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War Poetry Essay

Free essay example:

Post 1900 War Poetry

The First World War began in 1914 when the archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was assassinated by Serbians. This outraged Hungary causing major uproar, when they retaliated they sparked the beginning of a war that would drag on for 4 years.

Britain became involved on the 4th of August 1914 due to the fact Germany invaded Belgium. The war was believed to be justified, therefore was not shunned upon. The British were enthusiastic about the war and believed it would be over the Christmas of that year. To great misfortune the war raged on for 4 years, killing millions eventually ending on the 11th of November 1918. Most of the war took place in France and Belgium. These emotional traumatic times poets and authors to write powerful work, which remains as a constant reminder of the war. These have lasted for years, and are a record of the change in mood about the war as it went on from the enthusiasm and excitement to doubt and anger at how the war was being run.

Some of the earlier poems reflect the patriotic mood which is shown in pro-war poetry, these inspired 1000’s of men to join the army as they were very persuasive, later war poetry especially specific poems from soldiers for example “Disabled” by Wilfred Owen, show anti war aspects based on their own experiences.

Jessie Popes poem “Who’s for the game” is a pro-war poem. It shows great patriotism and emotive writing, it is aimed at young men to persuade them to join the war effort, published in the national newspaper because this is what many young men read.

The concept of the poem is basically tying to make war look like a game, this is a clever metaphor as of course the war isn’t but can be perceived as a game, like rugby or football something men can really get into, and join. The main word in the title is “Game” This word make the whole idea of war sound fun and light hearted like you cant be harmed if you join and like a game there has to be a winner will it be you ?

Many phrases used in the poem try to make the reader feel guilty if they don’t join trying to make them look a coward.

“Who’ll toe the line for a signal to ‘Go!’?

Who’ll give his country a hand?”

This is saying who will step up and take the challenge with both hands and join the army, who will help his country or maybe who will literally give his country a hand but in this case would mean who will help as it is trying to persuade people to join and will not refer to serious injuries that can be sustained.

The poem itself is very effective it has a very simple rhyming pattern much like a nursery rhyme, therefore sticks in your mind and is very easy to remember, after reading this I would expect many to keep thinking back to it. This may make the decision for them very easy as the poem was written to do.

“Who knows it won’t be a picnic – not much –

              Yet eagerly shoulders a gun”

This implied that the job won’t be easy and relaxing but who is still up for it with enthusiasm. “Shoulders a gun”, obviously a clear link to the army. These two lines are really asking who is brave enough. Mentioning weapons may attract more people the idea of using may have been appealing to many a young man.

Overall the poem is very effective and has great emotive writing which creates a great patriotic message to its readers which has much success in recruiting.

As well as Jessie Pope soldiers like Rupert Brooke who sadly died on his way to Gallipoli due to a mosquito bite also wrote pro-war poems for the war in particular, Peace.

This poem is a sonnet and has a religious idea as to why people would join the war; this becomes apparent from the first line in the poem.

“…Now, God be thanked who has matched us with his hour.”

This shows that God believes the war to be reasoned and that everyone should celebrate the war because of this. Rupert Brooke also appears to be a believer of god from this. It sends a message to all the young believers; God has reasoned this war therefore it is justified to join the army? , it’s ok to fight and kill your country. Brooke is saying that God has given them this opportunity, they should take it.

The mood of this poem is not dark and aggressive, but more patriotic ad religious Brooke truly believes the war is the right thing to do.

The religious theme runs all the way the through, the poem and continues to stress that it is the right thing to do.

“…To turn, as swimmers into cleanness leaping”

As well as showing active and physical movement by using the word swimming, the key point in this line is “Cleanness” , joining the army will turn you into a swimmer, cleaning yourself of all the shame and past before, joining the army and fighting is the way to do this, cleaning your soul.

“…Glad from a world grown old and cold and weary”

The war is a relief from the boring, same, familiar life that everyone is living.  It has become tiring and repetitive. The war changes this into something new and exciting it will change the life of 1000’s to millions of people in Britain. It’s saying that the war will be good for the country it will no longer be the same it’s a whole new start for them, the people joining the war.

“…Oh! We, who have known shame, we have found release there”

This being one of the simplest lines in the poem to understand personally as it sums up what he is trying to say really well and powerfully. Its straight to the point, if you have had shame this is the release.

Overall the poem is also as effective as Pope’s but with a religious way of persuasion more so than a patriotic appeal, it has a self inspiring reason to join the war and is well written by Rupert Brooke with a great vocabulary.

