From the pre-1914 selection, choose two poems that show different attitudes towards war and soldiers. Give an account of each poem showing the contrasting ideas of the poets. Show how language is used to effect.
I have chosen to base my assignment on two poems, called ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’ and ‘The Hyaenas.’ I have chosen to study these two poems because they have completely different opinions on war and soldiers. One focuses on the negative side of war and the other on the positive side. I think that this will make it more interesting to study and also fits in perfectly with what has been assigned for me to do.
The Charge of the
The Crimean War took place in 1854 when Nicholas I was the emperor of Russia. The War came about because Nicholas claimed that he had the right to protect all the Christians in the lands ruled by Turkey. The Sultan of Turkey was encouraged by the British Ambassador to refuse any interference with his empire, resulting in a War. The War was not very well managed at all. The armies, who were sent to attack Russia, went without enough food supplies or clothing to protect them from the winter cold. There were also no proper arrangements made to care for the sick and wounded. The situation continued to decline and the Allies’ transport system broke down. Urgently needed stores were left rotting on the shore. When Florence Nightingale arrived at the hospital at Scutari she found no bandages, no laundry system, no sanitary arrangements and not even a scrubbing brush or a cake of soap.
The Allied Generals decided to attack the part of Russia called the Crimea, which is a peninsula sticking out into the Black Sea. In September 1854, 57,000 troops landed there and began to advance towards the port of Sebastopool. They beat off a Russian attack and a few days later surrounded Sebastopool and the siege began. In vain, the Russian forces tried to break through to relieve Sebastopool. At the Battle of Balaclava on October 25th they captured some Turkish guns. Lord Raglan the British commander, sent orders to the Light Brigade to recapture them. A fatal confusion of these orders resulted in Lord Cardigan leading the Light Brigade in the wrong direction between heights dominated by Russian guns. The charge was completed with heavy losses and many men died. The battle itself, of modest significance, ended inconclusively. The action was immortalized in Tennyson’s ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade.’
Tennyson was Queen Victoria’s poet laureate and he was commissioned by the government to write the poem in honour of the Light Brigade and to rally public support for the war. Tennyson was not a soldier and had no first hand experience of war. The poem gives a very impressionistic, exciting view of the battle, and the focus is on the courage and determination of the men – not the mistake that led to so many deaths. The poem is a piece of propaganda. It presents positive images of soldiers dying for their country.
The Charge of the Light Brigade is a rather long poem, consisting of six stanzas. Each stanza describes a different part of the battle.
In the first stanza, the soldiers are riding towards the battle and towards their death. At the time, the soldiers no that they are going to die but this does not change their minds. Tennyson makes it clear to us that there are six hundred men riding to battle and he repeats this throughout the poem. This was to emphasise how many men were lost during the fight and how brave the survivors, as well as those who died, were.
“Rode the six hundred”
The men had been given an order, and therefore they had no other choice but to obey this command. The dialogue in the stanza shows that they were merely following orders and doing what was expected of them.
“Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns!” he said.”
In the second stanza, they are still heading to the battle. Here, we are told that even though the soldiers knew someone had blundered and made the commander give them that order, they still obeyed the commands and continued on to battle. Tennyson emphasis the fact that the men were solely devoted to their duty. The soldiers would have been indoctrinated to believe that it is their duty to do as they are told and must not question any orders or commands that they are given.
“Their’s not to make reply,
Their’s not to reason why,
Their’s but to do and die:”
Once again, we are reminded that there are 600 men and they are all heading towards their death.
“Rode the six hundred”
In the third stanza, the men have actually arrived at their place of battle and have charged into the Russian artillery fire at the head of the valley of death. This is the last time that all of the 600 men ever rode together alive. Whilst they were riding, they were fired at from every angle. This is included to make us think of the men as being extremely brave to continue onto the battle. The men should be seen as extremely heroic to continue on knowing that they were going to die. Tennyson describes the men as riding boldly and well even though they are being attacked. He does not mention the fact that they were all afraid and some were suffering from where they had been fired at. He only wants us to look at the positive and courageous side of the soldiers. The entrance to the battle is described as being the “jaws of death” and “the mouth of hell.” This personification makes the battle sound a lot worse than it actually was and makes us feel that the men are death-defying.
