russians were loosing the battle, which is another “lie” written in this poem. Tennyson “bends” the truth in the poem sometimes to add effect, in my opinion phrases like “Charging an army” and “Cossack and Russian / Reel’d from the sabre-stroke” add to the bravery and courage of the Light Brigade a lot more than the facts i.e. “Charging some men on a hill” and “Cossack and Russian / Obliterated the British” don’t you?
“Then they rode back, but not,
Not the six hundred”
The Light Brigade had retreated but Tennyson implies by the words “rode back” that the Light Brigade had forced the Russians to withdraw, once again, this was not the case. Tennyson also doesn’t refer to the death of the men directly he only says “Not the six hundred”. This is very vague and leads me to one of two conclusions: i) that Tennyson must be extremely patriotic for in every line something has been say in a way that portrays the Light Brigade as heroes or ii) Tennyson is very much against war. His “hero-ism” of the Light Brigade is in fact irony, he is saying that the public view war and the actions of Light Brigade as “good” and “heroic” but how can this amount of death be these things?
“Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them
Volley’d and thunder’d
Storm’d at with shot and shell,”
The repetition of this extract from stanza three reminds the reader exactly what the Light Brigade did and what they went through. Tennyson uses this to build up to the triumphant end to the poem.
“While horse and hero fell,”
Tennyson once again uses words like “hero” to exonerate the Light Brigade, to make them sound more brave and more courageous then they actually were.
“They that had fought so well
Came thro’ the jaws of Death
Back from the mouth of Hell,”
Tennyson again uses phrases like “fought so well” and “Back from the mouth of Hell” to further the heroics of the Light Brigade (who to the casual reader must seem like gods now!). Tennyson implies that the Light Brigade had won (for the second time) the battle and were casually riding back.
“All that was left of them,
Left of six hundred.”
This is one of the few occasions that Tennyson hints at the failure of the Light Brigade, he still doesn’t say how many had died only that some had. This could be viewed either way when it comes to the question “is the poem ironic?” Tennyson does say that men had died, therefore he is being ironic (saying how can the loss of life be heroic) but because he is only vague in his description of the amount dead, it can be viewed as just trying to say that only a few died therefore the battle was a draw instead of a defeat, that the Light Brigade had to withdraw themselves but the Russians were “hurt” more, typical patriotism.
“When can their glory fade?”
Here Tennyson uses rhetoric to involve the reader with the poem. He states that the Light Brigade deserve glory and he asks, “when can their glory fade?” this implying that the Charge of the Light Brigade should be remembered forever.
“Honour the charge they made!
Honour the Light Brigade,
Noble six hundred!”
Notice how by now the “six hundred” has became the “noble six hundred” and the repetition of “Honour”. These devices seem like Tennyson’s final attempt to get the reader to feel as patriotic about the Light Brigade as he does, the exclamation mark adding power to the last verse.
Overall I believe t
hat Tennyson was very patriotic, he constantly refers to the Light Brigade as being brave and noble.
The next poem is “The Battle of Blenheim” by Robert Southey. Robert Southey, the son of a linen draper, was born in Bristol in 1774. After his father’s death his uncle sent him to Westminster School but he was expelled in 1792 after denouncing flogging in the school magazine. In 1794 Southey met Samuel Taylor Coleridge in Bristol and the two men became close friends. They developed radical political and religious views and began making plans to immigrate to Pennsylvania where they would establish a “Pantisocratic Utopian Society”. Southey and Coleridge eventually abandoned this plan and instead stayed in England where they concentrated on communicating their radical ideas. 1795 saw the publication of his book Poems and the epic poem, Joan of Arc.
Between 1796 and 1798 Southey wrote many ballads, including The Inchcape Rock and The Battle of Blenheim. Southey gradually lost his radical opinions and in 1807 he was rewarded by being granted an annual allowance by the Tory government. In 1813 Robert Southey was appointed poet laureate. Southey was criticised by Lord Byron and William Hazlitt who accused him of betraying his political principles for money. Robert Southey continued writing poetry until he died in 1843. Southey’s political and religious views inspired him to write the anti-war poem “The Battle of Blenheim”. The poem revolves around a battle, which occurred ninety-six years previously where the British under the command of the Duke of Marlborough defeated the French and the Austrians. The poem was written to oppose the imminent war with France. Also the main characters in the poem are Kasper and his two grandchildren, Wilhelmine and Peterkin.
The poem begins with:
“It was a summer evening.”
This is an odd first line as far as war poetry goes. The line gives no impression of war, it just states that it was a “summer evening”. This creates a pleasant, slow image, which is completely different to Tennyson’s “The Charge of the Light Brigade” where the first line is full of pace and action.
