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AS and A Level: War Poetry

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Writing about World War One poetry

  1. 1 Although it is easy to try and position poems as either ‘pro’ or ‘anti’ war this is quite a simplistic division. Many poems have an ambiguous attitude, perhaps demonstrating a variety of thoughts and ideas. Be sure to assess possibilities of different perspectives within poems as well as between them.
  2. 2 It can be useful to analyse World War One poetry in comparison to other war poems written both before and after.
  3. 3 Studying the female voice offers a different perspective on the war.
  4. 4 Some contextual knowledge of the time and of the poets is helpful, although this information should only be used if directly relevant to the question and if it enhances poetic analysis and contributes to meaningful discussion.
  5. 5 With any poetry it is unwise to try and guess at how the poets were ‘feeling’ about their experiences. Keep focused on the poems themselves.

When analysing poetry you might like to consider some of the following

  1. 1 The perspective, tone and register of narrator is a good place to start analysis. Remember that these can differ within poems. Be sure also to distinguish between the poet and the narrative voice.
  2. 2 Titles, openings and endings can be a good way to start your analysis.
  3. 3 Look for patterns and oppositions (or lack of) that emerge.
  4. 4 Consider effects of other poetic techniques such as: use of imagery, semantic fields, phonological devices etc.
  5. 5 Consider the effects of structure and form; it is important to recognise the insights this analysis can provide.

Writing essays on World War One poetry

  1. 1 All essays should be well planned with clear points which enable a progressive structure.
  2. 2 Introductions should clearly address the question, perhaps determining position of argument/discussion to follow.
  3. 3 Each paragraph should ideally begin with a topic sentence which addresses the question, evidence from the poem/s to support the point (with quotes embedded), and detailed analysis using appropriate technical terminology. Remember that feature spotting does not demonstrate any useful knowledge and understanding of a poem.
  4. 4 If relevant, contextual references to World War One or the poets can inform and develop points and comparative points with other war poems (from before and after) are often insightful.
  5. 5 A concise conclusion should make a final summary that directly addresses the question. Ensure all essays are proof-read to avoid errors.

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  1. What does the war poet, Wilfred Owen, have to say about World War One?

    The phrase "Our brains ache" shows the literary influence that Keats had on Owen. Keats began one of his romantic poems with the phrase "My heart aches", which may be Owen's way of saying that the romanticists of the past could not imagine the pain and war that he is experiencing. In the fourth line Owen rapidly lists adjectives which create an anticlimax when paired with the next line: "Worried by silence, sentries whisper, curious, nervous, But nothing happens." The poet is showing that much of the Great War was spent waiting for an attack, while the soldiers had to live with unending fear and worry.

    • Word count: 1261
  2. Write a letter from Siegfried Sassoon to Lady Ottoline outlining ideas and thoughts which lead to the concept of A Soldiers Declaration

    I regret that I haven't been able to keep correspondence with you more often over the previous months. Since my withdrawal from the front in July, thanks to my most unfortunate case of enteritis, I have been moving between Somerville College, where I am writing at this very moment, and my home in Weirleigh, for my convalescence. I cannot give a fair reason for why I have not written to you in so long, but this time has certainly given me an opportunity to reflect on my experiences at the front, which I can assure you I haven't wasted.

    • Word count: 1112
  3. Analyse Faulks presentation of Stephens mental state in Part One of Birdsong. Explain how this influences your understanding of the rest of the novel.

    This idea of Stephen being a strong willed and moral young man is installed in the reader at the start from his body language, for example "the angle of his body that of a youthful indifference cultivated by willpower and necessity", this conjures up the image of a man who is confident and youthful yet has a fairly realistic and level headed side to him. As the chapter moves on Stephen is alone in his bedroom and he starts to write in his diary, now the fact that he has a diary shows that he is thoughtful and that he

    • Word count: 1313
  4. Discuss the importance of In Flanders Fields and its links with the rest of "Up the line to death"

    There are a use of symbols throughout the poem which are current throughout the anthology so far. The two symbols that are prominent are the poppies and the larks, the larks and all birds are symbols for the beloved soldiers who kept on fighting hard, the bird symbols are commonly used throughout the anthology, evidence for this can be found in "Magpies in Picardy" were the birds symbolise the different types of soldiers. The poppies stand for all of the death that occurred to help liberate Belgium during the First World War. The poem is the perfect depiction of the horrors and death found in the battle of Ypres in the spring of 1915 and this is why it slots seamlessly into the anthology.

