What impression have you gained, from your reading, of the differences between the glamorised picture of war and the reality of experience?
War is a struggle between two sides for land, wealth, power, control and glory. It causes a lot of devastation, suffering and misery. It brings about all the problems and difficulties, which affect and ruin the lives of many people, causing them to die or become disabled, widowed and fatherless. It leaves its horrid pictures and effects for the people and land to suffer for many years afterwards.
World War I is such an example of this. It started August 1914 and carried on for 4 years, to when it finally ended in 1918. Considering the fact that it would only continue till December 1914, the people desperate for the glory of war joined the army, even the youths of 13 years old joined. There was a lot of propaganda to support and encourage people to join the army. People were not told the truth about the conditions at the war in order to enlist more people to join the army. Men, especially the youths, received white feathers from women for their cowardice for not joining the army. However the war caused millions of deaths and much suffering.
The poems that I have chosen are “Dulce et Decorum est” by Wilfred Owen, which describes the reality of the war experience and “Peace” by Rupert Brooke which illustrates the glamorized picture of the war.
Rupert Brooke (1887-1915) was born in a wealthy and an academic background. He studied at famous schools and colleges like, Rugby Public School and Kings College, Cambridge. Rupert Brooke was a handsome youth and had many friends who were writers. He saw little combat in the war, and died in 1915 due to blood poisoning. He inspired patriotism and encouraged people to join the army in early months of the Great War.
“Peace” reflects on the glory of war; how magnificent and wonderful it is to go and fight for your country. Rupert Brooke is thanking God for the war:
“Now, God be thanked, Who has matched us with His hour”
In the first verse Rupert Brooke is telling people about what war has done to his generation and the youth. He also describes the state of the world as “grown old and cold and weary”.
He is saying how war has influenced the young men by catching their youth, before it could escape. It has wakened them from sleeping, made them sharp and alert like “swimmers”, making a fresh clean start and leaping into clean water. He is trying to tell us that the war had a beneficial affect upon the youth; made them more active and lively.
“And caught our youth, and wakened us from sleeping”
“To turn, as swimmers into cleanness leaping”
The war has made youths desperate for the honour and glory of the war. Rupert Brooke uses “us” and “our” which suggest that he was also a youth at the time of war, he is telling us that he has also experienced these things. This comparison could have caused a sensation amongst the young men at the time of war and made them desperate for the glory of war.
“Old and cold and weary”, “half-men” all point to men not contributing to war and shows that the young men going to war are superior to them. He says even the honour and glory of fighting for their country could not change their mind, which shows lack of patriotism and enthusiasm to fight for their country.
“And all the little emptiness of love!” suggests that the love of relationships is inferior compared to the patriotic love and that people should love their country and fight for its stability, even if they have to die. Rupert Brooke uses this comparison to influence the men not willing to fight for their country, and especially the youths. He is trying to tell the youths, if other men don’t go to war they should go. He describes the characteristics of youth and uses language to create this effect: “hand made sure”, “clear eye”, “sharpened power”. ” Sick hearts” means people with no great hearts are not contributing to war. “Honour” is suggesting to the youth that by going on the war is an honourable status that is not available every body, but they have a chance.
In the second verse Rupert Brooke is trying to overcome the fears that the young men might have about the war.
“We” is describing Rupert Brooke’s own situation. He is trying to tell the young people that we were shameful before going on the war, but now we have no shame, we have found release from it by going on the war.
He is trying to convince the youths afraid of wounds and death that you do not have time to think about for these things in the war; you do not fell ill, grief or sleep. You concentrate on the war, you forget about every thing else and when you die, the sleep will recover these wounds, illnesses and grief from you.
He is trying to tell us that nothing can either break or save a body when it has lost breath and nothing can disturb or effect the long peace time when you die. The only thing that will cause and suffering will be agony and distress, but that will also end with death.
The last line is a summary of the second verse, which leaves the reader thinking why death is “the worst friend and enemy”. Rupert Brooke wrote this poem for people to contribute to the war. The last line tells them not to be afraid of death, because the people, who are afraid of death, their worst enemy is also death. However people after reading the poem feel less afraid of the wounds and deaths in the war. So the last line leaves them to make a decision, whether they are afraid of death, in that case death is the worst enemy and if not the death is their friend, because they can rest from the agony and troubles of the world when they die and that no one can alter the time of someone’s death.
Overall the poem is an effective piece; it makes the reader confident about the war and death. The poem is a sonnet, and has a distinct rhyming pattern. In the first verse there are 8 lines, with every first line rhyming with the third and second with the fourth. There are 6 lines in the second verse and the rhyming pattern is different to the first verse; first line rhymes with the fourth, second with the fifth and third with the sixth.
“Peace” emphasizes on the idea of glory of war, but still war is a horrific and a gruesome experience, much worse than the glory and glamour of the war. Wilfred Owen (1893-1918) was on the Continent teaching until he visited the hospital for wounded and then decided in 1915 to return England and enlist .As an officer he wanted to help the soldiers. He already had the experience of war, even before joining the army; he wanted to speak for the soldiers. Owen was injured in March 1917 and sent home. But he was fit by August 1918 and returned to the front in November 1918, and died just 7 days before the end of war. “Dulce et Decorum Est” is an example of such horror and frightful experience.
