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Show how the anti-war poetry by Wilfred Owen dispels the myth of triumph and heroism portrayed by Alfred Lord Tennyson in ‘The charge of the light brigade.’

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Introduction

War poetry was very common during times of conflict. Most poets wrote from home using secondary evidence e.g. Alfred Lord Tennyson composed his poem as a result of reading a war correspondents account on the battle of Balaclava. "The Charge of the Light Brigade" recalls a disastrous historical military engagement that took place during the initial phase of the Crimean War the subject of this poem is a tactical blunder; Lord Raglan sent desperate orders to his Light Cavalry Brigade, finally, one of his orders was acted upon, and the brigade began charging--but in the wrong direction! Over 650 men rushed forward, and well over 100 died within the next few minutes. Few war poets actually witnessed what happened, one who did though was Wilfred Owen. Owen was drafted during the 1st world war he was sent to France in 1917 where he experienced the worst war winter. He first saw action at Serre where he and half his platoon occupied a German bunker. A shell landed outside and blinded the soldier on sentry duty-this incident inspired his poem 'The Sentry'. After battle experience, thoroughly shocked by the horrors of war he was diagnosed as having shell shock (neurasthenia) and went to Craig Lockhart war hospital. As a form of therapy patients were encouraged to pursue their pre-war interests and Owen turned to poetry. It was in Craig Lockhart where Owen wrote 'Anthem for doomed youth' and 'Dulce et decorum est'. By examining the charge of the light brigade composed by Alfred Lord Tennyson and three of Owen's works - 'Anthem for doomed youth' 'The Sentry' and 'Dulce et decorum est' it becomes clear that the two poets deal with the concept of war in their writing in two contrasting ways. ...read more.

Middle

It is a direct challenge to manipulation through media, literature (pro-war poetry) and propaganda. It is an appeal to those who glorify war, those like Tennyson. The words used in the second stanza of 'The charge of the light brigade' 'Not tho' the soldier knew/ Some one had blunder'd:/Their's not to make reply, /Their's not to reason why, / Their's but to do and die: portray heroism against all odds. However while lauding the chivalry of the noble six hundred he makes no attempt to downplay the pointlessness of the charge itself. It becomes clear in this stanza that Tennyson is manipulating history. He is making a military disaster into an act of courage and virtue. This type of poetry was common in Tennyson's time and partly facilitated war, as it was a very important form of propaganda. In 'The Charge of the light brigade' Not a single soldier was discouraged or distressed by the command to charge forward, even though all the soldiers realized that their commander had made a terrible mistake: 'Someone had blundered.' The role of the soldier is to obey and 'not to make reply...not to reason why,' so they followed orders and rode into the 'valley of death.' The 'you' who Owen addresses in line 17 of 'Dulce et decorum est' implies the people who he is attacking, he is making a direct plea for empathy to the reader. There are echoes everywhere in Owen and with 'bitter as the cud', we are back with 'those who die as cattle' ('Anthem for doomed youth'). In the last stanza of Dulce et decorum est Wilfred Owen personally accuses his reader, challenging his or her thinking by directly addressing the reader, insisting that seeing what he has seen would ...read more.

Conclusion

Here the method creates a sense of unrelenting assault; at each line our eyes meet the word 'cannon,' just as the soldiers meet their flying shells at each turn. This poem is effective largely because of the way it conveys the movement and sound of the charge via a strong, repetitive falling meter: 'Half a league, half a league / Half a league onward.' The repetition is designed to mimic the horses and horsemen going into battle, this is effective because it helps the reader visualize the setting. The plodding pace of the repetitions seems to subsume all individual impulsiveness in ponderous collective action. The poem does not speak of individual troops but rather of 'the six hundred' and then 'all that was left of them.' Therefore by studying the different writing techniques of Alfred Lord Tennyson and Wilfred Owen I was able to show how the anti-war poetry by Owen dispelled the myth of triumph and heroism portrayed by Tennyson in 'The charge of the light brigade.' Tennyson wrote his poem as a celebration of the heroic soldiers in the Light Brigade who fell in service to their commander and their cause. The poem glorifies war and courage, even in cases of complete inefficiency and waste. The poem as it stands today is a moving tribute to courage and heroism in the face of devastating defeat. However Owen's poems - 'Anthem for doomed youth' 'The Sentry' and 'Dulce et decorum est' show the reality of war and the fierce brutality of what happened to many, many young innocent soldiers. (Dulce et decorum est) ?? ?? ?? ?? Fiona Collins 12a English - War poetry coursework pg. 1 ...read more.

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