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"Referring to two or more poems, and using at least one written before 1900, compare how poets have treated the theme of war in their work."

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Introduction

Chris Russell Assignment A: Response to Poetry "Referring to two or more poems, and using at least one written before 1900, compare how poets have treated the theme of war in their work." To me, war brings to mind death, misery and very little good when compared to the suffering it causes. However, I also believe that in extreme cases, war can be justified. For example, when the situation that cannot be resolved by other means would be better off after a war. The attitudes of poets towards war have always been expressed vigorously in their poetry, each poet either condoning or condemning war, and justifying their attitudes in whatever way possible. I aim to explore two opposing portrayals of war before and during the twentieth century, and also the structures and devices poets use to convey their views persuasively, and justify them. 'The Charge of the Light Brigade' was written by Alfred Lord Tennyson to commemorate the botched attack at Balaclava, during the Crimean War in 1854. In this charge, six hundred British soldiers were slaughtered when they were ordered to attack the wrong valley. The soldiers, on horseback, bravely charged into the South Valley near Kadikoi and were engulfed in cannon fire. In the poem, the first stanza gives an account of the order given. The second stanza tells of how the soldiers did not question their order, but courageously carried it out. ...read more.

Middle

However, this assumption is far from the truth. The particular incident that this poem is about is a gas attack on British troops while they are marching to their rest area. The poet describes witnessing one of his fellow soldiers not being able to put on his gas mask in time. This soldier dies a painful death and the images of this haunt Owen for a long time. In the very first line of the poem, the way the poet describes the soldiers shocks you, because it is so unsoldierlike: "Bent double, like old beggars under sacks, Knock-kneed, coughing like hags..." These are supposed to be the men defending your country, but the language does not inspire confidence. The men are metaphorically described "Drunk with fatigue" from the ordeal that they have experienced and want nothing more then rest. They are so tired they are zombie like. "Men marched asleep." These men are mere shadows of those who started out on this adventurous journey. The first stanza contains many words which makes the reader think of tiredness. For example, "Sludge" and "Trudge" have a very heavy 'D' sound. They also describe the ghostly way in which the soldiers moved. There is also the line: "Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs." It shows that the soldiers are beyond caring what happens to them, they are nearly dead with fatigue, never mind bullets and shells. ...read more.

Conclusion

From Tennyson's poem I have chosen "Was there a man dismayed?" This rhetorical question makes you believe that all of the soldiers were happy and eager for battle. From A 'Dulce Et Decorum Est,' the line "Bent double, like old beggars under sacks," stands out to me. This is the complete opposite of how Tennyson described troops. Here, the soldiers are barely able to walk, never mind fight to defend their homeland. Another major difference between the two poems is the value placed on life in each. 'The Charge of the Light Brigade' sees death as something that may happen when men are gallantly fighting for their country. In 'Dulce Et Decorum Est,' however, emphasis is put on the lack of respect for life, "Behind the wagon that we flung him in." The main reason for the difference in the poems of the two poets is the differences of the poets themselves. Alfred Lord Tennyson never fought in a war. He was to write poetry to inspire confidence among the British people in hard times. Wilfred Owen, on the other hand, enlisted in the army when war was declared in 1914. He experienced what every other soldier did during wartime. In fact, Owen was killed near the end of the war in 1918. These two poems are very different, but they have one major factor in common; they both achieved what they were written to do. 'The Charge of the Light Brigade' inspired confidence in the British people when they lacked it, and 'Dulce Et Decorum Est' told the public of the truths of war. ...read more.

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