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The Tradition Of War Poetry

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Introduction

The Tradition Of War Poetry By comparing and contrasting a selection of war poems consider the ways in which attitudes to war have been explored and expressed. When considering poetry written post 1900 concentrate on a selection of poems written by Wilfred Owen. Humans have turned to poetry in many different instances as a way of expressing them selves, using the best combination of words, in the best order to express exactly how they are feeling at that moment. Poetry is one of the most powerful means of communication that uses words very sparingly, and often defines the era in which the poet lived and died. I think that is why many poems are written about war, as anyone who was involved in that experience would obviously have strong views and opinions about their encounters, which they would wish to express. This essay will explore the tradition of war poetry. I will be doing this by looking at a variety of poems from different wars and then exploring the ways in which attitudes have been explored and expressed. An early expression of war poetry is to be found in an extract from the play Henry V by William Shakespeare, before the final attack on Harfleur. The situation in the poem is that Henry V is trying to rouse his troops before battle by making war sound exciting and noble. I think the purpose of the poem was to inspire his troops and to give them courage when fighting; he does this by using a various number of techniques. He creates very powerful images in his speech such as by alliterating war in the line, "when the blast of war blows in our ears." This rouses the troops psychologically for war but also creates an influential image in our minds of what the experience was like for those men and what emotions they may be feeling before a battle. ...read more.

Middle

One poet in particular, despised Jessie Pope and her poetry; this was Wilfred Owen. He is possibly one of the most famous war poets and wrote from his own experiences while serving in World War II. He thought that because Pope had had no real encounter in war and no understanding of what it was like, it was unjust for her to encourage men to go fight. He made one particular attack at her in his Poem 'Dulce Et Decorum Est.' In the last stanza he says; "My friend, you would not tell with such high zest To children ardent for some desperate glory, The old lie: Dulce et decorum est Pro patria mori." The last line of the poem is in Latin and means; it is sweet and right to die for your country. The title of the poem also contains words from the motto; which is meant to be ironic. This poem creates an extremely negative image of war using very strong imagery and stylistic techniques throughout. It talks of a gas attack in the trenches; I imagine that Wilfred Owen was able to write so realistically and with such feeling about this event, because during his service he was probably involved in at least one. 'Dulce et Decorum Est' starts by describing what war has done to the men. Owen describes them as, "beggars," and "hags." This shows the change between young fit men, to old decrepit invalids. This first section instantly sets the mood of the poem and then goes on to describe how exhausted and unwilling the men were as they began to "trudge," towards their distant rest. He also uses shocking imagery such as, "blood shod," meaning that they were covered in their blood and possibly the blood of others. The next stanza has a change in rhythm and starts, "Gas! Gas! Quick, boys!" then proceeding to explain how one man is left without a gas mask and "as under a green sea," Owen sees him drowning. ...read more.

Conclusion

He then goes on to the present to talk about how the man is waiting to die, and has been taken into an institute. The last 2 lines of the poem have 2 questions in them, "how cold and late it is! Why don't they come and put him to bed? Why don't they come?" I think this is very poignant and sums up the waste of potential, it also suggests that the man wants to be killed and put out of his misery, which makes you have even more pity for him. The poem doesn't make war sound at all exciting as it presents a negative image of war. It looks at the consequences and foolishness of the young man joining up, and the desperation of the authorities. It says in the line, "he asked to join. He didn't have to beg," they obviously knew that he was not old enough but because they were so short of men they unfairly accepted him anyway. After looking at various poems pre ad post 1990, I have witnessed an assortment of different views and attitudes towards the subject of war. Some poets have presented a positive image of war, and made it sound exciting and noble, whereas others have put war into an unpleasant light and looked at it with a negative view. None have been able to ignore or not include in some way though, the amount of devastation and loss of life war causes. Personal experiences also may have had an effect on the way that the poet presented the subject. Overall I think that Owen had the right view on war. We can see this clearly in his preface when he talks of what war poetry should be about, "This book is not about heroes. English poetry is not yet fit to speak of them. Nor is it about deeds or ands, nor anything about glory, honour, might, majesty, dominion, or power except war." ...read more.

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