Attitudes to war and how
Wilfred Owen and Alfred Lord Tennyson both wrote well known poetry about war. Their poems were written in different centuries and they clearly illustrate the changing attitude to war
These three poems are all describing the ups and downs of war. The one author saying how war is such a great thing and how brave the soldiers were. The other author saying how terrible war is, illustrating the death and injuries. In Tennyson?s poem, because it was written earlier than the two poems by Owen, he describes more the glory and heroism of war, rather than the death and stupidity.
All three poems make you feel pity, even if it may be accidental, which I feel it is in Tennyson?s ?The Charge of the Light Brigade?
Let us look at Tennyson?s poem, he starts by using repetition. This is a good start as you feel the beat of the hooves of the soldiers? horses and this continues through the whole poem.
?Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward.?
Not only do you instantly feel the beat, but from the next line you feel you know a lot about the story line.
?All in the valley of death,
Rode the six hundred.?
This is repeated at the end of the verse, which I feel is very effective, as I feel it emphasises the fact of the unbalanced odds and the soldiers? imminent doom, which of course makes you pity them.
The second verse tells how the soldiers were so loyal to their country, that even though they knew they were in mortal danger, they didn?t question their superiors. The first line in this verse, is an order by the commander that suggests confidence in the troops.
?Forward the light brigade!?
Further on in the verse repetition is used which illustrates the soldiers? bravery and again their respect for their superiors.
?Theirs? not to make reply,
Theirs? not to reason why,
Theirs? but to do and die.?
In the third verse Tennyson again uses repetition describing the deadly position they were in.
?Cannon to the right of them,
Cannon to the left of them,
Cannon in front of them?
This helps you understand what they were facing during this battle and how impossible their fight was. It makes you feel pity for the six hundred soldiers.
In this verse Tennyson glories in the soldiers? bravery, saying:
?Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of death,
Into the mouth of hell?
This means that by taking this mission they were practically committing suicide and it also, again, makes you feel sorry for the soldiers.
The forth verse tells, briefly, the story of the actual battle and how despite the odds the soldiers still attacked and made progress against the enemy.
?Flashed all their sabres bare,
Flashed as they turned in the air,
Sabring the gunners there?
Here he again uses repetition; I feel this time it emphasises the bravery of the soldiers still attacking a helpless cause. Tennyson expresses the helpless cause further on the verse:
?Charging an army, while
All the world wondered?
At the start of the fifth verse he again uses repetition to describe their position.
?Cannon to the right of them,
Cannon to the left of them,
Cannon in front of them?
In this verse he again tries to show their bravery, with phrases like
?While horse and hero fell?
?They had fought so well.?
The sixth verse is a conclusion, commenting on the loyalty and bravery of the soldiers and how it was a tragic loss of life.
?When can their glory fade,
O, the wild charge they made?
And he continues:
?Honour the charge they made,
Honour the light brigade,
Noble six hundred?
In ?Dulce et Decorum Est? Wilfred Owen tells a story of a death in the trenches from the memory of another soldier. It starts by describing the terrible state the soldiers were in, demonstrating against war.
?Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like old hags,
We cursed through sludge?
A few lines down, it says;
?Men marched asleep.?
And another similar line;
?Drunk with fatigue.?
This is saying how tired the soldiers were and how badly they were being worked.
The next verse starts with panic:
?Gas! Gas! Quick boys, An ecstasy of fumbling?
This verse explains the gas attack, the panic and the death of the unnamed victim.
?And flound?ring like in fire or lime?
Dim, through the misty planes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning?
In this section of the poem he compares the gas to the ocean, which I feel, gives you the idea of dense waves splashing over the victim and drowning him.
After this verse there are two lines separated from the poem. They read:
?In all my dreams, before my helpless
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
I feel these separated lines give a more personal touch to the writing and makes the reader feel more involved.
The last verse starts by describing the appalling way they throw his body in the back of a truck and the face of the corpse.
?His hanging face like the devil sick of sin,
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood?
Then Owen rounds up the poem in a great way discriminating against war by saying:
?The old lie: Dulce et Decorum est,
Pro Patria mon.?
This, in English, means ?It is sweet and honourable to die for your fatherland, which Owen is calling a lie.
Wilfred Owen calls the next poem ?Disabled?. He imagines the thoughts of a very young and severely wounded soldier. He has lost all of his limbs and now sits helplessly in a wheelchair, thinking sadly and bitterly of the past.
The poem starts by describing his surroundings and his crippled condition.
?He sat in a wheeled chair, waiting for dark
And shivered in his ghastly suit of grey?
It was cold, because of him shivering and his ghastly suit of grey meant that his skin was in bad condition. The next part of the verse turns to the voices of boys outside.
?Voices of play and pleasure after day,
Till gathering sleep had mothered them from him?
Owen is explaining how he?s falling asleep protecting him from their voices and his jealousy of them.
The next verse is all about his memories and he compares them to how he is now.
?Now he will never feel again how slim
Girls? waists are, or how warm their subtle their subtle hands,
All of them touch him like some queer disease?
The poem continues describing how handsome and popular he used to be.
?There was an artist, silly for his face,
For it was younger than his youth, last year.?
This suggests that his face had looked younger than his age and that it had been a good-looking face.
The next couple of lines find him again comparing himself to his old self.
?He?s lost his colour very far from here,
Poured it down shell-holes till the veins ran dry,?
The next verse it starts with an ironic tone.
?One time he liked a blood smear down his leg,
After the matches, carried shoulder high.?
This is ironic, he used to wear blood on his leg, proudly, as a badge of courage, but now he doesn?t have any legs and certainly wouldn?t enjoy the thought of blood because of his injuries.
In the next few lines he wonders why he joined the army and comes to the conclusion that he was showing off and continues, saying that the army took no notice of his youth.
?Aye, that was it, to please the giddy jilts,
He asked to join, he didn?t have to beg,?
The next verse comments on his disappointment on returning home as few cheered him.
?Some cheered him home, but not as a crowd cheer goal.
Only a solemn man who brought him fruits
Thanked him; and inquired about his soul.?
The next verse makes you feel pity for the even more than the rest of the poem as it talks of his future.
?Now, he will spend a few sick years in institutes,
And do what the rules consider wise,?
The second line saying he can?t make his own decisions. Further down, at the end of the verse he tries to escape from his thoughts.
?How cold and late it is! Why don?t they come
And put him into bed? Why don?t they come?
The two authors styles are strikingly different. Tennyson tries to make the soldiers sound brave and heroic, even glorious. Owen tries to make you feel sorry for them and their suffering. Yet Tennyson glorifies the deaths, the slaughter of hundreds of men, who died for no reason, in fact because of a mistake. Tennyson wrote his poem at a time when propaganda was needed to promote a war between the British Empire and the Russians. Owen wrote his poetry based on personal experience of the horrors of the First World War, realising that war was not something to be glorified but something abhorrent.