“His little grandchild Wilhelmine.”
This statement tells the reader that the poem is not set in Britain because “Wilhelmine” is not a British name, and also adds to the pleasant imagery of being with your grandchildren on a summers evening.
“And, with a natural sigh
“‘Tis some poor fellow’s skull,” said he,”
In stanza two we learned of Peterkin finding a large round object. Now Kasper has examined the object and “with a natural sigh” (which shows that finding these sorts of things had become common to him) he tells his grandchildren that it is a skull. This revelation damages the poem’s “perfect” image of a nice summers evening and replaces it with a much more sinister one. The word “skull” shocks the reader and involves the reader more with the poem for it asks the question: “why is a skull in a peaceful place like this?”
“Who fell in the great victory”
This line is the first mention of war in the poem. Southey has decided to use a euphemism of death “fell” to make Kasper not sound harsh. The fact that Kasper uses a euphemism shows that he doesn’t really understand about the death involved only that this man died in the “great” (<– irony, how can war be great?) victory so it’s alright.
“I find them in the garden,
For there’s many here about;”
These lines emphasise the point that finding skulls and bones is a common occurrence to Kasper. “I find them in the garden” these skulls and bones are so common that Kasper even finds them in his own garden, this begins to give the reader an impression of the amount of death involved in this “great victory”, the words “For there’s many here about” backs up this point.
“For many thousand men.” said he,”
This is the first mention of the amount of death involved and like the first mention of war, it comes with a lot of shock value. Also note that Kasper “said” that many thousand men had died not exclaimed etc, this adds to the feeling that finding skeletons or bits of them is normal where he lives.
“”Now tell us all about the war,
And what they fought each other for.””
These words are spoken by Peterkin and show his curiosity. They are significant because it contradicts what Kasper says; if this was the scene of a “great victory” then why did Peterkin ask “about the war”.
“But what they fought each other for,
I could not well make out;”
These lines are one of the best examples of the poem’s major issue; what is the point of war? Southey wrote “The Battle of Blenheim” to oppose a war with France, the phrase “I could not well make out” signifies this. It plays on the minds of the average British citizen, it mocks their lust for war and victory, it basically says: most people want to see their country win wars and be victorious but not that many actually know or care why. A modern example of this is the proposed war against Iraq, I know countless people that would love to see us bomb Iraq but only a handful in comparison know why. Things like this make “The Battle of Blenheim” more relevant today, unlike “The Charge of the Light Brigade” which serves only as a testament to the lives lost.
“My father lived in Blenheim then.
So with his wife and child he fled.”
These two lines explain to the reader more about Kasper’s past; Kasper was the child in the extract, Kasper witnessed the destruction first hand.
“And many a childing mother then,
And new born baby died;”
This statement delivers the most shocking and horrific scene of the poem, pregnant women and babies, the most innocent of then all, dying. This image is sickening, the poem seems to be leading up to this point. The reader gradually gains information about the effects of the battle and the poem moves slowly but then the reader is shocked with the image of mothers and babies being slaughtered, this makes the poem seem much more quickly and a sense of action/emergency is created thus making the reader read faster to reach the end of the poem to find out what happens to them.
“But things like that you know, must be
At every famous victory.”
These lines provide a very effective continuation from the previous two lines. It creates a feeling of horror and injustice inside the reader; how can the deaths of many innocent mothers and babies be justified simply because they died in a “great victory”?
“”Why ’twas a very wicked thing!”
Said little Wilhelmine.”
We have just learned that the Duke of Marlborough and Prince Eugene have won great praise for their part in the “great victory”. Wilhelmine replies with “’twas a very wicked thing!” this tells the reader the truth about the battle. Kasper and Wilhelmine know the same facts but Kasper has been led to believe that all this horror and death is necessary in order to win a “great victory” whilst Wilhelmine’s childlike curiosity and ability to say what they think without fear of punishment has made her see the truth, war is wicked, this is the moral of the poem.
“”But what good of it came at last?”
Quoth little Peterkin.
“Why I cannot tell,” said he”
This again shows that the grandchildren can see the facts clearly whilst Kasper cannot. More importantly however, it seems that Kasper has begun to see the truth about war, “Why I cannot tell,” this shows that he is at least beginning to think about why the war was fought in the first place and what it actually accomplished.
