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Examine a selection of poetry by the war poets. What do you learn of the different attitudes of the poets and their societies and which poet do you find the most effective at expressing their attitude?

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Joe McLaughlin 10T 10th November 2002 English Coursework: Examine a selection of poetry by the war poets. What do you learn of the different attitudes of the poets and their societies and which poet do you find the most effective at expressing their attitude? What is war poetry? War poetry is, on a basic level just that... War-Poetry: poems about war and its effects on people. In the majority of cases war poetry is far more emotional and thought provoking than any other type of poetry especially when it is written with such experience and passion as Wilfred Owen. War poetry is written not only to inform and educate the reader about the horrors of war, but also to reflect upon events and to try and change the attitude of society. An example of my last point is, once again Wilfred Owen, his poem "Disabled" really does bring the side effects of warfare into perspective. This essay will attempt to compare and discus the main themes running through a selection of Pre-Twentieth and Twentieth century war poetry and try and answer the question: "What do you learn of the different attitudes of the poets and their societies and which poet do you find the most effective at expressing their attitude?" The poems this essay will compare are: (Pre-Twentieth) "The Battle of Blenheim" by Robert Southey and "The Charge of the Light Brigade" by Alfred, Lord Tennyson and (Twentieth): "Who's for the Game?" by Jesse Pope and the aforementioned "Disabled" by Wilfred Owen. Before we get to the poems themselves, here is some information about society in Pre-Twentieth Century(s) and Twentieth Century Britain; during the 1800's war was seen as "good". People believed that Britain was all-powerful and should be allowed to go to war if and when she wanted to. People saw war as the "right" way to win arguments and to settle scores, also few people actually had been affected by war. ...read more.


The poem begins with: "It was a summer evening." This is an odd first line as far as war poetry goes. The line gives no impression of war, it just states that it was a "summer evening". This creates a pleasant, slow image, which is completely different to Tennyson's "The Charge of the Light Brigade" where the first line is full of pace and action. "His little grandchild Wilhelmine." This statement tells the reader that the poem is not set in Britain because "Wilhelmine" is not a British name, and also adds to the pleasant imagery of being with your grandchildren on a summers evening. "And, with a natural sigh "'Tis some poor fellow's skull," said he," In stanza two we learned of Peterkin finding a large round object. Now Kasper has examined the object and "with a natural sigh" (which shows that finding these sorts of things had become common to him) he tells his grandchildren that it is a skull. This revelation damages the poem's "perfect" image of a nice summers evening and replaces it with a much more sinister one. The word "skull" shocks the reader and involves the reader more with the poem for it asks the question: "why is a skull in a peaceful place like this?" "Who fell in the great victory" This line is the first mention of war in the poem. Southey has decided to use a euphemism of death "fell" to make Kasper not sound harsh. The fact that Kasper uses a euphemism shows that he doesn't really understand about the death involved only that this man died in the "great" (<-- irony, how can war be great?) victory so it's alright. "I find them in the garden, For there's many here about;" These lines emphasise the point that finding skulls and bones is a common occurrence to Kasper. "I find them in the garden" these skulls and bones are so common that Kasper even finds them in his own garden, this begins to give ...read more.


"For there's only one course to pursue," This phrase; "one course" suggests that men have only one option, they must sign up and support their country. "Your country ..." The emphasis on "your" makes the reader feel responsibility for fighting and protecting the country. "Who's for the Game?" was filled with plenty of persuasive words and challenges of men's manliness. The poem was quite effective at fulfilling it's aim, persuading men to enlist in the army. It's effectiveness now has dropped because to be fully effective by the poem you need to be in a period like World War I so the poem is in context. The four individual poems basically follow two trends, the Pre-Twentieth Century poems portray war as being good and noble and pointless and the Twentieth Century poems portray war as being a waste and a game respectively. The poems show that society hasn't really changed much over two centuries i.e. in the Pre-Twentieth Century war was seen as noble ("The Charge of the Light Brigade") and as pointless ("The Battle of Blenheim") and Twentieth Century war was also seen as noble ("Who's for the Game?) and pointless ("Disabled"). This is not to say society hasn't changed during these two periods only that societies views on war haven't changed much. Even now, in the Twenty First Century war is still seen as noble and pointless. These factors mean that only a little information about the different societies can be ascertained from the poems. All the poems are effective at fulfilling their aims i.e. "The Charge of the Light Brigade" is effective at remembering the ill-fated charge, "The Battle of Blenheim" is effective at pointing out the pointlessness of war, "Disabled" portrays the horrors of war well and "Who's for the Game? Is effective at persuading people to enlist in the army. Overall however I believe that "The Battle of Blenheim" is the most effective because it is still relevant today, i.e. the war on Iraq. This means that the poem has stood the test of time therefore it must be effective. ...read more.

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