Although there were many Pro-war poems at the beginning as time went by there were many anti- war poets, who were against the war and wrote dark, strong and powerful poems showing their feelings and attempt to deter people from joining in and to let people know what it is really like.

Dulce et Decorum Est which in English means great and glorious is written by Wilfred Owen a working class citizen. He was in France when the war started and ended up in Craig Lockhart Hospital where he met Siegfried Sassoon. He died a week almost to the hour before the armistice was signed.

From the beginning you are introduced to the harsh conditions.

“…Bent double, like old beggars under the sacks,

Knock-Kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge”

This shows, the pain the men are going through, the weight of carrying all of their stuff, it’s a clear sign of a the suffering. The trenches were extremely muddy and sludgy, making it very difficult to walk. The coughing is not and ordinary cough it’s a hacking cough. It really stresses what the men are feeling.

“…And towards our distant rest began to trudge.

Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots”

Trudging enthicises the struggle of walking, the soldiers are not marching like they are trained; they are trudging slowly through the mud. The men are so exhausted that they are barely awake they are in a sense sleep walking, some without boots; their feet would be shredded and cut to pieces without their boots which also adds as to why they are trudging.

The poem has a strong shock effect in it; there are very fine details which add to the images portrayed in the readers head.

“…Gas GAS!  Quick, boys - An ecstasy of fumbling.

Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;”

This on its own adds to the danger effect, it’s gone from description on the men and event. Gas attacks would have been in frequent, and the men would have had to of been quick in order to survive in them.

Fumbling means clumsy and in a panic, the soldiers would have panicked drastically, because if they didn’t react quickly enough, even when they were so tired they were struggling to walk they would die.

The poem is very powerful and directed at people like Pope and Brooke who wrote to recruit.

“…My friend, you would not tell with such high zest

To children ardent for some desperate glory”

This is implying that after seeing what he has seen, Pope and the other pro-war poets would not write what they do, they would not encourage “children” such young people to join the war, and send them to their deaths.

Do not encourage them to go for a little bit of glory, the youths have so much ahead of them, sending them to war would end everything.

This poem like the others in its own way is very effective, it has a good shock effect, with its details and a great change in moods, from bad to worst the details and it is easy for the reader to get a clear picture.

As well as W.Owen, Siegfried Sassoon was an anti war poet. Like the many at first he was supportive of the war he was an upper class officer, when he was admitted to hospital where he met Owen e helped Owen write and wrote himself.

Suicide in the trenches is a short yet strong poem. It has a very easy rhyming poem; it has a nursery like rhyming pattern and is very easy to remember. This is done on purpose like Popes poem, so that people would remember it easily making a better impact.

The mood set at first is a happy one. The boy is described as happy one.

“Who grinned at life with empty joy?

Slept soundly through the lonesome dark”

He is happy without meaning, he thinks life is happy. He is in war where many men were made really depressed but because he is slightly simple, he is happy and not worried by anything; he sleeps well and does not have any nightmares.

“…In winter trenches, cowed and glum”

As the poem progresses into the 2nd stanza, the mood changes completely from a happy mood to a dark sad one.

“…He put a bullet through his brain

No one spoke to him again”

This not only slows the pace down it kills the poem just like he has killed himself. The mood takes a whole new route it becomes much more angry and sinister. It was believed if you killed yourself it was the easy way out, therefore you are a coward. Nobody would speak of this person because it was bad moral for the Squad of men.

“You smug-faced crowds with kindling eye

Who cheer when soldier lads march on by”

Like Owen’s poem this one is aimed at people like Pope who wrote too persuade people. And Citizens, smug the people who cheered count them selves lucky it’s not them like a “rather him than me situation”

“…Sneak home and pray you’ll never know

The hell where youth and laughter go”

This is saying feel guilty for what your doing, encouraging them and sending them off , because where they are going is no game as Pope referred it to be, it’s going to be where a vast majority of them die.

This poem although very short just as good as Owens, it sticks in your head more than the other one because of the rhyming pattern and the shortness. The poem has a good effect and in general is very good.

In conclusion I feel that the mood towards the war through the works written, changes drastically for the following reasons: facts, harsh realities, decisions made, and peoples ideas and opinions. Early poems persuading people to join, did not know the true reality of what was happening in the war, therefore do not explain the truth to the millions the national papers, but as the poems moved into the anti war state of mind people began to realise the truth and saw the true dark and nasty side of the war, the feelings change from happy and celebrations, to sadness and mourning.

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