The subject of War is one that rouses many varying attitudes amongst writers, which is evident through their respective compositions of literature. Throughout the duration of World War I, many soldiers who originally harboured enthusiasm towards the notion of fighting for one’s country to attain honour became incredibly cynical and satirical of the war. One such writer was Wilfred Owen, writer of ‘The Send-off’. Owen joined up in the First World War, as many did, with a view that had been manipulated by the propaganda portrayed by the media of the time.
Thus, he was keen to fight to defend his country in order to obtain glory. However, he soon formed his own opinion of the reality of War and became bitter and angry towards the depiction of war conveyed by the media on the home front, and those supporting it. This view of Owen’s that developed throughout his time in the War is clearly illustrated through ‘The Send-off’. John Scott composed his poem, ‘The Drum’, in 1782, over a century prior to the commencement of the First World War.
Therefore, Scott’s view was not manipulated, as Owen’s was, by his own personal experience of the First World War. However, ‘The Drum’ does demonstrate an extremely similar view of war to that conveyed by Owen in ‘The Send-off’. Both depict strong anti-war attitudes, presenting their respective ideas about the wasteful sacrifice and carnage of war, thus demonstrating that such views were common, not simply due to one particular war, but the act of War in general, and hence transcend centuries.
Both Owen’s and Scott’s texts adopt the form of poems, t...
hus they share some fundamental facets. The most dominant feature of Scott’s poem is arguably the strong rhyme scheme that it exhibits:
‘I hate that drum’s discordant sound,
Parading round and round and round’
The above quote clearly illustrates how this rhyme scheme induces a strong rhythm into the poem, aided by the set number of eight syllables per line. This rhythm compliments the title of the poem, demonstrating Scott’s use of onomatopoeia, as it imitates the beat of a drum. Scott’s employment of onomatopoeia within the rhythm here also introduces the idea of men marching off to war, as it is known that often men marched to the beat of a drum to help coordination;
‘To march, and fight, and fall in foreign lands’
Whereas Scott’s poem adopts a form of a two-stanza poem, each stanza being of equal length, Owen’s poem consists of eight stanzas, with alternating lengths of two, and three lines. The simple construction of Scott’s poem allows his AABB rhyme scheme to impose his desired effect of imitating the beat of a drum or the march of soldiers, which is also aided by the common number of syllables per line. Owen’s utilisation of an original structure however, displays a rhyme scheme which transcends stanzas; an uncommon facet of poems:
‘Down the close darkening lanes they sang their way
To the siding-shed,
And lined the train with faces grimly gay.
Their breasts were stuck all white with wreath and spray
As men’s are, dead.’
The passing of rhyme over each three-line stanza, to the subsequent two-line stanza, as demonstrated here
creates the auditory effect of hearing a four-stanza poem, each of five lines. However, Owen’s choice of presenting each five lines as two separate stanzas induces an effective pause between these stanzas, and thus the reader is gripped by what would be the final two lines of a five-line stanza. The reverse in rhyme also aids the purpose of drawing the attention of the reader to these two-line stanzas, which often refer to the deaths of soldiers, either directly or otherwise. For instance, the final stanza consisting of,
‘May creep back, silent, to village wells
Up half-known roads’
speaks of the harsh reality that only few soldiers, if any will return from the war, and that those who do, will merely be shadows of their former selves, and thus the places they return to will not seem the same to them. The shrill implication of this stanza is aided by the reversed rhyme from the stanza preceding it, in addition to the pause that is induced before it. Thus, Owen and Scott demonstrate how fundamental facets of poetry can be utilised to achieve differing effects.
Both Owen and Scott convey developing, well structured arguments throughout their poems, rather than displaying an undeveloped attitude. Scott manages this incredibly effectively by inducing a change of tone between stanzas. His first stanza conveys how the ‘drum’s discordant sound’ appeals to the naï¿½ve ‘thoughtless’ young men, to whom the media pleaded to join up. Certain aspects of the language in this stanza strongly exhibit Scott’s unequivocal cynicism towards the common act of glorifying war and the act of fighting for one’s country. For instance, Scott states,
‘And lures from cities and from fields,
To sell their liberties for charms’
This quote displays the poet’s use of a strong verb, ‘lure’, in order to personify the drum, giving it a somewhat devious nature; implying that it tempts young men by only showing positive aspects of war, to give up their innocence for a chance of glory; portrayed by the second line of this quote. The final line of this poem displays Scott’s act of satirising the view of war conveyed by the media to these innocent young men:
‘To march, and fight, and fall, in foreign lands’
Scott’s use of the word ‘fall’ here to convey death, following his cynicism of the act of the drum, illustrates his sardonic view of the media’s propaganda, and their habit of emphasising the positives of war, whilst disguising the negative through the use of euphemism.
The tone change in the second verse is introduced in the form of Scott stating what the drum speaks of ‘to me’. The tone becomes much more brutally honest, aided by Scott’s repeated use of emotive language in the form of a list:
‘And mangled limbs, and dying groans,
And widows tears and orphans’ moans’
The use of words such as ‘mangled’ and ‘orphans’ here, summon up immense sympathy and disgust in the reader, as they are forced to face Scott’s personal feelings of the brutal reality that is being disguised by the sound of the drum, for those innocent and naï¿½ve soldiers desperate for glory, as well as the public on the home front.