War poetry essay Bracken Hampson-Ragg

Length: 1658 words

War poetry is said to have reflected the changing views of society throughout the First World War. There were many poets who stayed back in Britain. They wrote about war to try and get men to sign up. During this time, in 1914 and 1915, men back at home did not have to sign up to the war so the poetry was written to persuade them. The poems written during the war portrayed a lot individually, and also as a whole group. Jessie Pope wrote poetry for the Daily Mail in order to get men to sign up. Pope asks, “who’s for the game? ” in her poem because men like to compete with each other and play games.

She says it’s the biggest that’s played which attracts men. Pope makes a clear separation between the “men” and the “boys”. Males would obviously prefer to be classed as men to prove they are strong. This is why the poem was successful in trying to get men to sign up. Men decide that they’d much rather have a “turn to himself in the show” than “take a seat in the stand” because that is what a real man would do. Throughout the poem Pope asks questions, “who’ll grip and tackle? ” “Who wants? ” “Who would much rather? ” These are direct questions.

They are designed to make the reader think about himself. This is what men like. Similarly, Harold Begbie asks the question in his poem ‘Fall In’ ‘what will you lack, sonny? ‘ This provokes thought and the young men realise that they would benefit much more through going to war. At the end of each stanza, in ‘who’s for the game’ after asking questions about things that men enjoy, Pope contradicts herself by asking questions like “And who thinks he’d rather sit tight? ” This makes men think that they would much rather be in the “show” and the “red crashing game” than waiting ‘in the stand’.

This is again similar to ‘Fall in’ where Begbie asks the question ‘How will you fare? ‘ meaning how will you succeed, how will you get on in your life when ‘your neighbours talk of the fight’. He then tells the young men reading that they can sign up now and not lose anything; ‘I was not with the first to go, but I went, thank God, I went. ‘ Pope’s and Begbie’s use of plain language, simple structure and regular rhythm makes their poetry easy to read. Therefore, the men they are targeting can understand and relate to the poems.

There is great irony in the content of Jessie Pope’s poem because she comes across as knowing everything about the war when actually she never saw any action. This angered Wilfred Owen, one of the most renowned poets of the First World War, because the picture that Pope painted was a reflection of her patriotic desire. Owen’s view was that it did not reflect the grim reality of war. He felt that his country had betrayed him because they had lied and deceived. A good example of Owens fury is “Dulce Et Decorum Est” which he directed to Jessie Pope.

He addressed her as a “certain poetess”. The title in itself is one of the most important parts of the poem. It translates from Latin as ‘It is sweet and right to die for ones country’. This is bitter and sarcastic. It seems that Owen felt strongly about this quotation which he took from the Latin poet Horace. This is illustrated when Owen repeats the title at the end of his poem by stating it clearly as “The old lie? ” Dulce Et Decorum Est is a horrific poem in which Owen puts across his anger towards Jessie Pope and all the other civilians.

Owen begins by describing the soldiers not as they were shown on the recruitment posters, but “bent double” and “like old beggars”. He tells us that the men were so tired and worn out that they “marched asleep” and were “drunk with fatigue” which translates as drunk with tired. By the time Wilfred Owen wrote Dulce Et Decorum Est in 1917 the venire of glory and patriotism had faded. The first stanza of the poem is slow depicting the endless hours of marching through mud and water. This can be seen through his use of heavy repeated consonance, for example ‘cursed’, ‘sludge’ and ‘trudge’.

By the second stanza the pace of the poem becomes faster. ‘Gas, gas quick boys! ‘ The exclamation marks emphasise this change. After looking at the soldiers from a distance in the first stanza, by the second stanza we are taken in to see true horror of the war. It was horrible and brutal. Wilfred Owen puts this across in his poem well through his use of harsh and immediate language, for example ‘Hanging face’ and ‘froth-corrupted lungs’. He had lost the imagined glory of the patriot. Throughout the poem Owen tells the reader of what war was truthfully like, ‘desperate’, ‘bitter’ and ‘helpless’.

