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Compare and contrast the two poems "Dulce et Decorum Est" (Owen) with "Charge of the Light Brigade" (Tennyson), paying particular attention to the writers' attitude to war.

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Introduction

GCSE Poetry Course Work Task "Compare and contrast the two poems "Dulce et Decorum Est" (Owen) with "Charge of the Light Brigade" (Tennyson), paying particular attention to the writers' attitude to war. The attitudes of poets towards war have always been expressed vigorously in their poetry, each poet either condoning or condemning war, and mitigating 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 convey their views persuasively, and justify them. For this job I have chosen to write about "Charge of the Light Brigade" written by the poet Alfred Lord Tennyson and "Dulce et Decorum est" by the poet Wilfred Owen. These two poems describe war, and scenes from war, with varying levels of intensity and reality and also from different viewpoints. Written during the Crimean War Tennyson's "Charge of the Light Brigade" mirrors the sentiments expressed in the Battle of Balaclava. This event took place in 1854 and is still remembered as one of the most famous triumphs in British history. The truth is that Lord Raglan suicidally led his troops " Into the valley of Death ", where they were massacred. Lord Tennyson was the poet Laureate at the time of the Crimean war, but did not witness any fighting and was not involved in it but his clever and effective use of literary devices in his poem ensure that this military fiasco was remembered as a glorious victory. Tennyson puts across a message to remember, respect and honour the soldiers for what they have given up their lives to do for their country. "Dulce et Decorum est" however, was written from first hand experience of the First World War because Owen served the army at that time and witnessed the futility and slaughter of it. As war progressed, so did the views of those who originally believed war was righteous. ...read more.

Middle

He uses immensely powerful and sickening words to represent the soldier who has been gassed. "he plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning." These words are not only disgusting, but are onomatopoeic. They sound like someone trying to breathe, but choking. The image of the man "drowning" is ironic. Normally a man would not drawn in air - quite the opposite. But here, because other men have perverted nature by poisoning the air, it has the same effect as if it was a liquid. When describing the effects of war on him, he writes: "if in some smothering dream..." This implies that there is no way out of the terrible situation and the atrocious conditions and that it affects every aspect of soldiers' lives in trenches. By saying they "flung" the dying man in the wagon, it shows even the dying and injured are not treated kindly or gently. They are dehumanised and even in their death not awarded dignity. Owen writes about the "white eyes writhing in his face..." This ghastly image gives an impression of how close the man is to death, and by using the word "writhing", Owen conveys the man's agony and distress. Owen also writes about "vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues..." This contains two powerful words. "Incurable" implies that wounds and effect of war last forever, and plague generation after generation, and "innocent" is showing that young people went to war without knowing really what they were walking into". Other words which indicate pain and create terrible pictures are: "cursed", "haunting", "fatigue", "deaf", "clumsy", "yelling", "stumbling", "floundering", "helpless", "plunges" and "gargling". These words are neither majestic nor euphemistic but shockingly realistic. The images created in "Charge of the Light Brigade" are very majestic and noble. The mood is very glorious, heroic and happy. The first image created is the "valley of Death". Interestingly enough, "Death" has a capital "D". I believe this is because Tennyson is personifying "Death" and he assumes a human form such as the "grim reaper". ...read more.

Conclusion

In my opinion, the last few lines of each poem sum up the mood and the motion of the poems, and the attitudes of the writers on war. The last few lines of Lord Tennyson's poem read: "Honour the charge they made! Honour the Light Brigade, Noble six hundred." Tennyson feels that the charge of the Light Brigade was noble and brave, not stupid. We can clearly see his romantic, glorious view of war epitomised here. The closing lines of "Dulce et Decorum est" are: "My friend, you would not tell with such high zest To children ardent for some desperate glory, The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est Pro patria mori." Owen is criticising the people who wrote of war in terms of nobility, glory and heroism, to con young people into the army. By using the word "desperate", Owen indicates that it is not glorious to die for your country, but reckless and irrational. He comments on the fact that the writers such as Jessie Pope prey on young peoples' appetites for glory, as glory was all people knew about war before they joined the army. Owen goes further than this, suggesting that the writers of glorious war poems have even lied to the young people, and sent them to the front line to die in their millions, in awful conditions and distressing situations. Having explored both 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 convey the opinions contained in it effectively and forcefully. I feel is a more imaginative, outlook on war than Wilfred Owen's graphic poem. The thing I did like about Tennyson's poem was the excitement and passion and pace. ...read more.

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