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What is the role of war poetry?

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What is the role of war poetry? How has it performed this role through history? Throughout the years war poetry has played a big part in English literature. Any British library will contain piles upon piles of books containing the stories of heroes and fiends of the British people dating right back to before the coming of Christ. But why? What is the reason for so much poetry to be focused on war? War poetry has been used for many reasons within history. It's been used to tell others of the battle, to influence others for the future, to tell the poets ideal of truth. But these roles have differed and evolved through time, partly because of different decorum and because of new technology taking over poetries use in the modern world. To proof this statement I will be analyzing 4 different war time poems from different parts of British history. To start with I'll look at the 1st World War poem 'My Boy Jack' By Rudyard Kipling then work back towards one of the earliest forms of British war poetry, the Anglo-Saxons. Rudyard Kipling was one of the most popular writers in English literate, his life and works within the late 19th and early 20th century. When the great war came about he was already in his late 40's and a very strong patriot, and using his influence as an acclaimed writer and journalist he put forward his ideals of nobility and honor to the British public. He also used his 'contacts' from high up in the government and army to get his son John into the Irish guards. John had very bad eyesight and had been refused from fighting times before, because he would be a liability to himself and others if he lost his glasses. ...read more.


Follow the crown and the nation in defending our blessed isles, so though Tennyson gives us a rather bad picture of the order itself, which it was in no doubt a fatal and terrible mistake, he portrays the soldiers as heroes, as the true British citizen. This is also a main role in the poem 'My Boy Jack'. One of the main role's in war poetry it seems. But Tennyson's poem also immortalizes the men who died for they're country and this is also a main role in most war poetry. As over 450 men died in the charge, and not making a lot of difference in the situation on the war, there sacrifice seems minuscule when we look back on it today. Of course when they joined the army and the war they would have done it and planned to make a difference, to help defend and fight for Britain. But sadly they didn't achieve this at all with this one attack, there charge of the light brigade was more of a sacrifice then an assault on enemy forces. So if Tennyson had not written this poem, then the charge of the light brigade would probably just be a little mishap in British warfare. The authorities might have tried to covered it up, seeing as it is a shameful and unclean portray of the British army commands. But Tennyson changed all this by noting down his thoughts and view for the future to behold, he set down the truth as he saw it of this event and by doing this he made history, he immortalized the men and they're courage and death's in the poem, into the literary world he made them almost divine with there bravely and fearlessness. ...read more.


Another role of war poetry is to flaunt the poet's country as being truly amazing, with strong moral duty and brave men. (This role changes slightly in Tennyson's poem, he does show British men as brave and noble, but doesn't support the actual government, or higher archly that 'controls' the solders) this particular role is a main feature within 'The Battle of Maldon' perceiving the Angelo-Saxons as mighty and strong Warriors protecting the innocent against the 'evil and foul' Viking invaders. The reader can perceive this from the descriptive language used for the enemy. For example the Vikings speech includes lots of 's' sounds 'send quickly sliver for safety' this prolonged sound in the line provides an image of a slippery and slimy tongue - an 's' sound is also the sound associated with snakes, which adds to the characters slimy voice. This contrast in language between the invaders or enemy and the fighters or 'protectors' shows the poets proud feelings for their people and king. Even though the Angelo-Saxons lost to the 'ruthless' Vikings they came over as the true heroes in 'The Battle of Maldon' against "Blood-wolves" (a kenning used to describe the invaders) making it seem that the Angelo-Saxons fought bravely against ruthless savages. A role that has been replayed and retold in many different types of war poetry- that the poet's country is really the best whether they won or lost. So the role of war poetry has been an ever-changing and constant thing, it's been used for countless reason's from every nation in the world since before Christ. Having looked into the meanings of the poetry above and what roles they played I was surprised by how the poets pen can be so powerful to people. How they have played there part in history to tell us the truth, or the facts or simply what they saw. Emma Murton. 1 Emma Murton ...read more.

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