Before the First World War people were very inexperienced and naï¿½ve due to propaganda, ideals and chivalry; for instance the appearance of recruiting poets affected and encouraged people to sign up. This often caused a false view of the approaching war leading to bewilderment and disorientation when the war begun, poets emerged from this and shared there own and each others stories, touching countless people. The three poems I have chosen affected me strongly; Jessie Pope- Who’s for the game, Arthur Graeme West- God! How I hate you, and Siegfried Sassoon- Suicide in the trenches. These are all effective poems in making a comparison between different emotions conveyed by each author. While Pope’s poem is very pro war both Sassoon and West discuss the physical and mental agony of the soldiers.
Jessie Pope was a journalist for the Daily Mail and Daily Express, written in 1914 Who’s for the game was used to sustain the war effort, whereas Sassoon and West were both fighting soldiers. Their poems, written during the war, were used as a warning to the cruelty and gloom of war.
The culture and tradition of each poet is very similar as they were born in the same era, although this does not reflect the content of the poems. Sassoon, Pope and West were born into wealthy families with idyllic lives. As all three poets were well educated and lived in a civilized environment it had a profound impact firstly on their careers as poets (even if short lived) and the context of their poems.
The subject matter of each poem varies. Firstly Who’s for the game is a direct involvement with the reader about joining up to the war. She compares war to a game to engage the reader’s attention and affect their emotions with patriotic language. Opposing this Suicide in the trenches is about the suicide of a simple soldier boy. The title immediately affects the reader’s emotion and provides the subject matter. God! How I hate you has a similar subject matter, it is about how his hatred of Hugh Freston, (hence the title) portrayed by the horror of trench warfare.
To begin with Suicide in the trenches and Who’s for the game are both quatrains with four verses in Pope’s poem and three in Sassoon’s; both have a regular rhyming scheme with every alternate line rhyming/ rhyming couplets. In Who’s for the game this is in order to catch the attention of the everyday working class via a very organized lively poem; causing the poem to be retained whereas in Suicide in the trenches it is to portray the cold repetition of war. Contrary to this God! How I hate you has a very irregular rhyming scheme and a conversation tone with no fixed verse length. This represents the surprise, distress and panic of the war in reply to Freston. Pope creates an energetic tone by her frequent use of question marks, hyphens, exclamation marks and conversational language to make her poem more persuasive and memorable. Pope also uses enjambment and a short line length to express her vivacious jingoism and to affect the emotions of her reader.
The rhythm of the poem suits the content as the poem is intended to be exciting and relating to sport. In Suicide in the trenches a somber tone is created by the infrequent use of all punctuation leading to a varied pace as the sentence length differs in each verse. I feel the pace does not suit the content on purpose, firstly a regular pace is used when talking about death for example ‘He put a bullet through his brain, no one spoke of him again’. This is to provide contrast to the reality therefore affecting the reader’s emotion. Alternatively I think the smooth pace suits the content as Sassoon is conveying the repetition and normality of war as he has been there for so long. God! How I hate you uses quotations, hyphens and commas to form an irregular pace to the poem. Elipses and enjambment are frequently used to illustrate the apprehension and uncertainty in addressing Huge Freston’s sonnet. The elipses provide an atmosphere of wonder and create suspense ‘His Heaven, all is right In the best possible of worlds’. Furthermore I think the pace suits the content of the poem well and affects the reader’s emotion by creating anxiety additionally the rhythm matches the content as both convey a cynical attitude.
Each poem creates a certain mood by the use of different types of language. Firstly Pope uses jingoistic, common persuasive language in order to appeal to the working class and affect their emotions; she achieves this by using direct involvement with the reader. Secondly Sassoon also uses expressive common language to provide contrast with the subject matter. Finally, West uses eloquent language to match the subject matter which is very effective in creating a grave atmosphere and affecting the reader.
The main way the poet affects the emotion of the reader is through language and imagery. Instantly in the title Pope makes war seem like sport, “Who’s for the Game?” is a literal image directed to male readers moreover since Pope is a woman the poem becomes more effective in appealing to men. Numerous phrases in the poem create an image comparing war to a sport, ‘Who’s for the game, the biggest that’s played, the red crashing game of a fight’ and ‘Who wants a seat in the stand’.
This persuades the reader to recruit and creates an atmosphere of loyalty.
Sassoon and West use emotive language in their titles to interact with the reader and affect their emotions and therefore read on; ‘God….hate’ and ‘Suicide’. The titles are in bold type to illustrate the subject matter and encourage the reader to feel emotion. Pope uses metaphors to convey an atmosphere of jingoism, for instance ‘And she’s looking and calling for you’. Pope refers to the country as a mother figure and uses direct involvement through the use of person pronouns such as ‘you’. Suicide in the trenches affects the emotions of the reader using a variety of techniques. Firstly the poem illustrates the power of Sassoon’s diction, although he uses emotive words/ phrases such as ‘hell’ and ‘bullet through his brain’ the abstract nouns beside them such as ‘youth….laughter’ are just as effective. This is because the rhythm integrates the emotive phrases with his cynical attitude causing the abstract nouns to be in a completely different context and thus creating a strong emotion of insecurity. Sassoon uses pauses very effectively in what seems to be an apparently simple poem, this is achieved by his use of rhyming couplets, commas, hyphens and full stops.
Sassoon’s use of onomatopoeia, ‘whistled’ provides contrast with the subject matter; he portrays the soldier boy to be gleeful in his death which causes a strong emotion of pity to be felt by the reader. The pause ‘He put a bullet though his brain. No one spoke of him again’ is very effective as it creates an atmosphere of surprise and sympathy, this is conveyed again, in the large pause between stanzas two and three, and additionally it is to emphasize the change in subject and time. Sassoon’s use of convectional rhymes are very effective throughout the poem as very basic rhymes are used; the most effective being ‘know.. go’ and ‘brain…again’.
The basic rhyming couplets contrast with the death of the ‘boy’, emotive words adding to the compassion of the reader. West uses horrific details of trench fighting to answer the sonnet from Hugh Freston, he uses two ways to do this. Firstly his use of powerful and vivid details of death and misery in trenches, for example the image ‘hung on the rusty wire: chocked by their sickly foetor’ this powerfully affects the reader’s emotions and creates an atmosphere of terror. West second way of answering the sonnet is his use of his dull bare colloquial tone, ‘Where blood’s the only coloured thing’ and ‘Spattered all his body on the
parados…’ His colloquialism provides a blunt tone to the poem adding to the effect and causing a depressive mood. In his horrific details he includes similes and emotive language for emphasis, for instance ‘Smashed like an eggshell and the warm grey brain spattered’; his language and imagery adds to the detail, establishing a greater effect of horror. The last line ‘Yet still God’s in His Heaven, all is right In the best possible of worlds…’ (This is based on the French novel Candide by Voltaire. His character Pangloss is an optimist.) This sarcastic ending emphasizes misery of war.
In conclusion God! How I hate you is my favourite poem as West’s emotions come out of the writing and straight to my heart. I find Pope’s poem an admirable representation of the distressing approach cultured on the home front. Sassoon shows is an excellent example of poetry conveying the reality of the war. Each poem has affected my emotions abundantly and made me strongly think about what people went through before and during the war.