Stanza four, describes the battle itself. The men are now fighting and the Light Brigade is losing before it has even started. Tennyson does not want us to think about the fact that they are being defeated, and only tells us about the positive aspects of the fighting. He describes the armour and weapons hitting against one another, in a way that makes it sound daring and more like an adventure. According to the poem, no one appears to get hurt let alone killed.
“Flashed all their sabres bear.”
“Sabring the gunners there.”
We are told about the men hacking their way through the Russian gunners until they broke free to the enemy line, in a way that suggests yet more adventure and daring on the part of the Light Brigade.
“Plunged in the battery smoke.”
“Right through the line they broke”
It is described in a way that would make us think of the enemy as being quite weak and not bothering to put up much of a resistance. He uses sibilance to stress the harshness and aggression in the battle as the army was ripped apart and a lot of men were killed. The whole battle seems to end up in total confusion and chaos.
“Reeled from the sabre stroke”
“Shattered and sundered”
When the Light Brigade eventually surrenders to the Russians, they leave the battle with a fraction of the six hundred men they started with. The way in which this is written, makes us feel sorry for the soldiers.
Stanza five emphasises how the soldiers were surrounded by death traps. In reality, the Russians fought long and hard but Tennyson much prefers to focus on the courage and daring of the Light Brigade, against a terrifying enemy who continued to keep firing at them as they rode away.
“Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them”
Tennyson is determined to make us regard the Brigade as heroes, rather than victims. Even though they were fired at with everything and anything, they still carried on with their duty. We are given the impression that this would have been a narrative poem that had been passed down from generation to generation, making the soldiers sound more heroic each time it is told.
“They that had fought so well.”
The Light Brigade are portrayed as some kind of super-heroes with superhuman powers. They are described as coming,
“back from the jaws of death” and “back from the mouth of Hell
they are portrayed in a way that resembles Christ. Tennyson has written it in a way that describes them as having defeated death even though most of them had died and the few survivors did so merely through luck, but this is not told to us. All though not the full six hundred survived, we are supposed to think of them as being heroic and to have fought strong and bravely. In reality the Light Brigade had to retreat without capturing the guns. Tennyson avoids all mention of retreat and focuses instead on the men’s fighting skills.
“they that had fought so well”
Stanza six is bringing the poem to an end. The poet concludes the poem with a rousing verse of patriotism in which the reader is asked a rhetorical question about when the soldiers will stop being heroes and thought to be so brave. This is to make us think that they will never stop being heroes.
“When can their glory fade?”
We are encouraged to see the Light Brigade as heroes who have made a great charge and are men of great daring and death-defying courage. We are ordered to honour the Light Brigade and what they did for our country, for the rest of our lives. He is trying to make us send the men into history as heroes and a noble group, rather than victims of a terrible battle caused by a wrong order through which so many were killed and injured.
“the noble six hundred”
All of this is a result of someone else’s military blunder.
The Charge of the Light Brigade is written in a style that reminds us of an epic. The poem has a fast pace and rhythm, which would be to help build the positive, uplifting mood amongst the soldiers. This is due to the fact that they are riding on horseback, and there would be the drum of the horses’ hooves. The soldiers’ and horses’ had to be very fast. The style of rhythm that Tennyson uses, is known as a ‘Dactylic Rhythm.’ This is where a stressed syllable is followed by and unstressed syllable. It is a rousing, exciting rhythm to help create atmosphere of adventure not terror, death and suffering. As the first syllable of each line is stressed, it adds emphasis to the words at the beginning of the line, many of which add to the atmosphere of heroism, glory and adventure.
Tennyson wrote this poem as a deliberate piece of propaganda. He wrote the poem to try and display war as a great adventure and something, which brings great honour and glory to the soldiers not death and suffering. He tries to portray ordinary soldiers as heroes who only seek to serve their country by obeying orders, and as self-sacrificing men who did their duty even though they knew they might die. Tennyson makes light of the negative aspects of war. Even death is portrayed as something which can be overcome. Instead of telling us that the soldiers died, he says,
“While horse and hero fell”
The alliteration that is used on ‘horse’ and ‘hero’ is to draw our attention away from any images of suffering. Euphemism is also used on the word ‘fell,’ to tone down the sad and shocking event that is really happening. The word fell, suggests a slight accident rather than a terrifying, agonising death.
