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Discuss the change from patriotic fervour to angry disillusionment as reflected in the poetry of the First World War.

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Introduction

Discuss the change from patriotic fervour to angry disillusionment as reflected in the poetry of the First World War. In 1914 Britain entered the First World War. It also became known as 'The Great War' and was believed to be the war to end all wars. The nation was under the impression that the war would be over by the Christmas of 1914. However it continued for four long and harrowing years. It witnessed the passing of thousands of young soldiers, pinning for glory. The coming of the war brought about the revival for writing war poetry. Initially writers wrote patriotic poetry which portrayed courage and heroism. It was often written as propaganda, to encourage men to enlist in the war effort. Examples of propaganda writers are Jessie Pope and Herbert Asquith, who were both published poets. The people at home were unaware of the horror experienced at the front line. All letters home from the soldiers were censored - all the feelings, the cold and the constant reminders of death were removed. However when shell-shocked soldiers returned and injured soldiers returned , the news of the true brutality of war spread through the nation. Poets such as Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon revealed the truth through their beautiful and moving poetry. Early in the war, war poets were enthusiastic and patriotic. No-body had really experienced the war and each held their own image of what it was like. Many viewed the war as just a big "game" and as Jessie Pope called it 'the biggest that's played'. ...read more.

Middle

It does not describe the cold field in which Owen waits, instead the men see their spirits at home it also emphasises the day dreams and the contrast of home and life at war. He describes the 'sunk fires' which to him are more and more distant and the mice who now seem to own the house. 'Shutters and doors, all closed: on us the doors are closed, - We turn back to our dying' Owen feels the house no longer belongs to him and he will never again be accepted into the world he left behind. He also describes his waning faith in god. The poem begins with a harsh line about the weather which the men feel like knives cutting through them. Even though they are tired they stay awake because the silence is threatening and frightens them. An attack could strike at any time and so they stay alert and whisper so as not to miss any ominous noises. They watch the wind pulling the wire as if they were men in bushes hurt and twitching 'Watching, we hear the mad gusts tugging on the wire, Like twitching agonies of men among its brambles'. They hear ongoing gunfire. They only hear the war it seems far away not like the one they are fighting. The men begin to question themselves and their minds begin to wander 'What are we doing here?'. To them, dawn breaking is miserable and monotonous. Owen personifies dawn as 'massing in the east' her 'melancholy army' emphasising the black storm clouds gathering. ...read more.

Conclusion

He was just another dead soldier. After the second stanza there is a deliberate pause to separate the two stanza's of pity from those of anger. Sassoon targets the people who stayed at home and did no fight, but still felt they had the right to cheer for the soldiers who made it back. He says they should 'sneak' home and that instead of being ashamed of him they should be ashamed of themselves and how they did nothing to help. He also accuses them of sending youth and laughter (by which he means the young soldiers) to the trenches which he called 'hell'. Sassoon is angry because he knew the war could be ended but was prolonged by politicians and war officials as stated in a protest statement he sent to his commanding officer and the press dated June 1917 " I believe that the War is being prolonged by those who have the power to end it". When news of the brutality of war broke out people became angry and disillusioned. They were made to believe that was a simple affair and it would be over soon when they found this to be a lie they felt betrayed. War poetry changed forever and poets like Jessie Pope and Herbert Asquith were deemed liars. Their form of patriotic poetry was rarely ever published after people learned the truth. Through poetry by Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon the nation learnt about the true viciousness of war. This by far was the most effective and moving poetry. Unlike Pope, Owen and Sassoon's poetry was beautifully written and descriptive, despite it's harsh content. It also included a perspective Jessie Pope would never have: experience. Karuna Bhanderi May 2002 ...read more.

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