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Trace the history of 'the old lie'.

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Introduction

Trace the history of 'the old lie' 'The old lie' was the traditional view of war, which is honourable, glorious and heroic to fight and die for your country. During the time when Tennyson wrote his poem, 'The charge of the light brigade' (1854), everyone felt that dying for your country in action was honourable. But this view of war slowly changed as life went through World War I. When Rupert Brooke wrote his poems, at the outbreak of war, everyone was filled with euphoria and the eagerness to fight for their England. During the war, a poet called Wilfred Owen wrote about the harshness of war and how the traditional view of war was false. This totally changed the view of the people of England towards war. During the Victorian period, the British Empire grew and covered around a third of the world. This created much pride in being British. The people then thought that it was noble and honourable to fight and die for your country. Lord Tennyson was one of the poets to write representing the traditional view of war. He wrote a poem called 'The charge of the light brigade' which was written in memory of the brave soldiers that died in the Crimean War in the Battle of Balaclava (Ukraine) which took place during 1854-1856. In about 20 minutes two-thirds of the British cavalry were killed but as Tennyson was assigned the duty of being poet laureate he had to write his poems in a positive way to keep the queen and the country happy. Tennyson does a good job of this by using repetition to a large extent to emphasise the power of the 'Light Brigade'. The way that Tennyson wrote this poem was in the way that society thought of war during the time. The poem is emphasising the glory and pride in fighting for your Britain and being British. ...read more.

Middle

During World War I, Wilfred Owen was caught in a shell explosion which resulted him suffering from neurasthenia (shell shock), this was a quite serious mental condition. He was sent to Craig Lockhart War Hospital where he was kept for quite some time. This was when he started to write his war poems. He returned to the front line and on the 4th November just a week before the war ended and was caught in a machine gun fire and died. Owen's poems really changed society's view of war because in his poems instead of telling them how much glory and honour from fighting in war, he would tell them the fear and horror that they would get from it. "All a poet can do is warn. That is why the true poets must be truthful" (Owens introduction to the collection of poems) One of his many famous poems he wrote was called 'Dulce et Decorum Est'. Being a poet who is writing against the 'old lie' as Owen would put it, this poem entitled 'Dulce et Decorum Est' meaning 'it is sweet and fitting to die for your country'. It is kind of contradicting Owen himself. He uses the title in a sarcastic but bitter manner which shows his great dislike of the phrase. "Bent double, like old beggars under sacks Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge" In the first two lines of the first stanza, Owen immediately uses plosives like 'bent' and 'beggars' to give the reader a very negative feeling. This is a contrast to one of Tennyson's 'The charge of the light brigade' "Forward, the Light Brigade!" As you can see, Tennyson's poem starts off with a positive and lively stanza. It gives the reader a sense of excitement from the beginning unlike 'Dulce et Decorum Est' by Owen. In Owen's poems he is trying to point out how war would dehumanise people and how terrible and harsh it is out in the battlefield. ...read more.

Conclusion

This gives a depressive tone and is at the end of the poem. Owen uses the "dusk" to bring an end to the poem. He uses onomatopoeia, to convey that death was swift, and most men did not live long, he emphasises this in "rifles rapid rattle". This poem has this dull steady pace that gives the image of a funeral which is achieved by long vowel sounding words like 'these', and 'monstrous'. It is also achieved by the repetition of 'only' which symbolises the ringing of funeral bells. "What candles may be held to speed them all" The first line of the sestet, the candles symbolising the light of someone's soul (metaphoric candles). In this poem Owen is trying to say is what kind of glory you get if you do not even get a proper funeral that people would remember you by... "No mockeries for them; no prayers nor bells" Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs" On the battlefield they do not have any of those, but then they are replaced by the "demented choirs of wailing shells". This is personification which makes the poem more alive, the word "demented" makes the reader feel uncomfortable as it is quite a horrible word to use in this sense. From studying the three poets I have found that as the war progressed the views of war had changed dramatically from Tennyson's traditional view of war that it was honourable and glorifying to fight for your country. Then it was Brooke's view of war that it will bring peace and harmony to us if we fight in this war. Then finally Owen's view of war which was that war is as bad as hell. As we can see the change in the views which brought an end to the old traditional view of war as Owen had succeeded in telling the people back home that war is not what it seems, and that the traditional view of war was in fact a lie. Jeffrey Tse 10JF 09/05/2007 ...read more.

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