Repetition of words and phrases is used a lot throughout this poem. This is to try and make the poem more memorable, and to help the reader focus on the main images of heroism and glory.
“Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.”
These lines are repeated twice in the poem. Tennyson has chosen to repeat these lines to stress how heroic they were going into this deathly battle. We are also told how many men there are, to emphasise the fact that so many started out and only a fraction of them returned alive. He also chooses to repeat the lines,
“Cannon to the left of them
Cannon to the right of them.”
These lines are said at the beginning of the poem, and also at the end. This is to stress how brave the men were when that had all the guns surrounding them but they still continued to fight. Even as they retreated from the battle, the Russians still continued to fire at them. This emphasises how hard and life-threatening the battle was, and therefore how the soldiers were so brave. There is a constant repetition of,
This is so that we maintain the focus on the large amount of men that set out and were prepared to risk their lives against the terrifying enemy. It is also so that we realise how many soldiers died through their bravery.
Tennyson uses a traditional rhyming scheme for the poem. Many rhyming words are those to do with the courage of the men or the terrifying enemy. A number of words rhyme with the word hundred, to maintain the focus on the Light Brigade.
“Their’s not to make reply,
Their’s not to reason why,
Their’s but to do and die.”
This rhyme is more like a motto. The soldiers would have been indoctrinated with this rhyme or motto. They will have been made to believe that it is their duty to do as they are told even though it could result in the loss of their life. They should never question any order that is given to them.
Tennyson also uses a lot of imagery and personification throughout the poem. Imagery is used because the two metaphors would suggest the terror of the enemy and make the Light Brigade seem more heroic for taking on such a frightening enemy.
“the valley of Death”
This line stresses how the soldiers were in mortal danger. He emphasises this danger by using a strong word such as death and capitalising the first letter of the word to make it stand out from all the other words in the line.
“stormed at with shot and shell.”
Here, Tennyson uses sibilance to try and portray how harsh and aggressive the battle was. Once again, the bravery of the soldiers and how much danger they were in, is emphasised. Sibilance is also used later on in the poem,
“shattered and sundered”
This is as a sort of constant reminder, so that we do not think the battle has lost some of its aggressiveness or has become slightly easier for the soldiers.
“into the jaws of Death”
This time, Tennyson has not only emphasised the word death, he has also personified it. This personification is to suggest that the soldiers are physically fighting with death itself. Not only are they fighting with other soldiers, but also they are fighting with death and the loss of their life. Tennyson also personifies hell for the same reason, a bit further on in the poem,
“into the mouth of hell.”
In stanzas one and two, Tennyson uses dialogue. The effect of using this speech is to emphasise on the fact that the soldiers were following orders and doing exactly as they were told. The soldiers were fulfilling their duties by obeying the orders and commands given to them.
“Charge for the guns!” he said”
A rhetorical question is used in stanza two.
“Was there a man dismayed?”
Tennyson does not want us to answer this question, but is using it as a way of showing us that the soldiers’ reactions were not as would have been expected. This is why he answers the question for us. If you knew that you were about to die, it is only human to be dismayed and upset, but Tennyson is trying to make us believe that the soldiers rode to their death with no sorrow in their hearts whatsoever. He uses another rhetorical question, in stanza five.
“When can their glory fade?”
This time, it is quite different to the question in stanza two. Instead of telling us how the soldiers felt before the battle, we are being told how we should think of them. We are supposed to treat the soldiers with great respect and only think of them as heroes, and nothing less.
Throughout the poem, Tennyson uses words to try and convey positive images of the war and battle, and to remove any negative thoughts that people may have had from information they received prior to reading the poem. He uses onomatopoeia, to make the words sound like the action they refer to when they are said aloud. He uses such words to try and create the impression of an exciting battle. They are also used to suggest sunlight glinting on blades and the powerful movements of the Light Brigade and their expertise in fighting.
