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Compare how the poets' attitudes to war are presented in the poems

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Introduction

Compare how the poets' attitudes to war are presented in the poems 'Dulce et Decorum est' and 'The Battle of Bannockburn'. 'Dulce et Decorum est' and 'The Battle of Bannockburn' are both poems centred on the same subject, war, but their perspectives on it are complete antitheses. 'The Battle of Bannockburn', written by Robert Burns, is a poem which portrays Robert Bruce, a Scottish army general, delivering an inspirational speech to his troops preceding a great battle in which his army are vastly outnumbered by the English. It is an extremely powerful poem in many ways. Firstly, Burns conveys an extreme sense of patriotism towards Scotland through the speech which Bruce gives. He starts his speech addressing his troops twice as "Scots". This immediately sets the patriotic tone for the rest of the poem. He later moves on to juxtaposing Scotland's image as a free, lawful country with the image of England being tyrannical and oppressive. In the 6th stanza, he associates Scotland with "king and law", "freedom" and "strongly"; in the next stanza, he refers to England as "Oppression", and associates it with "woes and pains" and "servile chains" using mirrored wording. He uses this to convey that England is an evil enemy whereas Scotland is brave and righteous. ...read more.

Middle

He then describes the agony which is being suffered by one man, and how it is an awful sight: "under a green sea, I saw him drowning." This gives some idea of the horrific nature of the gas attack. Using the "sea" and "drowning" as a metaphor for dying in the gas creates an image of unbearable suffering. "He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning" adds to the description of the suffering of the man. He goes on to make the descriptions more and more explicit, such as "the white eyes writhing in his face" and "the blood come gargling from the froth corrupted lungs". This multitude of quotes puts extreme emphasis on the point the writer is trying to make. Another point which is made is that the writer can do nothing about this man's pain. He refers to "his helpless sight", showing that this man's pain cannot be eased whatsoever. He says that the scene is "obscene as cancer." In the 1910's, cancer was considered a taboo subject, and was not mentioned as it was viewed as a horrible subject. Owen's comparison to it is a brave one, used to break the taboo of describing the suffering of soldiers in war. All of these images and vivid descriptions are intended to shock the reader with the atrocities of war, especially in the social context of the early 20th century where people believed that war was honourable and just. ...read more.

Conclusion

Therefore, it was important for Owen to deliver the truth about the war in his poem as it directly affected people's lives; however Burns' poem didn't need to do so. The fact that "Dulce et Decorum est" is written from first hand experience is also important. It shows that Owen understands what is actually happening in the war and is more able to give a description of what life is like in the trenches. However, Burns could have no way of knowing what happened in the Battle of Bannockburn, so he was able to write whatever he wanted. I think that Burns wrote "The Battle of Bannockburn" because he had a strong allegiance to his country and his ancestors, and wanted to describe their heroics without revealing the suffering they may have endured during the fight. To conclude, I think that both the poems convey extremely strong messages. However, I think that the description of war is presented more realistically in the poem 'Dulce et Decorum est'. This is because it is describing the vivid recollection of terrifying experiences endured during time in the trenches, whereas 'The Battle of Bannockburn' is more impersonal, and doesn't describe what occurs during battle, instead concentrating on describing what could happen if the battle was abandoned or lost. GCSE English Literature Coursework - 1 - ...read more.

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