I am going to look at Lord Tennyson’s”The charge of Light brigade ” and Wilfred Owen’s “Dulce et Decorum Est”. Tennyson wrote this poem during the Crimean war, which was in 1854. He wrote it because he was the Poet Laureate at that time, he needed to write the poem because the government told him to do so to act as propaganda and the turn what was a disaster into a success. He needed to tell how well the English troops had fought even they were slaughtered, and how glorious they were when they were trying to get the English cannons back. Wilfred Owen was a war poet in the 1st world war. He had stayed in trenches for some time and all of his poems are about the actions in 1st world war.
In both poem, they are set out in 3 sections. In Tennyson’s , he is saying the army goes into the valley where the enemy are. Then it is some close battle of sword fighting, at last it is the troops retreating. In Owen’s, the English troops that stayed up in the trenches are going back to their home base. Then there is a sudden gas attack, and he describes a single person dies horribly. Owen then reflects that it is not sweet and glorious to die for your country after you have seen what had happened in the war.
Tennyson’s poem is like a hymn, with verses and sentences are repeating to emphasis the words. At the end of every verse, he says “The six hundred” saying that this is the six hundred that died for our country. In the second verse he says
“Their’s not to make reply,
Their’s not to reason why,
Their’s but to do and die:”
He is saying that the English soldier obey their orders, even when they know that they are going to die they don’t question. Usually we say that you either do or die, but here it says do and die, you can see how Tennyson is trying express that the English soldiers never argue even when they think that this is not a sensible order, they will still do it. You can see a rhythm in the poem like at the start “Half a league, half a league, Half a league onward”. He is building up a rhythm like the tradition poems. If you look at the words he use, he is describing the battle differently. “Flash’d all their sabres bare,” this is not like normal battle, their sabres are flashing, this is a strange description but very graphical, as if the soldiers are only doing sword fighting in a stadium.
In Owen’s poem, he starts off by saying the English soldiers are walking like beggars back to their base. It is totally different to what Tennyson says how glorious the English soldiers are at the end of his poem. Then Owen has this sudden gas attack:
“Gas!GAS!Quick, boys!-an ecstasy of fumbling,”
Putting the second word gas twice and in capital, gives you a feeling that this is important of what is happening. And he also describes that the reaction of the soldiers just wakes up, like when you hear a gunfire, all of a sudden you will become very aware of what is happening, do the best thing to protect yourself. The soldiers put on their gas masks. Owen describes one soldier, just concentrated on describing about him, how he is not fast enough to react and so dies:
“As under a green sea, Isaw him drowning.”
This is a very special way of describing this situation. He uses the word drowning, just like when he is drowning in the sea, running out of oxygen and struggling to get up again, but failed so he sinks down and dies.
In Tennyson’s poem , he never say anything about how the soldiers die, he say the “Light Brigade” all the time, talking about them as a group and they got shot down by cannon. He never goes into too much detail about how the soldiers die, because this poem don’t need that kind of detail, it is a pro war poem to say how well their soldiers have done. He mentions about “horses and hero fell” but never say how, they just died, and they have fought well. Tennyson like Owen talks about how dangerous the war in actually in the battle:
“Came thro’ the jaws of Death,
Back from the mouth of Hell,”
This gives us the image that the soldiers went into a mouth, if the jaws closes you die, and you either get swallow and die and spurt out and survives. The mouth is like hell, and how lucky is it to get out of there. He is telling us that war is not really good, there is also a bad side of it. And in Owen’s poem:
“And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin”
How strongly he is saying of his sin, that even the devil will be sick of it. The devil is supposed to make sins or encourage other people to sin, but he is saying that this scene in the battle will even make the devil sick. How the man is watching you, his white eyes, even he can’t see, he is looking at your direction like asking why don’t you help him. At the end of this poem, he mentions about the old lie,”Dulce et decorum est Pro patria mori” which means that it is sweat and glorious to die for your country. He say that this is a lie, that you should not believe it.