“Flashed all their sabres bare”
“turned in air”
By just reading the poem and not referring to any background information that I have of the Battle and War, Tennyson could easily persuade me to believe that the battle was not caused by a mistake. It would also make me think that the soldiers really were heroes and did not die because of a vital mistake but because they were defending their country and living up to their name and role of being soldiers.
In a great contrast to The Charge of the Light Brigade, The Hyaenas does not show the glory and positive side of the war. It focuses instead on the stark reality of death in battle and shows his disapproval of war. Where The Charge of the Light Brigade tried to make War and the job of a soldier appear heroic The Hyaenas focuses more on reality. Kipling was a keen observer of animal behaviour and uses the natural behaviour of the hyenas to raise awareness of the lack of respect afforded to those who died. This is in contrast to Tennyson who tried to make the battle look glorious and brave which was not fair on the family of those soldiers who died in the battle because they will have been given a false impression of how their loved ones died.
The government will have been very pleased with Tennyson’s portrayal of the battle and how the soldiers were treated, but they will have not supported Kipling’s portrayal in The Hyaenas. The Charge of the Light Brigade makes us feel that when they lost so many soldiers in that war, the government and commanders of the Light Brigade were deeply upset and emotional and grieved for the loss of the soldier. In fact, all that the government were worried about was that the public would not support them any longer because they would think that they had led them to a death that could have been easily saved. The Hyaenas describes how the soldiers are really treated, by being left as food for the hyenas to eat. Once they had died, the commanders and government were no longer interested in them and did not care what happened to them.
Rudyard Kipling wrote this poem about War in general, and did not focus on any particular war or battle. The poem describes the way that dead soldiers’ bodies, despite being buried by the burial parties, are unearthed and devoured by hyenas. At first, the poet appears to be critical of the hyenas, but in the last stanza he acknowledges the fact that they are merely following their instincts. Since they do not have souls they cannot be expected to be able to differentiate between what is right and wrong, unlike men who do know this difference. Those who really disrespect the dead are those who speak badly of them, perhaps questioning how well they fought and their bravery.
Rudyard Kipling was born on December 30, 1865 in India and made a significant contribution to English Literature in various genres including poetry, short story and novel. He spent his early childhood in India where a babysitter took care of him and where, under her influence, he came in direct contact with the Indian culture and traditions. His parents decided to send him to England to get an education and so at the young age of five he started living in England with the landlady of the lodge where he lived. He spent the next six years of his life in misery due to the mistreatment through beatings and general victimization he faced there. Due to this sudden change in environment and the evil treatment he received, he suffered from insomnia for the rest of his life. This had a huge impact on his literary imagination. He was then placed in a private school at the age of twelve. The English schoolboy code of honour and duty deeply affected his views in later life, especially when it involved loyalty to a group or team.
In 1907 Kipling won the Nobel Prize in literature in consideration of the power of observation, originality, virility of ideas and remarkable talent for narration which characterized his writings. Death of both his children, Josephine and John, deeply affected his life. Both these incidents left a profound impression on his life, which his works published in the subsequent years after their deaths displays. As he grew older his works display his preoccupation with physical and psychological strain, breakdown, and recovery. In 1936, plagued by illness, he passed away into the world beyond, leaving behind a legacy that will live for centuries to come.
Though Kipling’s works achieved literary fame during his early years, as he grew older his works faced enormous amount of literary criticism. His poems dealt with racial and imperialistic topics which attracted a lot of critics. Critics also condemned the fact that unlike the popular model of poetry, Kipling’s poetry did not have an underlying meaning to it and that interpreting it required no more than one reading. As Kipling grew older his poetry came under even more scrutiny and doubts began to arise about poetic abilities.
His poem The Hyaenas reflects his feelings for war and the way in which soldiers are treated. He lost his son through war and because of this, unlike Tennyson; he will not try to encourage people to look at the positive side of war. He believed that people had the right to know how there loved ones died, just like his son had. It was the death of his son that changed his opinion of war and made him think of the negative side of war, rather than the positive side. The way in which he feels humans treat soldiers whether dead or alive, is shown in The Hyaenas. Kipling was a keen observer of animal behaviour, and notes that of the hyenas, who devour the corpses of the dead soldiers. He clearly feels strongly that the bodies of the dead men should be afforded some respect, but accepts that the hyenas are only following their natural instincts. Those really at fault are other men, those in power for instance, for whom it is not enough that the soldiers have lost their lives; they demand to know the exact nature of their death, tarnishing the name and memory of those they judge to have been cowardly.
