Owen writes” What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?” This is an effective simile as we visualize the youths being herded up and being killed mercilessly like animals with no possible escape. It summons up the image of a slaughterhouse. This rhetorical question, asked by the poet, also sets the tone of the poem from the very beginning. Owen is immediately getting us to think, not of the things gained through war that Brooke talks about, but of the many people that are murdered just like animals. The answer to the question being asked is “Only the monstrous anger of the guns.” The use of personification in this line adds to the atmosphere as we get a picture of the gun spitting out the bullets. “Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle”. This excellent use of onomatopoeia depicts the sounds for the reader, making them engrossed in the poem. To make us aware of the extent of pain being caused by the death of the soldiers, Owen talks of the “bugles calling for them from the sad shires” This is fairly effective as we are made aware that it is at least affecting their loved ones.
The next stanza also starts with a rhetorical question “What candles may be held to speed them all?” once again getting the reader involved in the poem and possibly brings in Owen’s own personal religious beliefs. It is answered that the only light present is the one reflected in the tears of families. Owen manages to shape the pace and tone of the poem by using harsh short words at the beginning of the poem to show anger, and later on in the second stanza, slows the pace of the poem by using longer rounded words, creating a mood of sorrow. The poet manages to project the image of a ghastly death. After being murdered the only call to mark the soldier’s death is that of the guns. The poem ends with “And each slow dusk a drawing down of blinds”. This could be taken as a metaphor, as the soldiers die, or a sign of respect show by the people at home. For the soldiers, when their fellow comrades die, they have no time to think about it, it is just seen as the end of another day, although it is the final dusk their friends shall see.
Rupert Brooke’s sonnet “The soldier” is very different to Owen’s as it is an idealistic view on war. The title itself makes us think of a singular man of professional importance and dignity whereas “Anthem for Doomed Youth” emphasizes the extent to the number of deaths. Made up of an octave and a sestet, the first stanza follows the Shakespearean sonnet form, whereas the second follows the Petrarchan sonnet pattern. Together the two stanzas invite the reader to visualize the prominence of the deceased soldier. Combining England’s traditions, legacy and his patriotism, Brooke talks of the place where he will spend his after life which is a cross between England and heaven. There is not as much of a connection between the poet and reader in Brooke’s sonnet as he is addressing you “If I should die, think only this of me”. I prefer the way in which Owen gets the reader interested by getting them to question their thoughts.
In parts of the poem I feel that Brooke is just an arrogant man;
“That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is forever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;”
With this, Brooke makes it apparent that he believes that wherever he is buried will become purer as his English body shall turn to dust and become a part of it. I find this overly intense and I am almost disgusted, as I find it hard to believe that someone could feel so superior by merely being English. Although Owen’s poem is also very intense I find it easier to understand his thought process and can read it in agreement. Whilst saying this, in Brooke’s case, it may just be ignorance and he could quite easily be excused due to the fact that he did not take part in war. By using personification with “Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;” Brooke emphasizes his passion, as he talks about his country like a loved one.
I find it interesting that both poets have used the form of a sonnet as it is usually associated with topics of love and passion; therefore I come to conclusion that Brooke felt very strongly about his country and was very patriotic. I like the way that Owen has used the sonnet form too, because this shows that he is crying out frantically, ahead of his time, that war is not, by any means, right. However there is genuine optimism in Brooke’s poem, to him, it was an honour to fight for his country; it was an honour to die for your country.
Out of both of these sonnets my favorite has to be “Anthem for Doomed Youth” by Wilfred Owen. I like the way that he includes the reader in the sonnet from the very start. I also can relate to Owen’s poem and I find it more thought provoking as I can’t even begin to be in agreement to Brooke’s reasoning behind “The Soldier”, but this does shows me the attitude cultivated from the home front. With both of these sonnets, being so different, it brings me to a thorough understanding of both backgrounds and attitudes. The contrast between Owen and Brooke allows the reader to see the reality of the First World War from two totally different perspectives.