In 1914 England declared war on Germany, at the time Lord Kitchener was made Minister of War. He started up a great campaign to sign up men top the army. He believed that what England needs the most to win the war was men. So he started to try and persuade the male population to sign up. This was done in many ways such as in music halls. There were women up on stage singing song about signing up for the armed forces, they would give a reward of a kiss to those who signed up then and there. They also used posters and propaganda to make people join the army. Poems were also used and published in newspapers to show men what they would be fighting for and why they should sign up.
One poem called “Fall In” by Harold Begbie is about what you will “lack” from not being in the war. It says to the reader that not being a contribution to the war effort would be a mistake. It mentions different times in your life when you might regret not being in the army during the Great War, he says “I went, thank God, I went,” this definitely proves this. This poem shows Harold Begbie’s attitude towards the war is that it is a good thing, which you must not miss out on and sign up immediately so you wont regret it later.
In the poem “Who’s for the Game,” by Jessie Pope, she refers to the First World War as a game, something to be enjoyed, “the red crashing game of a fight.” It plays on the men’s natural enthusiasm for sports by referring to it as a game it might make them think about enlisting.
She also says at the end,
“Your country is up to her neck in a fight,
And she’s looking and calling for you.”
She compares the action of war to the boring life at home, making the reader think that it will be much more exciting that staying at home, “Who’ll give his country a hand … And who wants a seat in the stand.”
These poems all have regular rhyming and rhythm, this makes they seem jolly when read out loud.
The sonnet “Peace” by Rupert Brooke is one that tells of the opportunities of war, and how you could make the most of what it gives you. This was good to use in a poem because at that time opportunities were very limiting, and would appeal to many readers. This poem shows that his attitude is definitely for the war
Arthur Graeme West’s attitude is in complete contrast to that of Rupert Brooke. Instead of thanking god for the war, his title is “God, How I hate you”. Even though this is not how it sounds it starts by meaning that he does not like the war. He even goes as far as quoting from another poem by Hugh Freston. Freston says in his poem “Oh happy to have lived these epic days”. Then in West’s poem he says! And he’d been to France” this shows that his attitude it totally against the war and that Freston must be lying because he had been in the trench in France. In the rest of poem he describes the war in a way to make the reader believer the war is not a good thing, and we should not thank God for it.
In the next poem, “Into Battle”, by Julian Grenfell, he is telling the story of a spring offensive (There was always a large battle in the spring to try and end the stalemate on the western front). He tells it in such a way that war sounds like a very nice thing to be in. His selection of words is very important it the way this sounds, he uses sentences like,
“The naked earth is warm with spring,
And with green grass and bursting trees”
In this part he uses words like “warm”, “green” and “bursting” to make the scene he is describing seem to be very nice to be in and peaceful. He uses this technique throughout the poem. By using this technique he tells the reader that he has a positive attitude towards the war.
“Suicide in the trenches” by Siegfreid Sassoon he tells the story of a young soldier who commits suicide in his trench. Even though this poem has regular rhyme it still has a solemn tone to it. He uses words like “dark” and “glum” these words make the poem sound sad. Another by Sassoon is “Does it Matter” which is about things that things that happen at war and how people at home react to it. The first two lines are,
“Does it matter, losing your legs?…
For people will always be kind”
He is asking a rhetorical question (a question that doesn’t have to be answered) to the reader. It is obvious that the answer is yes, but he writes it as though even if you do lose you legs, it doesn’t matter, because people at home will always be kind to you about it. The poem is generally an attack on the sympathizers that take pity on the injured soldiers. Sassoon’s attitude is totally against the war and people who believe that it is a good thing.
Wilfred Owen is one of the most well known poets from the First World War, he wrote a poem called “Anthem for Doomed Youth”. The title itself lets you know that this is not a happy, jolly poem but a sad one. This is because the word anthem is often used for solemn songs rather than poems. In the poem he compares the death, funeral and burial of those in the trenches and those home in England. In the beginning he compares the death of those going over the top and the slaughter of cattle at a abattoir in the line:
“What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?”
He continues on to compare many different things. The whole of this poem is showing that his attitude is also against the war, just like Sassoon’s.
Another of Owens poems “Dulce et Decorum est”, is the story of a group of soldiers leaving the front line in the middle of the night, but when they are nearly there and there is a gas attack. He uses many different writing styles to make poem more effectively solemn. He uses similes “like old beggars under sacks”, metaphors “Men marched asleep”, consonance “guttering, choking, drowning”, alliteration “watch the white eyes writhe” and repetition. These appeal to the reader and make the mood of the poem more extreme.
There were many different attitudes to the Great War all through it. The poems and what and how they write about it show some of them.