‘The Hyaenas,’ is made up of 7 different stanzas which are all four lines long. Although it has more stanzas than ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade,’ because each stanza is a lot shorter, on a whole, ‘The Hyaenas’ is a much shorter poem.
Kipling gives us a lot of information throughout the text, to describe the hyenas’ behaviour. The hyenas wait for all the men to leave before coming to look for food. They are described as being wise, because they know that they should wait for the fighting to end and the men to leave before going out into the battle field.
“After the burial parties leave”
“The wise hyenas come out at eve”
They are not concerned about how all this food has arrived, and are merely interested in taking it for themselves and their fellow mates to eat. The hyenas are rather cowardly, as they would rather eat the eat dead soldiers than fight and kill another animal for their food. They do not understand that they should not be eating the soldiers than fight for their food. They do not understand that they should not be eating the soldiers because they are soulless. They should be free from shame as they are carnivores and only doing what they need to do in order to survive.
“And they know the dead are safer meat,”
“Who, being soulless, are free from shame,”
Although Kipling gives us a detailed description about how the hyenas are eating the bodies of the dead soldiers, he does not want us to think badly of them and tries to make us understand their behaviour. He explains that the hyenas are soulless and therefore, they do not understand that they are being disrespectful and defiling the dead. Their main aim is to get food so that they can look after their mates and survive. They are following their instincts in the easiest way by eating the dead meat of the soldiers instead of fighting for it.
“They are only resolute they shall eat
That they and their mates may thrive,”
Kipling makes the suggestion that hyenas are wiser than men. This is because the hyenas are eating the bodies of the dead men because they are in a lot less danger by doing so. The hyenas are in fact a lot wiser than men because where it can be avoided they do not get involved in fighting. They fight to survive but if there are safer ways of getting food, which do not involve fighting then they will do so. They also wait until the evening before they come out to eat the bodies because they do not want to get involved in the battle and fighting. They do not want to waste their time fighting like humans. They do not kill each other for food if there are other ways which are much simpler because the meat is already dead.
“they know the dead are safer meat
Than the weakest thing alive.”
Whereas men are more foolish and kill one another for no reason, the hyenas will only kill if they have to. If someone else has done the killing for them, then they will eat the meat that it is already killed by someone else.
In stanza one, the poet describes the scene after the fighting has ended and all the burial-parties that bury the dead bodies have left the battle field. Only the hyenas are present, the other animals have been frightened away by the noise and aggression of the battle and fighting. The hyenas have been waiting for everyone to leave so that they can go and eat the meat of the dead soldiers. They don’t want to get involved in the fighting, so they wait until everyone has left. Even the birds have left in shock and amazement. They cannot understand why two of the same species are fighting if it is not for food.
“And the baffled kites have fled;”
In stanza two, the hyenas are coming out for the food. The hyenas are unconcerned about the cause of death, ferreting around in the ground until they manage to unearth the body of the soldier. They are not interested in how and why the soldiers have died and the meat has got there, all they care about is that they have got food. They search the whole field, and dig up the grass until they find the bodies. Although the bodies have been buried, it will not have been done with much care or attention. Like everyone else, the burial-parties are eager to get home so do not bother to dig the holes very deep and just make them large enough to fit the body in. they do not care if the bodies are dug up.
“They snout the bushes and stones aside
And dig till they come to it.”
Stanza three, gives us a lot more information about why the hyenas are eating the dead soldiers rather than killing something themselves and eating that. The hyenas’ only aim is to find food for themselves and their families. It is much easier to find meat in the form of a corpse than to actually kill it. Even though the hyenas are digging up the soldiers, they are not selfish and getting it just for them to eat, they are getting the food to feed their mates and ensure that they have enough food to survive. They are only acting on their instincts. They choose to eat the soldiers that have been killed and already dead, over killing something themselves, because it is safer. They are not putting themselves at risk if they take what is already dead.
