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Compare the ways in which the poets memorably describe soldiers going off to war in Joining the Colours (Hinkson) and The Send-Off (Owen)

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Introduction

Compare the ways in which the poets memorably describe soldiers going off to war in Joining the Colours (Hinkson) and The Send-Off (Owen) The two poems 'Joining the Colours' and 'The Send-Off' witness soldiers leaving to fight attend to the war and are similar in various ways. Both poems address the inevitability of death at war and question whether the seemingly inexperienced and young men will ever come back again and return. At the same time, however, the poems also significantly differ to one another; although both written from an on looking perspective, the manner in which the soldiers are sent off to war in the two poems contrast hugely. In 'Joining the Colours', the tone is slightly more explicit in condemning the waste of life that is the inevitable death of the soldiers yet it remains grateful for their courage to fight. 'The Send-Off' does not directly condemn the waste of life and is instead more implicit and thought provoking in suggesting this. Instead, it is more critical of those safely left behind on the home front. 'Joining the Colours''s subtitle "West Kents, Dublin, August 1914", sets the scene, telling the reader that it is taking place in the early days of the war, and begins "There they go marching all in step so gay! ...read more.

Middle

The caesura created by the comma before "dead", also adds extra impact. The mention of death here is similar to the way in which the fates of the soldiers are constantly referred to, to the reader in "Joining the Colours". The third stanza of "The Send-Off" continues the poem with a still image as "Dull porters watched them, and a casual tramp stoop staring hard, sorry to miss them from the upland camp". Here, the porters who see them leave seem "dull" in comparison with the soldiers - linking in with how the street and surroundings of the soldiers in "Joining the Colours" is "drab" in contrast to the soldier's gaiety. The reader gets the sense that the "casual tramp" and "porters" are accustomed to witnessing scenes like these and are almost aware of what they are going in for, again, creating a certain eeriness and sinisterness. This is emphasised with the following personification in the fourth stanza - "Then, unmoved, signals nodded, and a lamp winked to the guard." This suggests a sense of silent collusion against the soldiers, as if secrets are being kept from the soldiers - particularly when the "signal" and the "lamp" at the station are given conspiratorial human traits of "nodding" and "winking". ...read more.

Conclusion

However, it is then stressed that "a few, a few, too few" men will not be enough to make their homecoming worthy of a celebration. Here the device of three emphasises the deaths and diminishing numbers of soldiers, while it holds a whaling quality to it. Instead, when the soldiers return home, it is said that their experiences will have changed them forever, making their once familiar surroundings seem strange - the speaker says how the changed men will "creep back, silent" to their homes and up only "half-known" roads. This is particularly tragic as it is stressed that the war would have changed their outlook so much - while the sense of shame around them would still exist, even after they have served for their own country. Overall, both poems confront the ways in which soldiers are sent off to go to war; in different ways, they both address the likelihood of the soldiers facing death when they are there and the ways in which this will have an impact. Towards the end of the poems, they both begin to discuss the tragedy surrounding the war and the inevitable deaths of the soldiers that are sent off. In doing so, together, the two poems are thought provoking, poignant and moving. ...read more.

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