Compare three war poems demonstrating awareness of the poet's attitude towards war.

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Victoria Lishak

Compare three war poems demonstrating

 awareness of the poet’s attitude

towards war.

The three poems I am comparing are ‘Dulce et Decorum est’ by Wilfred Owen, ‘Vergismeinnicht’ by Keith Douglas and ‘War photographer’ by Carol Ann Duffy. ‘Dulce et Decorum est’ is based on a world war one personal experience. Wilfred Owen was brought up with a religious background, which shows through, in his writing. His total war experience was short, as he died in battle in 1918 aged only 25. ‘Vergismeinnicht’ is based on world war two. Keith Douglas served in North Africa during world war two where he was injured but not killed once he recovered he participated in the invasion of Normandy in 1944 where he died. ‘War photographer’ is neither based on world war one or two, it is more about war in general. Carol Ann Duffy personally felt that British people did not understand meaning or feeling of war. She was personally friendly with Don McCullin the famous photographer she wrote about.

Each poem has a different subject yet they are all clearly related through their fundamental ideas. The main point of ‘Dulce et Decorum est’ is to try to help nieve soldiers realise the truth about war and the army from someone who knows. Owen describes the soldiers in a very unpleasant way using expressions like ‘ old beggars’ and ‘hags’. As the soldiers march on ‘drunk with fatigue’, they are shocked by a gas attack. In a panic most of the soldiers manage to get their gas masks on but one soldier was just a little bit to late and consequently died.  The last paragraph of the poem is describing the inhumanely way that the soldiers dealt with the body. ‘ We flung him in’. Vergissmeinnicht has a slightly different outlook to war than Dulce et Decorum est, Vergissmeinnicht is a lot more sympathetic; this is possibly because Keith Douglas is writing of a personal experience.  Three weeks after the British soldiers beat the Germans, they return to the battlefields where they become aware of a dead enemy ‘sprawled’ on the floor, as Douglas looks closer he notices the dead enemy’s gun and instantly feels an immediate rush of embarrassment and empathy. The next thing Douglas notices is close to the dead body is a photograph of a girl with the word ‘Vergissmeinnicht’ written on it, Vergissmeinnicht is translated as forget me not. Douglas realises this picture was of the dead soldier’s girlfriend. He feels a pang of sadness as the realisation of the enemy’s previous life hits him. This feelings Douglas has humanised the dead enemy and he realises that he and the enemy are not as dissimilar as he had originally thought and it could quite easily be him dead on the floor. This sudden comprehension of people makes him feel very inadequate much like the poem war photographer, which is about a war photographer and the way he feels about his job. Every image he photographs and develops contains a deep sadness and great inspirational significance to his life. However, once he has developed his pictures ‘ one hundred agonises in black-and-white’ he hands them over to his boss ‘who will pick out five or six for Sunday’s supplement’.  The photographer’s view of the British people is not a positive one. He feels the British people do not understand or appreciate his work.

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The message in ‘War Photographer’ is appreciation for human feeling and art. The photographer feels degraded by the effect his photos have on average peoples lives. The photographer himself is haunted by every image he captures ‘ he remember the cries of this man’s wife’. But a customary ‘readers eyes may prick with tear between the bath and pre- lunch beers, from the aeroplane he stares impassively at where he earns a living and they do not care’.  However ‘Dulce et Decorum est’ has a much more cynical meaning, its based more along the lines of ‘don’t believe everything you ...

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