This essay is going to compare the war poems ‘war photographer’, ‘Love letters of the dead: commando intelligence briefing’, ‘I was only nineteen’ and ‘dulce et decorum est’ to find the similarities and the differences between these poems.
The poems ‘War photographer’, ‘Love letters of the dead: a commando intelligence briefing’, and ‘dulce et decorum est’ mainly explores the theme of death that comes with war, but in ‘I was only nineteen’ it explores the theme of death after the war. In the War photographer’ we read that the photographer is developing his film that he had taken from a war, as he is making these images he remembers more about what happened, filling him with emotion, this similar to ‘love letters’, the soldier has to go through the pockets of the dead enemy, which he finds as a moral dilemma, ‘I was only nineteen’ shows a solitary man remembering when he served in the Vietnam war, the Purpose of these poems is to show the desolation and grief that the war always brings.
in the first paragraph of War photographer’ the poem says ‘In his dark room he is finally alone’ This is showing that the photographer has his own time to reflect on what happened during the war and has the time to develop his images, which means he can remember more about the events he experienced in particular, but in ‘love letters’ we assume the soldier is in a hurry to get what he needs from the body’s, he does not have time to think about his past, because he is already making his memories at that point in time, essentially this is the same in ‘dulce et decorum est’ “there shall be in that rich earth a richer dust concealed, a dust whom England bore”, this is the first stanza and the writer describes the men and the condition they were in and the language shows that the soldiers criticize the conditions and compare it to England and that even in their exhausted form the soldiers keep going, the “richer dust concealed” is the enemy firing gas shells at them. This sudden situation causes the soldiers to hurriedly put their gas masks on. The writer in War photographer’ wants us to feel what the photographer is feeling by making the room represent the mood he is creating.
The red lighting creates another atmosphere in the poem using symbolism, the red symbolises the blood lost during war, but in ‘love letters’ there are very few symbolic meaning and many literal meanings such as “do you think it right, I don’t for any ranger to snitch”, this is the only symbolic meaning in the poem, what this means is that this soldier does not like it when people snitch if they don’t have to. ‘Solutions slop in trays beneath his hands’ this solution is used to clear the photos, just as it clears the photographer’s memories , it is also an acid, acids were used in biological warfare to kill in the masses, there are many symbolic meanings in ‘dulce et decorum est’ such as The metaphor “Haunting Flares” on the third line. The quote has many meanings, one of which is that there are flares being fired by the enemy to light up the battle field are said to be representing the souls of the soldiers that have fallen. This could also be said to represent the power the enemy had on the soldiers lives as the bright flares would light up the battlefield, exposing everything to their view and they realise what is happening.
The Metaphor ‘spools of suffering’ shows the theme of death that comes with war. It is a useful comparison as it’s not the spools that are suffering; it’s the photos of the spools reminding him of the suffering, there is also repetition in this sentence and there is repetition in ‘love letter’ in the sentences ‘go through the pockets of the enemy wounded, go through the pockets of the enemy dead, the writer is making the task seem very rigorous. Another metaphor from ‘dulce et decorum est’ is “An ecstasy of fumbling” this is on the second stanza and is significant as it describes the frantic way in which the soldiers have to try to put their masks on. The soldiers would have been trying to put their masks on in a hurry but due to them being tired their minds would have wanted them to go faster than their body would have been allowing them to, this is why it says there is a “Fumbling”, the term “Ecstasy” would normally hint a time of emotion, usually joy, however in this situation it is ironic as this is a distressing time for the men.
‘If this where a church and he a priest’ this symbolises the people that were lost during this war, and many funerals are being held and the photographer has witnessed many of these deaths, in the ‘love letter’ there would be no funerals because most body’s can’t be identified as there identification was taken by the soldiers.’ He has a job to do’, the photographer has to get his moral feelings out of the way to forget about what’s happened in the images and do his job , this is nearly the same situation for the soldier, he has to do his job, or he will be punished.
‘Rural England’ this is meant to be compared to war, it is very peaceful and the only thing you will worry about there is the weather, but in war there is chaos and disorder.
In the poem he looks at a photo with a ‘half formed ghost’, the image gives the idea that the picture of the dead person the photographer is thinking about could be a memory that is lingering around him because he could be responsible for the death of that person, this also suggests the idea that the photographer doesn’t take pleasure in what his job is because he has agonising memories, and to the end of the poem the editor only chooses a select few of the photos, showing he does not care for the losses of life’s and only wants money which must frustrate the photographer.
‘A hundred agonies in black and white’ this shows that possibly everyone is equal during a war, but the main aim of this example is there is a gray area in his mind, something he is unclear of.
There are several references to imagery used in ‘dulce et decorum est’,. The first image is “Sleep or Dreams”. The writer often refers to many states referring to the mind, the reason why he uses these references so regularly is that war is made apparent to the reader as being subconsciously tiring and the actual reality often seems to be too hard to except, an example is “Men marched asleep”. The writer again refers to dreams. Another reason for this is that by dreaming you are escaping from the physical reality which the soldiers would adore to do, due to the horror and constant threat of death the soldiers would probably be dreaming of home and their loved ones. But, the writer could be looking at dreams being continuous reminders of the past (a theme).
On the whole the poems are different, because in ‘Love letters of the dead: a commando intelligence briefing’ there is very little symbolic meanings to it and in ‘war photographer’ there are many symbolic meanings, this is the same with ‘dulce et decorum est’ but since the writer was in a war they are also personal meanings.