Southey’s poem, “The Battle of Blenheim” is an anti-war poem. It gives the reader the gory details about what happened. The poem has a simple rhythm and rhyme to it, a rhyming pattern of A-B-C-B-D-D (the D-D being a rhyming couplet) this makes the poem easier to follow and stops the poem to grinding to a halt with the first four stanza’s lack of action. “The Battle of Blenheim” uses lots of poetic devices to get the point of it across i.e. alliteration: “wonder-waiting eyes”, oxymoron’s “great fight” and irony “Famous victory”. Some of Southey’s own idea’s on how to deter wart can also be found in the poem. Peterkin and Wilhelmine talking about war being bad makes Kasper stop and re-think his views on war, therefore I believe that Southey believed that all it would take is one person realising that war is evil to start a chain reaction that would cause everyone to think this way and his poem was the thing to start this chain reaction. What I personally liked most about this poem was the fact that it is still relevant today i.e. the war on Iraq.
The third poem, and first Twentieth Century poem is “Disabled” by Wilfred Owen. Wilfred Owen was born in 1893 and first began to write poetry at the age of seventeen. He tried to gain entry to London University to continue writing poetry but was unsuccessful he then moved to France to teach English. At the impending outbreak of war in 1915, Southey returned to England to join the Manchester Regiment. Owen spent the next year training to be a soldier. Wilfred Owen was posted to the front line in France in January 1917 where he saw his first military action. In march Owen was concussed and in may he suffered from neurasthenia (shell-shock) so he was evacuated from France to Craiglockhart war hospital in Edinburgh.
It was here that Owen meets Siegfried Sassoon, another war poet. As well as encouraging Owen to continue with his poetry, he introduced him to such literary figures as Robert Graves (a friend of Sassoon’s) which in turn, after his release from hospital, allowed Owen to mix with such luminaries as Arnold Bennett and H. G. Wells. The period in Craiglockhart, and the early part of 1918, was in many ways his most creative, and he wrote many of the poems for which he is remembered today. In June 1918 he rejoined his regiment at Scarborough and then in August he returned to France. He was awarded the Military Cross for bravery at Amiens, but was killed on the 4th November whilst attempting to lead his men across the Sambre canal at Ors. The news of his death reached his parents on November 11th 1918, the day of the armistice.
“Disabled” is a poem about a young adolescent who lies about his age to gain entrance to the army and is subsequently mortally wounded; he is left with no arms and legs. The poem tells his story, about how he was once loved by everyone and now is shunned.
“He sat in a wheeled chair, waiting for dark,
And shivered in his ghastly suit of grey,”
The immediate appearance of “dark”, “grey” and “shivered” sets up the isolation of the wounded soldier. The phrase “wheeled chair” links the first line to the title and the words “ghastly suit of grey” implies that this is the soldiers uniform. The fact that the soldier is “waiting for dark” is also significant, the soldier is waiting for dark because it is only when darkness comes and he goes to sleep that he can escape in his dreams.
“Legless, sewn short at the elbow.”
This line gives the reader an impression of the man’s injuries. His arms have been severed at the elbow and his legs end at his knee.
“About this time Town used to swing so gay”
The fact that this statement is in the past-tense is important here, “Town used to swing so gay” this mirrors the extreme loss of life caused by World War I, the town doesn’t “swing so gay ” anymore because all the youth have died.
“In the old times, before he threw away his knees.”
This line tells the reader that this soldier had as much a part in his injuries than the enemy did. The man “threw away his knees”, this implies that he had a choice.
“All of them touch him like some queer disease.”
This brings out some of Wilfred Owen’s own views on war. The same man that went out to the battlefield to fight for his country and it’s people is know shunned by the populace and treated like a queer disease. This brings about a sense of injustice in the reader, which makes them emphasise more with the character.
“Now, he is old; his back will never brace;”
This tells the reader that the man’s body is so battered and bruised that it is about as much good as an old man’s. The man will never be able to carry things, he will never be strong again.
“And half his lifetime lapsed in the hot race”
Here Owen describes how the man has cut short his life in the “hot race” (this is a euphemism for war).
“It was after football, when he’d drunk a peg,
He thought he’d better join. – He wonders why.”
The man had only decided to join the army when he was drunk after a football match, the man probably only joined because of the peer pressure but now he wonders why he was stupid enough to do so. This makes the reader feel really sorry for the man, and begin to realise how terrible this situation is for him. All he had was ruined because of one moment of drunken stupidity.
“Aye, that was it, to please the giddy jilts”
This line links effectively with the other lines because it confirms that the man joined the army for the wrong reasons; peer pressure and to please the “giddy jilts” (a Scottish term for young women).
“…. He didn’t have to beg;
Smiling they his lie; aged nineteen years.”
The sadness of the soldiers plight is heightened here. He didn’t have to beg to join the army in fact, they even lied about his age so he could get in. This shows that he was under-age and therefore is still young. The soldiers life has practically ended before he was even nineteen.
“And soon, he was drafted out with drums and cheers.”
People waved off these soldiers and cheered for them when they headed out to the battlefield without stopping to think of their fate.