“That they and their mates may thrive,”
Stanza four is implying that the soldiers are the property of the King. Other creatures may retaliate if attacked, but a dead soldier can no longer fight. We are told that hyenas are eating the soldiers because they could get severely injured by a big animal like a goat, but even if they tried to kill something as small as a worm, it could sting them and they could still be injured. The way that the poet describes how helpless the soldiers are, make is feel even sorrier for them. The fact that they are being classed as property of the King also makes us feel remorseful for them. They are no longer human beings, but like a coat or bag that belongs to the King.
“But a poor dead soldier of the King
Can never lift a hand.”
In stanza five, the hyenas have found a body. They are very pleased with what they have found, and shout with happiness and excitement of having such a lot of food to eat. The hyenas whoop excitedly as they dig up the body, tugging the corpse from its shallow grave. The way in which Kipling describes the hyenas’ behaviour as they remove the body from where it is buried, makes us think that the hyenas are being disrespectful and should not behave in this way. They dig their teeth into the arm of the dead soldier and pull until he is revealed into the daylight. This is the last time that the soldier will ever be revealed to light again, because he will have been eaten. The words that he uses to describe the hyenas’ actions makes it all sound a lot worse than it actually is.
“Until their tushes white
Take good hold in the army shirt,
And tug the corpse to light,”
Stanza six, describes the soldier as he is pulled into the daylight. Just for a moment, before the hyenas close in to devour their prey, the soldier’s face is once again revealed, to both the hyenas and God. He is described as being pitiful and we can imagine the soldier as being full of sorrow and pain even though he is dead. We are also put under the impression that the soldier was quite holy. When he is pulled out of the ground, we are told that only God and the hyenas see the face of the soldier. It is the fact that we are told they are shown to God, which gives us the impression that he is holy and therefore must have gone to heaven when they died.
“But it is not discovered to living men –
Only to God and those”
The final stanza of the poem is stanza seven and this is what brings the poem to an end. Kipling tells us that we should not blame the hyenas for eating the soldiers, as they do not know that they are doing wrong. We cannot blame the hyenas for their actions as they do not know the difference between what is right and wrong. Although we cannot blame the hyenas for being disrespectful towards the soldiers, we can blame humans who defile the dead soldiers name and are disrespectful. For some people, it is not enough that the soldiers are dead and they are still questioning his bravery and if he fought long and hard enough. They are more concerned about the name of their country being stained.
“Nor do they defile the dead man’s name –
That is reserved for his kind.”
Having no souls the hyenas cannot be held responsible for their actions, merely following their instincts to find whatever meat they can. Not do the hyenas tarnish the reputation of the dead man – that is done by other human beings; those who should behave in a more sensitive way than animals.
Kipling wrote the poem to raise awareness of the lack of respect afforded to those who die battling for their country. He wants the reader to be shocked at the fact that the men’s corpses are left for the hyenas to unearth and devour. War itself is seen as something that is unnatural and men are destroying the land as well as each other. Even in death the soldiers are subjected to accusations of cowardice, despite sacrificing their whole lives for the King.
“poor dead soldier of the King”
Kipling presents men as corrupt, behaving in a more primitive way than the hyenas, who only kill for food. The reader may be shocked at the lack of respect the hyenas appear to show the dead, but we need to remember that they are merely animals and as such cannot be expected to see what is wrong with their actions.
“Who, being soulless, are free from shame,”
Throughout the poem, Kipling uses many devices to make the reader question the morality of men and war. The behaviour of the hyenas is described as primitive, shocking the reader with their attitude towards the dead. Onomatopoeia is used to convey their glee at unearthing the dead body,
“They whoop and halloo”
The hyenas’ behaviour shocks the reader, but they are primitive creatures so cannot be held responsible for their actions. The way in which they treat the corpse is very aggressive,
“They snout in the bushes”
“Dig till they come to it”
“Take good hold and tug the corpse to light”
Their actions are basic and single-minded. The natural world is presented as barren and destroyed by men. The ground is stony and little will grow. The birds are baffled by the unnatural behaviour of men who fight each other so aggressively. In the animal world, animals would only kill one another for their own survival. The birds are baffled because they know that the men are not fighting for food.
“the baffled kites have fled.”