The poem starts with terrible description of the soldiers. Wilfred Owen uses the word “old” as if the soldiers are old because of their miserable condition. They are “bent double”, he compares them with the “beggars” and “hags”, as if they are worn out. “Cursed through sludge” shows how difficult it is for them to walk through the thick mud that only by cursing can they make their way through the mud.
All the description and the effective language used in the first two lines establish a slow movement of the poem, which is enforced as it carries on. The use of word “distant” tells us that the soldiers don’t know when are they going to rest and how long will they be suffering from this.
“Men marched asleep” shows how exhausted and tired they are, they have lost their boots, their feet are covered in blood, but still desperate for their “distant rest” they’re carrying on. The metaphor “drunk with fatigue” also emphasizes how tired they are, as if they have been drinking it. “Lame”, “blind” and “deaf” show that they have no senses at all, even the great sounds and thrills of gas shells cannot penetrate through their ears.
The first verse is full of effective language used to describe the soldiers and the words like “trudge” and “sludge” give the first verse a slow movement.
“Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!” suddenly changes the pace and the rhythm of poem as well as the soldiers’. The reader and the soldiers are both shocked. This starts a violent movement as described by the word “ecstasy of fumbling”. It shows that they are completely shocked, they do not know what to do, they are frenzied.
However someone still has not put his gas mask on, now Wilfred Owen describes his miserable state in which he finds him. The simile “flound’ring like a man in fire or lime” is used to tell how gas is eating the soldier up, he is crying for help, but cannot be helped.
Wilfred Owen now describes the soldier as “drowning”, because he is gasping for air and as he is being viewed through the green “misty panes” of the gas mask that Wilfred Owen is wearing, which make the world look as though it is under water and seems as he is drowning. The simile “as under a green sea” is used to create this effect.
In the next short verse Wilfred Owen returns to his present, telling us how his dreams are haunted by this figure. The word “plunges” suggests violent action in which the figure is trying to get Owen to help him, but Owen cannot help him .The idea of drowning is also reinforced here with the use of words “plunges” and “drowning”. The harsh sounds of “guttering” and “choking” make the reader realize the pain and suffering, the figure might have suffered.
In the final verse Wilfred Owen brings the reader in the poem by using “you”. Wilfred Owen tries to tell the reader the situation he has faced. The gassed soldier is put in a wagon and his distressed situation is described. His eyes were “writhing” with pain and agony. “Hanging face” and “blood coming gargling from the forth corrupted lungs” describe the soldier’s horrific situation. It makes the reader feel very frightful of the horrendous conditions. To even increase the horror Wilfred Owen uses very horrific and effective comparisons like metaphors and similes: “devil sick of sin”, “obscene as cancer”, “bitter as the cud”, “of vile incurable sores on innocent tongues”. This comparison is very very effective and strong, it shakes the reader; how horrid and horrific war is.
In the last part Wilfred Owen again involves the reader as “my friend”, as if trying to tell them something important. He says after reading the poem you will not tell children and the young people desperate for the glory of war that dying for your country is noble and good, because it is a lie.
After reading the poem the reader feels sorry for the victims of the war and fears the horror of the war. This is mainly because of the language used in the poem by Wilfred Owen; his resentful language about the war and the grim joke at the end shows that people still believe in the glory of war:
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.
Owen incorporates the misery and the situations that really happened in the World War I into his poetry. The Great War caused a lot of suffering and deaths and the situations during the war were unbearable.
The land between the two front lines was called the no man’s land, not a single sign of life. The worst problems were caused in the trenches; when it rained, it gave rise to the several feet thick mud. Soldiers suffered trench feet, feet swollen about two or three times the normal size, because of leaving them in the water for too long. Some soldiers had their feet amputated to get rid of the miserable agony. The soldiers could not bathe, this caused lice to infest them.
At nights there were colonies of rats between the two front lines, all hunting for food. The deadly poisonous gas was another major fear upon the soldiers, because it was heavier than the air and sunk to the bottom of the trenches, which caused a lot of trouble and many horrific deaths.
Soldiers had to clean the paths covered with rotting dead bodies; they didn’t bury them, just threw them away on one side and left them there. Soldiers were not allowed any kind of leave or to run away. Any one doing so was severely punished and sometimes shot to death.
This shows how horrific and terrible war can be. Soldiers have to face many difficulties and troubles through the war.
In my opinion I think “Dulce et Decorum Est” is more effective than “Peace”. I think this is because of the very effective language used by Wilfred Owen. Any one reading both poems will be influenced more by “Dulce et Decorum Est” than “Peace”. “Peace” gives the glory of war, but no strong and effective language is used to overcome the reality of war in “Dulce et Decorum Est”.
One reason for this might be the fact that Wilfred Owen has seen a lot of combat in the war before he died. However Rupert Brook didn’t see much of the suffering in the war and died just after a year of the start of war. But in my opinion “Dulce et Decorum Est” is more effective than “Peace”.