    • Word count: 1159
  5. Commentary- Dulce Et Decorum Est

    The lines go on to highlight the physical effects of war with, 'Knock-kneed', which implies that the men have no strength and have become feeble and weak. Furthermore, the line continues with the simile of 'coughing like hags', which suggests to the reader the poor health the men were in. The second line finishes with, 'we cursed through the sludge'. Here, Owen uses the 'we', which indicates to the comradeship which the men have, and then the use of the hard 'c' sound in 'cursed' implies that they have a united hatred of the war, or at least their current situation.

    • Word count: 981
  6. POETRY ANALYSIS: Dulce Et Decorum Est by Wilfred Owen and My Lai by David Campbell

    Because of this, people have often viewed him as a revolutionary war poet. "Dulce Et Decorum Est" uses physical features such as sight, sound and touch to emphasize the violence of war. These features create a tone and mood of how dark, grim and horrible war can be. In the first stanza the negative impression of war is fully developed by the time the first line is complete. The simile of comparing how they are walking to old beggars creates an image of despair.

    • Word count: 1309
  7. Compare Vera Brittian

    'Perhaps' however has been written by a female (Vera Brittain) about her own emotions based upon real life experiences, as the poem was written after the death of her husband, expressing her grief. It is therefore implausible for one to question the realism, representativness of the female voice expressing the loss of a loved one or even the sheer rawness conveyed throughout the poem. A wife in London is also a fictionally based poem further affecting the impact it may cause upon the reader. Brittains Perhaps is very simplistic in its language, predominately using elements and colors of nature to express her grief: ''Perhaps someday the sun will rise again'

    • Word count: 1288
  8. Analysis Of Dulce Et Decorum Est

    Whilst the poem was dedicated to Jessie Pope it is also aimed at older adults, parents, grandparents and politicians. The poem has a two-fold purpose, in the first instance it is an anti-propaganda piece and it implores the older generation to tell youngsters the truth about the horrors of war. The title is taken from 'Carminum liber tertius' by Quintus Horatius Flaccus, better known as Horace, written in 23BC, and translates as 'It is sweet and proper to die for ones country'. The poem was also a catharsis, by putting these images down on paper Owen was attempting to release the pent up horrors which he had been exposed to on the battlefield.

    • Word count: 1197
  9. ABC poem

    Hold on to what you have. Imagine life without a friend. Joy will no longer exist. Keep thanking them for everything. Love will be within. Move out of "complaining Camp" Nothing On earth is more Praiseworthy than a confidant and a goal. Quit looking at the adversity. Redeem the time at hand. Start everyday with appreciation. To appreciate is to be happy. Until the gloomy night is over. Victorious morning comes. We will start a new day and life. Exhaling and inhaling fresh air Yes, there will be good times and bad. but Zenith is in front of us, and we shall never give up. ABC Poem Although school is tough Because of homework and tests.

    • Word count: 1233
  10. Idealism and Pragmatism

    This pure innocent image is modified and impacted on by the goings on in such a beastly war. Is it a game or reality? We see a battle between idealism and reality. This differs from 'England to her Sons' as in the phrase 'Sons of mine...I give you freely' where the sense of an idealistic duty is portrayed where the sons of England are giving themselves and sacrificing themselves for the love of England which is no game and has a strong sense of meaning. The theme of recruitment is displayed as the men of England are accepting there duty in fighting and are in search of the idealised intangibles of honour, duty, glory and fulfilment which are reinforced by the sense of idealistic patriotism.

