Assignment: select a range of poems from your war poetry booklet and compare and contrast the ways these poems treat the subject of war
The poems I have chosen to compare and contrast are: “The burial of Sir John Moore after Corunna” by Charles Wolfe; “The Drum” by John Scott; “The Charge of the Light Brigade” by Alfred Tennyson; “Drummer Hodge” by Thomas Hardy and a short extract from “Henry V at the siege of Harfleur” by William Shakespeare (act III scene 1 lines 1 – 34). My aim by discussing each of these poems is to see how each poem differs in its approach to the subject of war and whether it is pro or anti-war.
“The burial of Sir John Moore after Corunna” is a poem about the burial of a well respected military leader. The tone of the poem varies slightly from sombre to respectful. This is shown with the quotation “slowly and sadly we laid him down.” This line demonstrates the feelings of the soldiers. They lay him down slowly as a sign of respect for him and they handle him with great care as he deserves to be handled. This greatly contrasts with the poem “Drummer Hodge” which tells us “they throw in drummer Hodge to rest.” Instead of his being carefully and slowly buried they throw Drummer Hodge into the burial ground. This implies that there is not as much respect for Hodge as there is for Sir John Moore although Hodge may have been quickly buried because of the scenario he died in. if he died in the middle of a war the soldiers would have time to bury him properly and so would do the best they could in the shortest amount of time.
Despite being such a great leader Sir John Moore does not receive a ceremonious funeral as the soldiers feel he deserved. The reason for this is because the soldiers are fleeing from the enemy and therefore cannot give away their position by drumming or any other ceremonious gestures, the narrator observes, “The foe and stranger would tread o’er his head, and we far away on the billow.” This line also shows us how guilty the soldiers are feeling to having to do such a thing to their leader but out of desperation do the best they can.
Although the poem shows us how dishonourable the soldiers feel about the death of Sir John Moore, the poet uses a clever technique which is used whenever the soldiers feel they can’t do something. The poet implies Sir John Moore deserved it. “Few and short were the prayers we said.” This implies that had there been a proper ceremony the prayers would be longer, the soldiers feel as if they owe the leader such things. The soldiers feel as if Sir John Moore deserves these things and so implies that Sir John Moore was a chivalrous leader. Sir John Moore is treated like a martyr.
The poem itself shows war to be gory, “from the field of his fame fresh and gory,” yet rewarding in the sense of being remembered and dying for one’s country. This gives a sense of pride which will appeal to many young people and would make them want to enlist in the army. “The burial of Sir John Moore after Corunna” is an example of a pro war poem. This is made clear to us by the heroism of Sir John Moore and the things that the soldiers do to him and the things that the poet says he deserves.
The poem “The Drum” by John Scott contrasts to “The burial of Sir John Moore after Corunna” very heavily. The drum is a very negative poem. The poem itself is about getting people to recruit in the army. The tone of the poem is very bitter, as shown in the quotation, “To sell their liberty for charms Of tawdry, lace and glittering arms.” The army is tricking people (mainly younger) to join it and is implying the army conceals the idea of possible death they are giving their lives for a uniform.
‘The Drum’ can be seen as a symbol for maybe a speaker trying to get people to join the army, whereas John Scott is trying to open youth’s eyes to the truth, “I hate that drum’s discordant sound.” This is saying that the speaker is lying and that the army is not as the speaker makes the youth to believe. John Scott picks up on the idea of the drum appealing to the youth especially because they are naive. “To thoughtless youth it pleasures yields,” this highlights the age group it is appealing to. The poem has a rhythm very similar to that of a drum. There is emphasis on the first two lines of the poem which are repeated in the first two lines of the second stanza. “I hate that drum’s discordant sound, Parading round and round and round.” This may be to keep the rhythm going and to reinforce the poet’s view of the Drum. The first stanza is talking about what people are promised “And lures from cities and from fields.” However the second stanza is reality “And burning town, and ruined swains.” This is a clever technique as it gives the reader the impression that not everything is as it seems.
The poet, John Scott may have been in the army and found it hard and therefore is warning people to not make the same mistake. He feels his life is ruined as the second stanza explains “And all the misery’s hand bestows.” The poem itself is very anti-war it is against the army itself saying it ruins people’s lives and gives people false hope. John Scott makes the army seem very deceitful. The language used in this poem is very emotive which is similar to “The burial of Sir John Moore after Corunna” but the poem’s subject differs greatly as one is pro war and “The Drum” is anti-war.
The extract from Henry V speech is much like “The burial of Sir John Moore after Corunna” The writer uses emotive language to entice people into enlisting to the army. The writer makes it sound as if each person owes his country and so must fight to protect it “in peace there’s nothing so become a man.” The whole poem is giving soldiers courage and telling them that there is nothing to be afraid of. Their name will be remembered forever, “That hath not noble lustre in your eyes.” The speech is made very convincing by using strong emotive language such as “Follow your spirit.” The people who join the army don’t will feel as if they are letting themselves and their family down “dishonour your mothers.” The whole speech is an example of hyperbole, I say this because Henry V is saying these words to persuade people but it is obvious almost none of this will happen.
This speech has a relation with “Drummer Hodge”, “Whose limbs were made in England.” Drummer Hodge was also born and brought up in England and so Henry the V is almost saying that people who were born in England are superior to other people. This speech is strongly pro war as it is trying to get people to go into battle courageously and enlist to join the war effort.
‘Drummer Hodge’ is a poem about a young boy called Hodge, in the old days Hodge was a common name for a poor boy. Hodge is sent into the battlefield as a drummer and the poem describes how his life is a waste as he dies at such an early age. “Young Hodge the drummer never knew.” This shows us the things he might not have seen in his short life. The poem uses Afrikaans words to build a sense of atmosphere. This poem also has a rhyme scheme to keep a rhythm. This poem bears a strong relation with the Speech of Henry V and “The burial of Sir John Moore after Corunna” in the sense that it is pro war. Drummer Hodge will be eternally remembered “And strange-eyed constellations reign His stars eternally.” Drummer Hodge may also be a symbol of all the other drummers that died.
“The Charge of the Light Brigade” by Alfred Tennyson is a poem about the war itself. The tone is very loud. The rhythm is kept by a rhyme scheme and repletion of some words. The poem sounds as if the men are marching into the battlefield because of this rhythm. Like Henry V speech it has a strong sense of honour in being in the army and also says that people in the army are remembered “when will their glory fade?” This poem is also exaggerated like the speech to give people the idea that war is good and if you are in the army you are doing everybody proud. This poem is pro war and bears similarities with the Henry V speech and “The burial of Sir John Moore after Corunna” in its ideas about war.
The five poems all differ in their approach to war but share similarities in their ideas about war. The Burial of Sir John Moore after Corunna shares its ideas about heroism and glory about war with Henry’s speech which although may use it in different context is giving people the idea that they will become heroes like Sir John Moore. Henry V’s speech and The Charge of the Light Brigade share a similarity in that they both have a strong sense of honour and patriotism. Drummer Hodge and Sir John Moore After Corunna share the idea of death in war but the people who die are treated very differently Sir John Moore is treated with up most respect and Hodge is thrown in a communal burial with no real ceremony or respect.