“Some cheered him home, but not as crowds cheer Goal.”
This provides a huge contrast with the previous lines. He was cheered and waved off on the way out but know he has come home wounded his reception is very hollow. Only a “solemn” man thanks him for what he’s done, this is obviously not what he’d hoped for when he enlisted, he expected a hero’s welcome.
“And do what the rules consider wise,”
The soldiers tale of torment is complete. The fine young athlete has been reduced to a state of total dependency on others and helplessness (heightened by the pitiful closing repetition of “Why don’t they come?”). The stanza has him waiting for others to do things for him, he “spends a few sick years”, “takes whatever pity” others choose to offer him; he is shunned by women and he sits in the cold, waiting for someone to put him to sleep.
“… Why don’t they come?”
This is a pun on the “Will they never come?” 1914 recruiting poster.
Overall “Disabled” is a very sad and emotional tale telling the reader about one injured soldiers struggle. The poem is a very effective war deterrent so much so that what the government got wind of it, they tried to brand Owen as a lunatic and destroy the copies of it. The poem is probably the most effective and graphic war poem I’ve read so far and really does bring home the true horrors of warfare.
“Who’s for the Game?” is the only poem I’ve studied to be written by a woman, Jesse Pope. Jesse Pope was a journalist for “The Daily Mail” newspaper and was paid to write propaganda poems to encourage men to enlist in the army. Jesse Pope was detested by Wilfred Owen because he saw her as the perfect example of the “unfeeling civilian” who ruthlessly sent young men out to their deaths. “Who’s for the Game?” doesn’t describe anyone or any aspect of war in particular it only serves as a poem to create the image that all able-bodied men should fight.
“Who’s for the game, the biggest that’s played,”
The first line straight away issues a challenge out to men, “Who’s for the game” implies that war is a game where you won’t really get hurt because it’s just a game. Pope tries to add importance to this “game” by saying that it’s the biggest that’s played but it doesn’t really work.
“Who’ll grip and tackle the job unafraid?
And who thinks he’d rather sit tight?”
These statements issue a direct challenge to men again, the lines use highly persuasive language to try and get men to join up, the words “unafraid” and “sit tight” are the most hard hitting.
“Who wants to turn himself in the show?”
The key word here is himself. In stanza one, Pope challenges men to join the army, but now she says; look at what you will become if you join up… a hero! This appeals to the side of men that want to appear more “macho” and tough to everyone else.
“Who knows it won’t be a picnic – not much -“
This line suggests to the reader that war isn’t going to be as easy as it had been implied before, but still very simple, quick and easy. Pope probably used this so she wouldn’t feel as guilty about men going out and dying because of her poetry i.e. she would believe that she did tell them it was dangerous.
“Who would much rather come back with a crutch
Than lie low and be out of the fun?”
In these lines Pope explains that the men going out to war are likely to be injured but not too seriously. She never even hints at death. She tells the reader that a broken leg is the price of ever-lasting greatness and worship. Pope also implies that men should fight because war is “fun”.
“For there’s only one course to pursue,”
This phrase; “one course” suggests that men have only one option, they must sign up and support their country.
“Your country …”
The emphasis on “your” makes the reader feel responsibility for fighting and protecting the country.
“Who’s for the Game?” was filled with plenty of persuasive words and challenges of men’s manliness. The poem was quite effective at fulfilling it’s aim, persuading men to enlist in the army. It’s effectiveness now has dropped because to be fully effective by the poem you need to be in a period like World War I so the poem is in context.
The four individual poems basically follow two trends, the Pre-Twentieth Century poems portray war as being good and noble and pointless and the Twentieth Century poems portray war as being a waste and a game respectively. The poems show that society hasn’t really changed much over two centuries i.e. in the Pre-Twentieth Century war was seen as noble (“The Charge of the Light Brigade”) and as pointless (“The Battle of Blenheim”) and Twentieth Century war was also seen as noble (“Who’s for the Game?) and pointless (“Disabled”). This is not to say society hasn’t changed during these two periods only that societies views on war haven’t changed much. Even now, in the Twenty First Century war is still seen as noble and pointless. These factors mean that only a little information about the different societies can be ascertained from the poems.
All the poems are effective at fulfilling their aims i.e. “The Charge of the Light Brigade” is effective at remembering the ill-fated charge, “The Battle of Blenheim” is effective at pointing out the pointlessness of war, “Disabled” portrays the horrors of war well and “Who’s for the Game? Is effective at persuading people to enlist in the army. Overall however I believe that “The Battle of Blenheim” is the most effective because it is still relevant today, i.e. the war on Iraq. This means that the poem has stood the test of time therefore it must be effective.