He wanted to show people at home what they were sending their sons to. It was a nightmare that haunted every single soldier in the war. Owen evokes, through graphic imagery, a place that is violent and grim. Owen describes war as ‘obscene as cancer’. Cancer is a disease that catches many people who do not deserve it. These men were innocent, they had done nothing or said nothing, that had made them deserve to go to war. Owen tells us of their ‘incurable sores on innocent tongues’ meaning that they were going to die and nothing could save them. Yet, they would not die guilty-only innocent.

Owen questions the reader ‘If in some smothering dreams you too could pace behind the wagon that we flung him in’. By this he means, if you were there, if you had seen the horror that I have seen ‘You would not tell with such high zest… the old lie: Dolce et Decorum Est’. He is describing to the reader throughout the poem, not the lies that Pope and other civilians told, but the truth, nothing but the truth. He tells the reader of the lack of respect that war has ‘We flung him in’. There was no respect and this is what Anthem For Doomed Youth, another of Wiflred Owen’s poems, tells us.

The first eight lines and final six lines of this poem are very different. The octave is fairly typical of Wilfred Owen. He shows the same bitterness towards the death of these innocent men ‘Die as cattle’. He is again creating a graphic image of the battlefield. This is shown through the way he tells the reader of the ‘monstrous anger of the guns’, and ‘the riffles rapid rattle’. In contrast to the octave, which is set in the battlefield, the sestet takes the reader home to the family and friends of the soldiers.

Unlike the first eight lines, the final six lines are sentimental and almost romantic. ‘Shine the holy glimmers’, ‘their flowers the tenderness’. Therefore creating a peaceful and gentle contrast to the octave. After feeling angry and bitter towards to the people sending the young men to their death, the reader begins to feel sorry for soldiers and their families. Anthem for Doomed Youth was written in remembrance of the soldiers who had died. An anthem is usually written as a song of respect. Owen writes his anthem as respect for the ‘doomed youth’.

Doomed youth is juxtaposition because young people usually have their whole lives ahead of them. They are not supposed to be doomed, but in this case they were. The youths were being sent to war by people who knew they were going to be killed. What Owen is trying to depict in his poem was that there were no true goodbyes for these young men. They were ‘doomed’ from the moment they left their homes to go and fight. Their bodies would rot into the mud in France, they could not be brought back to England for their funeral. There would be no funeral for these men.

There would be no prayers or bells, except for the ‘wailing shells’, the ‘shrills’ ‘the monstrous anger of the guns’ and the sound of the ‘riffles rapid rattle’. Owen’s use of alliteration here creates onomatopoeia, which makes the reader feel as though they are there, fighting along with the soldiers. What sort of memory is that to have of these young men who have fought hard for their country? Unlike Wilfred Owen, but similar to Jessie Pope and Harold Begbie, Rupert Brooke glorified war. He used a very different style and tone, yet he put across the same views about war.

Brooke believed that God had given the young men the opportunity to fight ‘God be thanked who has matched us with his hour’. Brooke also believed that the war cleansed the men ‘as swimmers onto cleanness leaping’. During the war there were three main poets who thought war was good and that God had sent it for them as a great opportunity. Jessie Pope, Harold Begbie and Rupert Brooke all believed in war. They wrote their poems at the beginning of the war from 1914-1916. In great contrast to these poets, there were two poets that believed war was a terrible and tragic thing.

These men were Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon. They fought in the war, which Pope, Begbie and Brooke did not. When they got to the front they realised that they had been lied to by the civilians. When they told people of this through their poems from 1916-1918 people denied it and claimed they had shell shock. Poems reflected many people’s views towards the First World War. Individually the poems depicted each persons view of the war in their own way. However, as a group the poems portrayed the desperate lies told by the civilians, and the destroying truth told too late by the soldiers.

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