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What difference did the experience of fighting in the First World War make to the way poets wrote about war?

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What difference did the experience of fighting in the First World War make to the way poets wrote about war? Alix Kelly In the earlier centuries, poets were inclined to present soldiers as heroic fighters who chose to fight and die for their country. Their deaths were presented in these poems as the most noble sacrifice, one of which they wanted to make. In English poetry, this tradition began in medieval times with a poem called 'The Battle of Maldon'. In Shakespeare's play 'Henry v', Henry makes a speech before the battle of Agincourt, in which this attitude is evident. This speech shows how poets used to view war as glorified and heroic. Throughout the speech by King Henry the idealistic theme of 'honour' is evident. King Henry talks to the soldiers as if they are on par with him and because he is their leader they have great respect for him: 'If we are mark'd to die.' He constantly refers to himself and his troops as 'we' which continues the idea of him being one with his men 'he.... that sheds blood with me, shall be my brother'. This means that when he is so grateful and pleased to be part of the war they follow his feelings. Shakespeare idealises war and the idea that people are honoured and proud. 'The fewer men the greater share of honour.' 'Strip his sleeve and show his scars.' ...read more.


For the next seven months, he was in training at Hare Hall Camp in Essex. In January 1917 he was commissioned as a second lieutenant with The Manchester Regiment. Owens started the war as a cheerful and optimistic man, but doring the two years of the war, he was changed forever. After some traumatic experiences, which included leading his platoon into battle and getting trapped for 3 days in a shell-hole, Owen was diagnosed as suffering from shell shock and sent to Craiglockhart War Hospital in Edinburgh for treatment. It was whilst recuperating at Craiglockhart. After returning to the front, Owen led units of the Second Manchesters on 1 October 1918 to storm a number of enemy strongpoints near the village of Joncourt. Owen was killed in action on 4th November 1918, only one week before the end of the war. For his courage and leadership in the Joncourt action, he was posthumously awarded the Military Cross. Owen's war poetry reflects the horrors of trench and gas warfare. His great friend, the contemporary poet Siegfried Sassoon had a profound effect on Owen's poetic voice. This is most significant in his most famous poem 'Dulce et Decorum est.' 'Dulce et Decorum est' is a response to Jessie Pope's poem of dying a glorified and heroic death for your country. Because Owen had experience was himself he was flabergasted at the extent of betrayl Pope was using to persuade young men to join the war. ...read more.


The 'silent...night' and worries of 'silence'. This continues through the second stanza, also like 'Dulce et Decorum est; as it describes the movements and ways of the men; 'watching...twitching.' This poem continues to liken itself to 'Dulce et Decorum est' as It suddenly moves into the 'flickering gunnery' - the men come under attack. The soldiers question themselves, as Owen previously questioned Jessie Pope - 'What are we doing here?' This poem also has similarities to 'Futility' by talking about the weather; 'rain soaks and clouds sag.' The poem then repeats the idea of the soldiers coming under attach which does not happen in the two previous poems. 'Bullets streak the silence; this evokes a sense of hurry and panic which is like 'Dulce et Decorum est', and again uses weather, the same that is in 'Futility' - 'snow'. These three poems by Wilfred Owen liken themselves to the task of evoking people's thoughts on the harsh, but true, reality of war. He uses heartfelt phrases to describe the real horror experienced by young, innocent soldiers. Owen's poems were like many poets of the time - written from personal experience. The poems who wrote about war pre 1914 portrayed death in war as an ultimate sacrifice and a way to make your country and its people proud of you and give you honour. This is completely opposite to poets such as Wilfred Owen who wrote about war post 1914, from his own first hand experiences of it. He shows the truth of war and the horror it entails. ...read more.

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