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A comparison of 'The Charge of the Light Brigade', 'Dulce Et Decorum Est'and 'Anthem for Doomed Youth'

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Introduction

War Poetry: A comparison of 'The Charge of the Light Brigade', 'Dulce Et Decorum Est' and 'Anthem for Doomed Youth' The attitudes of poets towards war have always been articulated vigorously in their poetry, each poet either condoning or condemning war, and justifying their attitudes in whatever way possible. I aim to explore the change in the portrayal of war before and during the twentieth century, and also the structures and devices poets use to express their views persuasively, and substantiate them. These three poems describe war, and scenes from war, with varying levels of intensity and reality from differing viewpoints. I am going to make a comparison between the three poems: 'The Charge of the Light Brigade' by Alfred Tennyson, 'Dulce et Decorum Est', and 'Anthem for Doomed Youth' both by Wilfred Owen. 'The Charge of the Light Brigade' was written in the nineteenth century and is relating to a battle fought in the Crimean War. 'Dulce et Decorum Est' and 'Anthem for Doomed Youth' were written during the First World War. In 'The Charge of the Light Brigade', Tennyson doesn't describe the scene with the vivid detail of 'Dulce et Decorum Est', nor does he describe the blood and gore of the battle field. Tennyson has imagined himself there as an eyewitness and throughout the poem he has attempted to take readers on the same sympathetic journey. Although the poem was written before television was invented, he was able to portray the battle as it would be shown on film. Tennyson's potent imagery and use of repetition makes the reader visualize the urgency of the headlong charge into 'the valley of death'. 'The Charge of the Light Brigade' was written in dactylic feet (one stressed syllable followed by two unstressed syllables). For example, from the first stanza we follow the 'half a league, half a league, half a league onward'. The poet uses the technique of 'repetition' to emphasize the length of the charge as it mimics the idea of galloping horses. ...read more.

Middle

The man is drowning 'floundering like a man in fire or lime'. The reference to 'lime' is in fact 'quicklime'; a substance used at the time of the great plague to hasten the decomposition of diseased bodies. Here, Owen implies that war is like a horrible epidemic. The line also implies that the authorities intention to cover up the true casualty figures. At the beginning of the poem the soldiers were portrayed as 'drunk with fatigue'. With this you can almost imagine large numbers of people dragging their boots through the mud, tripping over their own shadows. Later in the poem when the gas was dropped, Owen illustrates a psychological representation that would traumatically disturb the mind. The soldiers were worn out by their everlasting march and surrounded by gas bombs. The oxymoron 'an ecstasy of fumbling' aptly describes the soldier's predicament that was a matter of life or death. Anyone wanting to fight in a war would become nervous at the image of himself running out into a blood bath. The graphic images displayed here are profoundly disturbing and can never be forgotten: 'As under a green sea I saw him drowning'. Looking through the 'misty panes' of the gas mask, the poet sees the young soldier suffocating in a sea of gas. The colour and the ocean metaphor combine to give this visual image, a ghost-like haunting effect; as if we visualise this horrific event in slow-motion, emphasizing the sense of pathos. The pace at which the poems are read is very essential. 'Dulce et Decorum Est' is intended to be read very slowly, apart from the middle verse, which should be read more quickly. This is because this verse contains action and adrenaline: 'quick', 'yelling out and stumbling', 'flound'ring', 'drowning'. The other two verses should be slow, so the words are thought about and understood in more depth, and it becomes more meaningful and shocking. Moreover, the pace reflects the speed and the mood of the tired soldiers in the poem. ...read more.

Conclusion

So for example he uses fricatives to emphasize the first: 'anger of the guns' and the soft sounds of sibilance to add to the pathos of the second: 'sad shires.' Having explored all three poems, I feel that the one which brings about the biggest response from me is 'Dulce et Decorum Est'. This is because of the striking graphic imagery he uses, the way he describes the effects of the war on him, and also because of the way he directs the poem at the reader personally, using phrases such as 'you' and 'my friend'. In my opinion, 'The Charge of the Light Brigade' does not have the impact and the realism to put across the opinions contained in it successfully and forcefully. I feel it is a more imaginative, outlook on war than Wilfred Owen's graphic poem. But one thing I did like about Tennyson's poem was the excitement and passion and pace. Owen gives us a detailed picture of the war: he talks in the first person, 'I saw him drowning', and describes one dying man, in contrast to Tennyson's rather impersonal 'six hundred'. He wants us to imagine that we are actually there on the battlefield so we get an idea of what it was like. This poem is the closest we will get to experience such atrocities and if we had, Owen tells us in the final lines, then we would not try to glorify war any longer. In the preface to his poems, published after his death, Owen wrote, 'All a poet can do today is warn. That is why true poets must be truthful'. For this reason he criticizes 'the high zest' that some people have for 'the old lie' of glorifying war. Of the three poems, although I admire 'Anthem for Doomed Youth' for its quiet dignity in the face of undignified burials, I admire 'Dulce et Decorum Est' more as it is the most powerful poem of the three, and I shall for ever remember the impact it has had on me. 1 Abdullah Gokce 10V ...read more.

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