Rupert Brooke and Wilfred Owen

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War Poems by Rachel Taylor

Since the threat of war in some part of the world everyday and because of the colossal impact that it has had on our lives, it doesn’t seem surprising that it is a popular theme of poetry. Sonnets are an extremely passionate form of poetry, used to show how the poet feels in their heart; both Rupert Brooke and Wilfred Owen create this passion in excellent, but very different ways. “Anthem for Doomed Youth” by Wilfred Owen is a Shakespearean sonnet reflecting on the callous life at war.  Owen wrote this poem during his four months at Craiglockhart, a war hospital, whilst recovering from trench fever.  Faced with many fatally injured men, this must have inspired him to write a great deal. Unlike Brooke’s poem “The Soldier”, Owen portrays, not a glorified or heroic war, but a realistic war. Rupert Brooke, having not witnessed war, had attitudes showing the hysteria of war in 1914 projected to him, and knowing no different he had to believe it.

The title “Anthem for Doomed Youth” has a huge sense of deliberate irony, stressing how brainless war appears to Owen. To Brooke on the other hand, war is far from pointless; it is something one does to receive admiration from their nation. Our first thought of an “Anthem” is a song of pride, love, passion and honor, but when such a word is followed by “doom”, it takes away the glee and puts a feeling of misery, implying an inevitable death, in replacement. “Youth” also used in the title adds to the horror, as these are men with their whole lives in front of them.  Full of solemn comparisons, it is a poem about the traditional funeral being substituted by the one that war has created.

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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 ...

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