    • Word count: 1223
  11. Discussing Disabled by Wilfred Owen.

    The following phrase 'And shivered in his ghastly suit of grey' we see how the 'grey' 'legless' suit symbolises his bland and dull life and now a complete contrast to the colourful life he once lead. In the phrase 'Through the park, Voices of boys rang saddening like a hymn' the use of a simile is used to emphasise sympathy for the man as he is saddened when he reflects on the past when he was a boy. This allows the reader to visualize the boys roaming the park.

    • Word count: 1300
  12. Free essay

    comparison of the 'Tipperary Days' and 'A Bitter Taste' sections of the anthology, Up the line to death

    The poets also want to tell the reader how the truth should have been told, "and don't we damned well know/how the message ought to read", they wanted the public to be told how horrendous it was and the realities of trench life, not simply that it is glorious. However, in 'Tipperary Days', this is not mentioned; these poems are not about recruitment and the falseness of those promises, it is about how war changes you, how your expectations of life alter, "and greater than a poet's fame/a little grave that has no name"; the war brought a chance of greater glory, to redeem yourself and become noble and honourable, all your previous faults and sins will be forgotten.

    • Word count: 1082
  13. Free essay

    How is Sassoon(TM)s voice presented in A Soldiers Declaration and what methods are used to make it a powerful piece?

    bold statement "as an act of wilful defiance" showing that he is in tune with his true feelings and he knows exactly what he is doing. The use of 'I believe' shows that his opinions on the war are very personal to him and helps add to the powerful voice of Sassoon. In addition, he highlights the purpose of his account, claiming that the war was 'deliberately prolonged by those who have the power to end it', showing clearly he had no confidence or trust in the politicians at the time.

    • Word count: 1081
  14. Consider the ways in which Owen presents his feelings about war in "The Show" and how this poem relates to the methods and concerns of other poems

    Instead they create an image of an insect which is convulsing and probably having a very painful death but not one which we can relate to as our feelings are quite detached from them. I think that this continued parallel between the soldiers and the caterpillars is an interesting one because although the many of the words and phrases used have connotations of pain and suffering, somehow these feelings do not affect us as much as they could have done if we were given a more human face to attach the feelings to.

    • Word count: 2415
  15. Analysis of "An Irish Airman foresees his Death" by W.B. Yeats

    This gives the poem a solemn, resigned tone - as opposed to anger or bitterness. The next two lines are extremely poignant. In my opinion, they raise a lot of interesting questions about the feelings soldiers had towards their enemy, as well as the country they fought for. Yeats writes, 'Those that I fight I do not hate/Those that I guard I do not love'. He is saying that the airman feels no hatred toward his enemy and no love for those he is fighting for, which is in this case the British.

    • Word count: 1216
  16. Analysis of "The Soldier" by Rupert Brooke

    However, initial enthusiasm soon diminished as people became aware of the horrors of the trenches. By the end of the war, any patriotic ideals had been shattered; soldiers returning from the trenches spoke of the reality of the situation and attitudes towards the war shifted dramatically. This change in people's perception of the war is obvious when comparing poetry of the period. Brooke's poem "The Soldier" is often referred to as the antithesis of Owen's "Dulce et Decorum Est." Written in 1917, just before the end of the war, "Dulce et Decorum Est" shows just how dramatically the views of those young soldiers were changed by the experience of war.

    • Word count: 958
  17. Hardy vs. Sitwell

    but it could also be showing how brave the people are at home by dealing with the situation at hand by ignoring it and acting like normal. However, when coupled with the strong image of sucking 'dying breath' and mentioning 'those who hourly die for us' it seems to be more like we're taking their lives rather than bravely ignoring them. The fact that what was relevant in 1899 was still relevant in 1914, 1918, and even today, gives Hardy's poem an extra poignancy to those who have read it in the years since it was published.

    • Word count: 1057
  18. Using Charles Sorley's "To Germany" and Rupert Brookes "Peace" compare the writer's attitudes to war.