They are confused as to why the men are fighting if they do not have to fight for food or survival.
The poet wants us to feel sympathy for the soldiers who died. The soldiers are regarded as the property of the King, who can deploy them as he wishes. The dead soldier in this poem is linked with God, to stress that in the poet’s eyes as well as those of God himself he has done no wrong.
“the poor dead soldier of the king”
Kipling uses words and phrases that help increase this sympathy for the soldiers. The soldiers are now lifeless, and when the hyenas are eating them, they are unable to fight back or protect themselves from being eaten.
“Can never lift a hand.”
The word ‘poor’ has a great impact on the reader. When the hyenas are digging up the bodies, the face of one of the soldiers is unveiled. The poet describes that face as being pitiful. This makes us feel poignant about the fact that the soldier died fighting for his country.
“the pitiful face is shewn again”
When the face is dug up, we are told that only God and the hyenas see his face. Having been told that they were seen by God, we can presume that the men are holy. When they died, they went to heaven with God.
“it is not discovered to living men –
Only to God and to those”
All of this style and choice of language, leads us to pity the soldiers and feel great remorse for the way they died.
Unlike Tennyson, Kipling describes the soldiers as merely being meat for the hyenas. The reader is led to understand that a dead man is much safer to eat than a living animal, but there are still those who accuse him of cowardice and tarnish his name in death. This is quite the opposite of Tennyson who says that we will glorify his name. The way that Kipling describes mankind as treating the soldiers, is not how we would expect from reading Tennyson’s poem. In ‘The Hyaenas,’ it is implied that they were owned by the King and had to do as instructed by him.
“a poor dead soldier of the King.”
We are told that we should not think badly of the hyenas because their behaviour towards the soldiers is not their fault. They are soulless, and do not understand what they are doing. They only see the soldiers as food. Although the hyenas are soulless, humans are not. Some people have defied the dead mans name and been disrespectful towards the soldiers.
“Nor do they defile the dead man’s name –
That is reserved for his kind.”
It is not enough that the soldiers have already lost their lives fighting for their country. They still question whether the soldiers fought well and were brave enough or gave up easily and let the enemy win.
The rhythm of the poem is different to ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade,’ which used a dactylic rhythm. ‘The Hyenas’ uses the ‘a b’ rhyming scheme. This suggests that men’s behaviour too is unchanging, as they follow the same pattern. They are not developing, and are behaving in a very primitive way. The language of the poem is generally direct, with few examples of imagery. The poet clearly sets the scene at the start, with the baffled birds appearing to show more sensitivity than human beings.
This poem is very effective in conveying Kipling’s disapproval of war. Kipling holds quite a different opinion on war to that of Tennyson’s. The poem is especially effective, because of the way that he describes even the animals as being confused by the behaviour of mankind. He tells that animals do not even fight for no reason, and we our race is behaving worse than any animal. At the end of the poem, we are told just how bad humans are in comparison to animals. The hyenas do not disgrace the soldiers, but humans do and with no conscience whatsoever.
“Nor do they defile the dead man’s name.”
Kipling is completely opposite to Tennyson and thinks that war is a waste of human life. He cannot understand the need for this suffering, when even animals do not fight for a liable reason.
From studying the two poems closely, it becomes quite obvious that both poets have a completely different view of war and wrote their poems for two totally different things. Tennyson wrote his poem, ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade,’ to try and rally public support for war and make every think that war is a good thing. Kipling took quite a different approach, and wrote his poem of ‘The Hyaenas’ to try and make people disapprove of war and discourage them of wanting anymore wars. The main differences in the poems, is the choice of language. Tennyson uses lots of positive words such as,
“Boldly”, “Flashed”, “Fought so well”, “Glory”, “Honour”, “Noble”
Kipling does not use any positive words at all and his choice of language is much more negative,
“pitiful”, “corpse”, “dead”, “safer meat”, “poor”, “defile”
The other main difference is that Tennyson focuses on the battle itself while there is a lot of action, and Kipling focuses his poem on what happens after the battle and everyone has left the battle-field. The Government will not have been very impressed with Kipling for writing a poem that contrasts so strongly with Tennyson’s poem that would have gathered them a lot of support for war.