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How effectively do Asquith's poem, 'The Volunteer,' and the extract from Shakespeare's 'Henry V' promote the idea that it is Heroic to fight and die for one's country? What alternative view, is offered by Wilfred Owen in 'Dulce et Decorum Est?'

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Introduction

Laurence Phillips 10 Lambdin How effectively do Asquith's Poem, 'The Volunteer,' and the Extract From Shakespeare's 'Henry V' Promote the Idea That it is Heroic to fight and Die For One's Country? What Alternative View, is Offered by Wilfred Owen in 'Dulce et Decorum Est?' The Volunteer is a Pro-War poem written by Herbert Asquith. Asquith uses roman imagery to invoke a feeling of greatness and honour. Asquith begins his poem by describing the miserable, mundane life of a clerk, working in a 'city grey'. He opens with the words 'Here lies...' that are normally used to begin writing on a gravestone. This 'epitaph' - style opening gives the idea that the clerk has now passed away and the poem will concentrate on events beforehand. We are told the clerk has spent '...half his life...' doing boring work ('..Toiling at ledgers..'), his days drifting away. There is a distinct lack of fulfilment in his life, '..With no lance broken in life's tournament...' ('Lance' is roman imagery) And yet he dreams of '..The gleaming eagles of the legions..' and horsemen '..thundering past beneath the oriflamme..' (or battle flag.) Asquith cleverly uses the expression '..The gleaming eagles of the legions..' to conjure up ideas in the reader's mind of great gleaming roman soldiers. This adds to the ideology that war is a glamorous and noble thing. ...read more.

Middle

He continues to make the men feel unique with '..We few, we happy few..' Repetition of the word 'few' makes the men feel that they should be glad to be a part of something that so few people have the opportunity to be a part of. He goes on to promote this idea of uniqueness with the words, '..we band of brothers..' as if the men have become family through fighting for their country. Henry then proclaims that: '..he...that sheds his blood with me...shall be my brother..' He has stated that each man is his equal, making them feel honoured. The poem is rounded off with the thought that '..Gentlemen in England, now abed..' would feel accursed that they weren't here fighting with us. And they would '..hold their manhoods cheap..' whenever anyone speaks who fought on Saint Crispin's day. He is making the men feel that they are superior to those who didn't fight, and that men in England would give anything to be them right now. The poem promotes heroism very effectively, using images of fame and kings to inspire the men. This poem was obviously extremely effective because these men won the Battle of Agincourt against extraordinary odds. Although, in Dulce et Decorum Est, written by Wilfred Owen there is a completely different message conveyed. ...read more.

Conclusion

To sum up, I feel that all three poems are effective in their own styles. However, some are more effective than others. Henry V is more effective than The Volunteer in supporting the ideology that war is honourable and dignified. This is so in my opinion due to the way it cleverly gives off the impression that the men fighting will be remembered as heroes by comparing them to kings. Also, it concentrates more on what the men will do when they return home, not if they return home. The Volunteer uses images of death and an epitaph style opening to convey the message of a valiant death. I don't think that making the reader think of death will inspire him or her to fight for their country at all. Dulce est Decorum Est is the most effective poem of the three. It's usage of vivid and horrific imagery could make any patriotic citizen think again before going to war. The structure of the poem is extremely well thought out because it begins to get extremely shocking in the final stanza, almost certainly making the reader sway away from the honourable image he or she had of war before reading. It then finishes with labelling Dulce et decorum est Pro patria mori a lie. This is intelligent because the reader is at his most easily influenced after reading the horrific description in the final stanza and therefore is more likely to agree with this point. ...read more.

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