    In contrast the title of Brookes poem is more ironic as the reader would expect a poem about peace but instead Brooke portrays the war as being a thrilling experience "who has matched us with his hour". He is not addressing the issue of peace at all, but instead chooses glorify dying for England. One major difference between the writers is the time of which they wrote these poems. Brooke wrote peace when he was yet to fight at the front.

    • Word count: 1336
  19. Using Homer's "Iliad" and Owens "Dulce et Decorum est" or Sassoon's "suicide in the trenches" write a comparison on the ways in which the writers describe the death of a soldier.

    The title of Homers poem "Iliad" jumps straight into the main theme of it, rage of Achilles. The word Iliad means rage, which throughout the language is repeated a further two times "sing the rage". This title, and the bitter tone when describing the deaths, reflects Homers anti war attitude toward the war, which is happening thousands of years before Christ. Owen however, presents a contrasting title to that of Homer, while Homer was expressing the main theme of his poem, Owen prefers to use irony to reflect his feelings of the war. "Dulce et Decorum est" translated means "it is sweet and right to die for your country".

    • Word count: 1592
  20. Asleep analysis

    The "chest", "arms" and "blood" (parts of the body) are personified. For instance, the arms are like humans, feeling "sleepy" and have the human tendency to fall "slack", together with the blood been described as "stray" and "came creeping", and the simile that compares the flowing of the blood to the "ants on track", suggesting how slowly and torturous the death of the soldiers are. The fragment descriptions of the body parts come together to give us a wholesome picture of slow death of the soldiers in the war.

    • Word count: 1127
  21. Compare the ways that Sebastian Faulks and the war poets present ordinary men's

    The officers were the only ones whilst the war was been fought believed to be articulate enough to recount their war stories. Ironically Sassoon protested against the war and was sent to Craiglockhart hospital to 'recover'. He was sent for writing a letter of protest to his Colonel stating his alarm at the political errors that he felt were leading to the unnecessary sacrifice of soldiers lives. Sassoon believed that the war was being continued longer than was necessary by those who had the power to end it.

    • Word count: 3144
  22. The Thermal Decompasition Of Copper Carbonate

    * It usually turns a bright red when heated, this is something to look for in the experiment, if we see a bright red colour we know it is Cu2O. This is what Cuprous Oxide looks like. * CuO is also known as Cupric oxide. * It is found in the mineral tenorite. * It is a black solid which melts above 1200 �C. * It can be formed by heating copper in air. * It stays black when heated, this is different to Cuprous oxide so we could tell which is which oxide.

    • Word count: 848
  23. Changing Attitudes towards World War I

    Because of this, half a million men had signed up in the first month! Then 1,186,357 men had been registered in just the first year to be recruited. Men were not just the key figures in going to war; women also played a big role in encouraging people to go to war and help the economy. In August, Admiral Charles Fitzgerald set up the Order if the White Feather, this encouraged women to humiliate men who had not joined the army by giving them a white feather.

    • Word count: 1830
  24. Compare and contrast the different attitudes towards war that you have studied in the Martin anthology.

    The purpose of this poem was to persuade young men to join the army. A similar poem with the same purpose is 'Peace' by Rupert Brooke. In this case, however, Brooke is persuading the young men to go to war by saying that if you go to war, you will experience inner peace, because you will feel you have a purpose in life. Brooke writes about how the world at that time had lost its sense of purpose and grown old, cold and rich. He thanks God for letting there be war, so that people would be awoken from their sleep of indolent satisfaction and do something in life.

    • Word count: 1467
  25. Can a war ever be just?

    Another parable is 'The Unforgiving Servant', in this parable Jesus tells us that we can only expect to be forgiven as much as we forgive and this means that if we expect our enemies to forgive us then we must in turn forgive them. Also in the New Testament Jesus tells us that we should love our enemies and pray for their well being, this means that we should never think badly of our enemies no matter what they think of us, because it will be us that is the better person and in the end it will not be us who is judged, but our enemies.

    • Word count: 1963

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