Tennyson’s poem describes the Calvary charge, port of the battle of Balaclava during the Crimean war of 1845 as dramatic, glorious and yet tragic.
The war was dramatic as within thirty-five minutes four hundred men were killed as they charged at men armed with cannons and other artillery. Tennyson uses a strong rhythm and rhyme pattern to represent the galloping horses as they began to charge up the valley. Tennyson also uses repetition, “half a league”, “half a league” and this is also used to create rhythm.
Tennyson’s verse structure and punctuation also adds sense of speed to reflect the battle as it was short and had dramatic consequences. His choice of vocabulary is also dramatic as Tennyson uses alliteration in “stormed at with shot and shell” and ” shatter’d and sunder’d” in the poems third and forth stanzas.
Tennyson also uses personification to emphasise the danger of “jaws of death” and “mouth of hell” as they charged up the valley to their deaths. Tennyson seems to make the scene look colourful and dramatic when he describes the gun smoke and flashing sabres of the men in the fourth stanza.
The battle was glorious because the men were heroes for what they had done and they should be honoured and praised for it.
There is great sadness in the war as Tennyson recognises “all that was left of them left of six hundred.”
The contrast, Owen’s portrayal of war suggests that it was a place of death and suffering. Owen describes one death compared to four hundred but he describes it as equally powerful.
The contrast of pace compared to Tennyson’s poem is clear, it is slow to show that it is a long campaign with months of suffering. Long sentences and use of commas are used to slow the verse in Owen’s poem. Owen uses strong vocabulary to show exhaustion in the men. He describes the men as “bent double” and “knocked kneed”. Owen uses similes to show aging, when he writes “like old beggars” and “like hags”. “Blind”, “lame” and “deaf” are Owen’s choice of language to show suffering within the men.
The change of pace for the dramatic gas attack at the start of the second stanza is felt when the use of exclamation marks and short sentences are used to express the urgency with which the men have to put their masks on. Owen uses verbs in his poem to give a sense of a painful death. Owen uses verbs like “yelling,” “choking,” “stumbling,” “floundering,” “guttering” and “drowning.”
Tennyson’s attitude to the battle is mixture of pride, admiration and disbelief. Tennyson is proud of the men because they have served their country so bravely, this is understood in the words “there’s but to do and die”. His admiration for the men is seen when he says that “when can their glory fade?” His choice of vocabulary gives praise to the men in the battle. Tennyson uses vocabulary like “glory,” “noble” and “hero” to give this sense of praise but also he gives a feeling of disbelief, as he criticizes the officers who gave the order. Tennyson shows his disbelief when he states, “someone had blunder’d.”
Owen’s poem is more personal than Tennyson’s as he was actually there and wrote about his own experience. Tennyson was in England and based his poem on the newspaper reports he had read in The Times newspaper. Owens use of a first person narrative is very descriptive and he concentrates mainly on suffering and a young man dying. Owen describes one death not nearly four hundred but the death is so horrific and happens so suddenly and it is dramatic because they all had to watch this friend die. The suffering of the man as his lungs were destroyed from the inside. The psychological damage will haunt the men in their dreams since they witnessed this man dying. The title “Dulce et Decorum est.” is ironic as it means, “it is sweet and meek to die for one’s country.” Owen calls it,” the old like.”
Owen’s tone is an angry one, as he believes that young men are encouraged to join up as they were told good thing about it and not what it was really like. This made him very critical.
Owen described in his poems what it was really like. He wrote of the war as a muddy and cold place with blood and death all around them. The men were full of despair during the war.
Tennyson’s poem is also critical of the officers who gave orders to the men but his portrayal is of glory and nobility as he feels that the men should be honoured.