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Contrasting two war poems, The Charge of the Light Brigade,(TM) by Alfred Lord Tennyson and Dulce et Decorum est,(TM) by Wilfred Owen.

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Introduction

In this essay, I will be contrasting two war poems, 'The Charge of the Light Brigade,' by Alfred Lord Tennyson and 'Dulce et Decorum est,' by Wilfred Owen. I will compare the poets' attitudes towards their poems and observe whether each of the poems is a personal experience or a second hand report. I will look at the rhythm and imagery while examining the structure of the poem. Finally, I will access each poem's message to the reader and decide which one I prefer, as well as discussing the attitudes of war today. 'The Charge of the Light Brigade' is a poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson. It is a second hand report of the battle of Balaclava in the Crimean war in October 1854. Two thirds of the Light Brigade were tragically killed in the disastrous charge, when the British cavalry commander mistook his orders to retake some guns held by the Russians and sent his troops into certain death. The first stanza of Tennyson's poem sets the pace for the rest of the poem. Tennyson imitates the movement of the soldiers on horseback, by the use of 'dactylic feet,' which is a poetic rhythm. This gives the reader the heroic impression of gallant men charging towards battle without hesitation. It is also an upbeat rhythm which indicates Tennyson's 'pro-war' message and gives the reader the impression that the poem has an optimistic message despite its content. ...read more.

Middle

'Flash'd all their sabres bare.' Tennyson wants to give the image of swords reflecting the light from the canon's flash. With their sabres they manage to rupture the formation of the Russian army and break the front line. This describes how the British had some sort of success. 'Right thro' the line they broke.' We also learn that after their suicide attack on the Russians, their army was diminished. 'Then they rode back, but not, not the six hundred.' Once again this statement has repetition with the endings of the first, second and third stanza. The fifth stanza is somewhat similar to the third one, but the dissimilarity is that the British army are charging in the 3rd and retreating in the fifth stanza. The majority of the fifth stanza is repetition apart from the end where a quantity of the men narrowly escape 'the jaws of death.' The last stanza (sixth), is mainly glorifying the men for their heroism with a rhetorical question. 'When can their glory fade?' Tennyson lets the reader know of their unstructured charge and uses imperatives-he tells the reader what to think to allow people all around the world to be astonished by the soldiers' courageousness. Therefore the reader falls in awe of 'the Light Brigade.' 'Dulce et Decorum est,' is a poem by Wilfred Owen. Owen is desperate that we understand the indignity of the 'old lie' and in this poem he is describing his experience in the trenches of the First World War in 1916. ...read more.

Conclusion

Owen is still experiencing nightmares and wishes to show the effect of the gas. 'In all my dreams, before my helpless sight.' Owen separates these two lines from the rest of the poem which suggests that he feels guilty for the man's death, as he was an officer and it was his duty to care for his men. While Owen cannot avoid the vision of his dying soldier, Tennyson finds himself attempting to make the soldiers appear valiant while being shot at by canons. The fading soldier is thrown into a cart and Owen uses onomatopoeia with the word 'flung' which proposes that the abrupt treatment of the dying soldier is a habitual and tragic occurrence. Owen also slows the poem down in the last stanza with the line; 'If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood.' This uses the effect of bombs going off and blood being splattered everywhere, causing the soldiers to become shell-shocked and so they freeze, which is why Owen slows the poem down. Owen uses senses to present graphically the horror of his fellow soldier's hanging face. We see his face, which is contorted in agony. To demonstrate this, Owen uses a powerful simile, 'his hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin.' We hear his death clatter. He is describing these images because it is what he has nightmares about every night and so he wants the rest of Britain to understand what he is seeing as well. ...read more.

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