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War poetry

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What do we learn of the nature and experience of war from the descriptive power of the poets? Before World War 1, most was poetry tended to be unrealistic and used as propaganda. In many of the poems death was portrayed as being heroic and they gave the impression that it was painless. For example in the poem 'Charge of the Light Brigade' when a soldier dies it is described using the word 'fell' which makes death sound as if it was just a little accident, not an awful loss of life. Also the word 'fell' indicates that you can just get back up again but the men obviously couldn't. I think this is because before World War 1, there was censorship and nobody other than the soldiers really knew what war was like. When the soldiers went home, many of them didn't talk about their experiences mostly because they wanted to forget about it or not worry their loved ones. Lots of the poems were used as propaganda, so the poets had to make war sound glorious and honourable. If people knew about what it was really like, no one would enlist. In 'Vitai Lampada' Henry Newbolt makes war seem like fun by comparing it to a game: "Play up! Play up! And play the game!" In this poem death is played down metaphorically: "falling...the river of death has brimmed his banks." This plays down pain and the horrors and finality of death. By the word 'falling' being used, shows that death did not seem so bad, just a little accident. Poetry during World War 1 all changed because soldier's letters were censored, poetry was one of the only ways they could describe what war was really like. Similarly to before World War 1, soldiers often did not want to discuss what the war was really like with their families. Pre- world war one poems were written by professional poets but poems written during the war were written by soldiers who had had more experience. ...read more.


At the beginning of the poem where the pace is slow there are long vowel sounds and polysyllabic words. Owen uses quite a lot of literacy devices but subtly, for example alliteration: "Men marched...many" and metaphors: "all blind." The rhythm of this poem is a pentameter and it uses alternate rhyme, whereas in the poem 'Exposure' Owen doesn't use proper rhyme; just words that sound like each other: "brambles...rumbles". This poem is quite similar to Owen's other poems; in 'strange meeting' he mentions eyes: "With piteous recognition in fixed eyes" and in 'dulce et decorum est' eyes are mentioned too: "Watch the white eyes writhing". Eyes show all emotions and give away what's going on inside people's minds. By Owen bringing in eyes, it helps the reader experience what the soldiers went through and know how they're feeling. In this poem dreams are mentioned: "In all my dreams" By the word 'all' this suggests that these dreams will never go away. In another one of his poems 'The sentry' he writes: "Watch my dreams still." Also in 'exposure' by Wilfred Owen dreams are mentioned too: "we cringe...back on forgotten dreams..." This tells the reader that going to war and living through all the terrors makes the soldiers old, happy dreams seem 'forgotten' and so far away from them. By Owen using dreams in his poems he tells the reader that war is not only in the present time of when it happens, but it stays with its victims and the terror if it haunts their dreams. We know that the title of the poem 'Exposure' means hypothermia but it could also be interpreted a different way: It suggests that the men were completely exposed to the terrors of war, including the harsh weather. The soldiers only had small dugouts to protect themselves from the bombs as well as the cold and wet. But the conditions inside these dugouts were not always any better than being outside, they couldn't escape. ...read more.


This poem links to Sassoon's style because he also write very short poems but with a strong message. It is about eyes, which is similar to Owen who mentions eyes quiet a lot in his poetry. Rowbotham shows that being there at war is very different to just hearing about it: "eyes were filled with tears" That is the most Einstein can do, what has he got to worry about? Mr Tamiki cannot even cry: "had no eyes left" this is quite graphic imagery like Owen uses. Also there is a link to Sassoon because Rowbotham has used a personal name to re-enforce his message. In conclusion I think that WW1 poets were so different to the kinds of poetry that had been written before because they hadn't experienced war for what it really is. The scale of the slaughter during WW1 had never been seen before and the WW1 poets struggled to find suitable language to express what they were experiencing at first hand. The poetry that was written before WW1 didn't help them because it gave out a completely different message to that which they wanted to send. So a whole new kind of poetry was developed. During the months and years they were at war it made them realise many things. For example Isaac Rosenburg writes about things we wouldn't usually notice in every day life, for example the singing of larks, poppies and a rat which he found great interest in. I doubt that some of the poets who died during war ever imagined that their poetry would be published so their poems are just their own personal pieces of writing, which were their only way of getting away from the terrors of war. I think this is why many of the poems show so much emotion and compassion. Before WW1 war poetry was so different, mainly because poets didn't actually know what war really is like. Also censorship at the time played a big part in making sure the poems made dying sound heroic and glorious. Which we now know it most definitely is not. ...read more.

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