Compare three war poems demonstrating awareness of the poet's attitude towards war.
Compare three war poems demonstrating
awareness of the poet’s attitude
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.
This is a preview of the whole essay
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 read’. The title ‘Dulce et Decorum est’ is translated to ‘it’s a great honor to die for your country’ but ironically the entire poem is graphically describing to people what war is really like, and that its not all its built up to be. Wilfred Owen is almost angry at the fact that the soldiers have seen their fathers, uncles and friends go off to war and not return, but still they proceed to ‘march to their deaths’ regardless, leaving the families at home to pick up the pieces.
War photographer has four verses and each verse has six lines. In the first verse, it tells the story of how the photographer develops his pictures, then the second verse is the pain and horror he feels as he develops them. The third verse continues telling the reader about the haunting visual images he suffers with, and the fourth verse is an insight into how people perceive his work. The caesura is used to show how the photographer is feeling. ‘Belfast. Beirut. Phnom Penh.’ This is a list of war zones. Carol Ann Duffy uses this technique to show the significance each place has. She does not need to go into detail just the name of the place where these horrific incidences happened is enough. Dulce et Decorum est also has three verses but slightly different as the first two verses have eight lines each and the last verse has twelve. The first verse of ‘Dulce et Decorum est’ describes the state of the soldiers walking back from battle ‘ knocked-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,’ Owen sets the scene, as one of lost hope and exhaustion ‘Men marched asleep’. The second verse is where the gas attack takes place. The unsuspecting soldiers are caught off-guard and are immediately overrun with panic ‘an ecstasy of fumbling,’. The final verse continues in the usual pattern for the first eight lines, describing what happened the body of the soldier who did not put his gas mask on in time. The last four lines are Owen addressing the readers and summing up his point. ‘My friend you would not tell with such high zest to children ardent for some desperate glory, the old lie Dulce et Decorum est Pro patria mori’. Unlike ‘War Photographer’, the punctuation is used to set the scene. ‘Gas! Gas! Quick boys! -‘ The repetition of exclamation marks portrays the panic and madness that was felt at the time of the attack. Wilfred Owen uses this technique to place you at the time of the gas attack. This noticeably shows his perception of war to be a negative one of panic and fear. ‘Vergissmeinnicht’ has six verses with four lines to every verse. Each new verse represents a new thought or new idea. As Douglas notices different things, he experiences different emotions. The punctuation he uses shows this ‘content, abased,’ the effect of this short list of emotion clearly shows the confusion felt by Keith Douglas at the time.
‘War Photographer’ contains words specifically chosen to display Carol Ann Duffy’s attitude towards war’ nightmare’ ‘twist’ and ‘tremble’ are all words associated with fear. This indicates that she has an apprehensive attitude towards war. ‘ Home again to ordinary pain which simple weather can dispel’ this is Duffy’s way of showing how easy and trouble free British life is. ‘Dulce et Decorum est’ also has a negative outlook. As Owen sums up his feelings in the final verse, he uses words like ‘devil’, ‘corrupt’, ‘incurable’ and ‘vile’. This clearly displays Owen’s feelings in relation to his personal experience. Even the title bares significance to effect of the poem. The fact the title is a famous positive saying, used to indoctrinate young men into signing up to join the army, means that the people reading the poem could be optimistically looking forward to fighting for their country until they read the poem. ‘Vergissmeinnicht’ also has a noteworthy title, as it means ‘forget me not’. This poem is less about the specific words and more about how Douglas puts them together, ‘The lover and killer are mingled’ this displays a sense or confusion but at the same time a clear sense of understanding. The fact that he uses the words dishonored, abased, mocked and weep show that Douglas has a much more sympathetic attitude to war in comparison to the two other poets.
The imagery used by Owen conjures up a feeling of revulsion by using adjectives such as ‘froth-corrupted lungs’ and aggressive verbs ‘guttering, choking, drowning’. The impact of the vivid images created by Owen’s bold and blunt words enables the reader to feel the author’s passion and courage. These emotions are further proved in the first verse of the poem. ‘Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots, but limped on, blood-shot.’ The author’s intention was to reinforce the determination necessary within the soldiers to remain strong and not give up. Unlike ‘Dulce et Decorum est’ which uses imagery to provoke violent images throughout, Duffy’s ‘War Photographer’ begins by using imagery to enhance a clam and peaceful atmosphere away from the war grounds. ‘Light is red and softly glows’. The introductory stanza sets a composed initiation to the poem with religious references to the church, and a priest including the use of a biblical quote ‘All flesh is grass’ this is the first reference to possible death in the poem. As the poem progresses the reader begins to feel the pain of death from the view of the photographer. The clause ‘ a half formed ghost’ provokes the image of people just before they die. This powerful image brings out sentiment in the poem. Douglas uses imagery in a slightly different way to the other poets. ‘Vergissmeinnicht’ is similar to ‘Dulce et Decorum est’ in its harsh perception of war. ‘Nightmare ground’ is used to create the image of the battlefield where many lives were lost; this enforces fear into the mind of the reader. However, it is also similar to ‘War Photographer’ in its sense of understanding, distress and respect to those lost to war. ‘Who had one body and one heart’. More than once Douglas personifies the gun strapped to the dead enemy. He uses this technique to show the soldiers death from another point of view. On both counts where gun is personified it is mocking the dead enemy. ‘Mocked by his own equipment that’s hard and good when he’ decayed.’
In ‘War Photographer ‘ the second and third line rhyme as do the fifth and sixth. The reference to sound varies depending on where the photographer is, either in his dark room or on the battlefield. When the photographer is alone in his dark rooms the only sounds he hears are calm sounds of solutions as the ‘slop’ in the tray. However, when out on the battlefield the sounds he hears are a lot harsher ‘explode’ and ‘cries’ are just two examples of that. ‘Vergissmeinnicht’ has no apparent rhyming pattern at all unlike ‘Dulce et Decorum est’ which has rhyming couplets from the first two verses but no distinct pattern in the last verse. In ‘Dulce et Decorum est’ there are many references to sound. ‘Deaf to the hoots of gas-shells dropping softly behind.’ this is obviously metaphorical because gas-shells do not drop softly but it reinforces how the soldiers felt. They were se exhausted that they could hardly hear they were under attack.
To conclude I have noticed that all poets have a similarly different outlook on war. Where as Wilfred Owen sees war as a cold and cruel reality, Carol Ann Duffy can only see it through the eyes of her friend Don McCullin the war photographer. However, she captures the animosity and fear in a much-defined way. Keith Douglas is a lot more remorseful and apologetic towards those who experience war weather it is directly or indirectly.