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Twentieth Century Poetry.

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Twentieth Century Poetry W.B. Yeats described Owen's poetry as "all blood and dirt and sucked sugar stick." With reference to at least two of Owen's poems, discuss the validity of Yeat's judgement. He was born in 1893 in Oswestry, Shropshire as the oldest child in his family. In 1911 he left school and he had a passion for poetry and poets. When he left Dunsden early in 1913 he had lost his Christian faith. He went to Bordeaux and found himself busy, independent and happy before the war broke out in 1914. It was not until October 1915 that he was enlisted as a cadet with the Artists Rifles in London, and later in the Manchester Regiment. After a long experience of trench warfare he was sent to Edinburgh for convalescence in a local military hospital. It was here that he met Seigfried Sassoon who had an important influence on the young poet, encouraging him to write about the war. ...read more.


When first written the poem was called Dirt, an idea that may support Yeats' opinion that Owen's poetry is "all blood and dirt", though the poem is more complex. Dulce Et Decorum Est is a later poem that tells of exhausted troops leaving the front line and encountering an enemy gas attack. The gas used at this time was phosgene, popularly known as 'mustard gas' which drowns it's victims in the fluid of their own lungs. The title is also the line that concludes the poem taken from the Odes of Horace, a Latin poet that translates as: "it is a sweet and seemly thing to die for one's country." This line is written ironically in contrast to the main body of the piece. The poem is a persuasive piece of anti-war poetry, using graphic imagery and strong language. Owen's use of words such as "plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning" not only shows the suffering of the soldier, but also his inhumane pain. ...read more.


Owen uses the oxymoron "grimly gay" to describe the mixed emotions at the train station as local people show both acceptance and indifference at their departure, "dull porters watched them, and a casual tramp stood staring hard, sorry to miss them at the upland camp." A rhetorical question is asked: "shall they return to beating of great bells in wild train-loads?" All too clearly these men will return, and "creep back, silent" with the sin of war on their shoulders, absent for such a long time that the "close, darkening lanes" are now "half-known roads." In conclusion, close reading of Owen's poems reveals well-structured poetry, using strong imagery and a precise lexicon in order to show the horror of war to those generations without experience of conflict. I think that Yeats' description of "all blood and dirt and sucked sugar stick" is wrong because eighty years from the first world war Owen's work is still some of the most shocking and horrific writing produced about conflict. The poems discuss the nature of war; though remain accessible to a large number of people as originally intended. 1 ...read more.

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