I chose the theme, the faces of War because it is the reason I am and everyone is here today. Wars fought and won prior to my birth have enabled me to be born. If it wasn’t for battlers who fought for my country I would not be writing this assignment at this point of time. The thought of War makes me feel very humble because so many people young and old were prepared to risk their life and many people gave their life for their country.
War means a lot to me. When I hear or read the word ‘War’ it makes me think what Australian Battlers did for me. Sure anyone can read, spell or write the word War but what does it really mean to you?
If I should die, think only this for me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is forever England. There shall be
In the rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England’s, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.
And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the internal mind, no less
Give somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.
At the beginning of World War 1, many of the young volunteers felt privileged to be able to fight for their country. One such young recruit was Rupert Brooke who died for illness on the 23rd April 1915 before having seen action. His poem, The Soldier, is full of patriotic fervour, shows how proud he was to be able to offer his life for the country that has given him life and joy.
In the middle of the poem, Rupert Brooke confronts us with a personification
‘Washed by the rivers, blest by the suns of home’
It is clear to see that human qualities have been ascribed to non human things in suggesting that England has been ‘blest by the suns of home’. Rupert Brooke is referring the suns of home to the brave soldiers fighting for their country.
He sat in a wheeled chair, waiting for dark,
And shivered in his ghastly suit of grey,
Legless, swen short at elbow. Through the park
Voices of boys rang saddening like a hymn,
Voices of play and pleasure after day,
Till gathering sleep had mothered them from him.
About this time Town used to swing so gay
When glow-lamps bubbled in the light blue trees,
And the girls glanced lovelier as the air grew dim,
-In the old times, before he threw away his knees.
Now he will never feel again how slim
Girls’ waists are, or how warm their subtle hands.
All of them touch him like some queer disease.
There were an artist silly for his face,
For it was younger than his youth, last year.
Now, he is old; his back will never brace;
He’s lost his colour very far from here,
Poured it down shell-holes till the veins ran dry,
And half his lifetime lapsed in the hot race
And leap of purple spurted from his thigh.
One time he liked a bloodsmear down his leg,
After the matches, carried shoulder-high.
It was after football, when he’d drunk a peg,
He thought he’d better join. – He wounders why.
Someone had said he’d look a god in kilts,
That’s why; and maybe, too, to please his Meg,
Aye, that was it, to please the giddy jilts
He asked to join. He didn’t have to beg;
Smiling they wrote his lie: aged nineteen years.
Germans he scarcely thought of; all their guilt
And Austria’s, did not move him. And no fears
Of fear came yet. He thought of jewelled hilts
For daggers in plaid socks; of smart salutes;
And care of arms; and leave; and pay arrears;
Esprit de corps; and hints for young recruits.
And soon, he was drafted out with drums and cheers.
Some cheered him home, but not as crowds cheer goal
Only a solemn man who brought him fruits
Thanked him; and then inquired about his soul.
Now, he will spend a few sick years in institutes,
And do what things the rules consider wise,
And take whatever pity they may dole.
Tonight he noticed how the women’s eyes
Passed from him to the strong men that were whole.
How cold and late it is! Why don’t they come
And put him to bed? Why don’t they come?
Wilfred Owen enlisted in the British Army in 1915. In January 1917 he went as an officer to the Soome in France where he encountered the mud and misery of trench warfare. He was killed a week before the end of the War while guiding his company across the Sambre Canal. He said Of his poetry: ‘My subject is War and the pity of War. The poetry is in the pity. All a poet can do is warn’.
In line one:
‘He sat in a wheeled chair, waiting for dark,
And shivered in his ghastly suit of grey’
With the appearance of ‘dark’, ‘grey’, and shivered sets up the isolation of the wounded soldier. It strikes a strong comparison to the warmth of the second stanza.
The alliteration of the ‘g’ in lines’ eight and nine states that:
‘glow-lamps and girls glanced’
These are well used and linked effectively by the use of alliteration with the letter ‘g’ in glow-lamp and girls glanced.
Dulce et Decorum Est
Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turn our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shot. All went lame; all blind
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.
Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime . . . .
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,-
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.
Dulce et Decorum Est
The title and last lines of this poem are taken from one of the Odes of the Roman poet Horace. These Latin words may be translated as ‘It is sweet and honourable to die for one’s country’. This same belief of the Romans was held by the English people two thousand years ago during World War 1.
At the beginning of the poem, Owen confronts us with a number of fatigued soldiers. The simile:
‘like old beggars under sacks’
Not only displays the difficulty of the soldiers movements through the battle field but shows the degradation the War brings. The soldiers have no glory!
We feel compassion for the soldiers who are so exhausted that they ‘marched asleep’. We cannot help but pity the physical suffering of those who:
‘limped on blood-shod. All went lame; all blind’
By the alliteration of the ‘l’ in ‘limped on blood-shod. All went lame; all blind’, Owen conveys the dull and sluggish movement of the soldiers struggling to return to home base.
Softly and humbly to the Gulf of Arabs
The convoys of dead soldiers come;
At night they sway and wander in the waters far under,
But morning rolls them in the foam.
Between the sob and clubbing of the gunfire
Someone, it seems, has time for this,
To pluck them from the shallows and bury them in burrows
And tread the sand upon their nakedness.
And each cross, the driven stake of tide-wood,
Bears the last signature of man,
Written with such perplexity, with such bewildered pity,
The words choke as they begin.
‘Unknown seamen’ – the ghostly pencil
Wavers and fades, the purple drips,
The breath of the wet season has washed their inscription
As blue as drowned men’s lips.
Dead seamen, gone in search of the same landfall,
Whether as enemies they fought,
Or fought with us, or neither; the sand joins them together,
Enlisted on the other front.
When Kenneth Slessor wrote ‘Beach Burial’, he was an Australian war correspondent. It is highly likely that Slessor witnessed the events he describes in the poem.
Here, as in many other of Slessor’s poems, he uses sounds to convey the feeling of the scene he is describing. Slessor Describes the exact timing of the sailors floating in the water by the repetition of sounds such as the ‘ly’ in:
‘softly’ and ‘humbly’
The repetition of the ‘s’ thoughout the first stanza suggest the movement of the bodies in the ebb and the flow of the sea.
The message of the poem is in no doubt presented in the last stanza. The sailors of old in sailing ships looked forward expectantly to reaching land after long and often voyages. Here in ‘Beach Burial’ the dead sailors similarly reach land after their journeys in the sea.
This poem is an example of War and the horror of it; in the last stanza the futility of War is so clearly exposed when the poet describes the joining together of the seamen who have come from so many lands.
The four songs chosen for this selection are all linked by the theme of War. Each poem strongly suggests what War was about and what Soldiers went through day in and day out, all of this just for us.