Compare and contrast Charge of The Light Brigade(TM) and Dulce et Decorum Est(TM)

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Iestyn Evans

English Coursework

Compare and contrast ‘Charge of The Light Brigade’ and ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’

In this essay, I shall be comparing two poems namely ‘Charge of The Light Brigade’ by Alfred, Lord Tennyson and ‘Dulce et decorum est.’ by Wilfred Owen. Wilfred Owen was actually a soldier in the war, whereas Alfred, Lord Tennyson had no experience of the battle itself and only wrote the poem based upon the second hand evidence that he either read or heard.

‘Charge of The Light Brigade’ delivers a strong message base on the theme of the war. The poem gives the impression that war is a glorious and noble act and consists of phrases such as ‘When can their glory fade?’, ‘Honour the charge they made!’ and ‘The Noble Six Hundred’. This shows that in Alfred Lord Tennyson’s opinion it is noble and glorious act to fight and die for one’s country.  

Alternatively, Wilfred Owens’s poem has a far more negative outlook on war. Contrary to Tennyson’s noble and proud view of war Owen believes that dying in a war s a horrible, bitter death especially when such an end is as a result of a gas bomb being discharged in the surrounding area. He recounts graphic and horrific descriptions a soldier gradually dying while gasping for air. Some of the phrases that the poet uses to convey the hideous horror of the battlefield are; ‘He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning’, ‘And watch the white eyes writhing in his face’, ‘come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs’. I believe Wilfred Owen includes these vile descriptions to show the stark reality of war and the ultimate human sacrifice that so many of those innocent young men endured while fighting for King and country..

While the theme of both poems is of war; they are in fact depicting two different battles. The poem ‘Charge of The Light Brigade’ was written to commemorate the battle of Balaclava in 1854 while the other poem ‘Dulce et Decorum Est ‘ was written to reflect  battles of the First World War in 1916.

The poem ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ tells the story of a young man and his fellow troops who march into war and find themselves fighting for air when a gas bomb hits the battlefield. The poet describes the horrific events that a young soldier endures after he fails to put his gas mask in time and pays the price by dying an agonising death through suffocation. The poet goes on to describe in graphic detail the horrendous feeling of helplessness that overcame the other troops who witnessed their friend die.

The poem begins by depicting the scene with the sight of the exhausted fatigued soldiers. Wilfred Owen uses a very effective simile in the opening line; “like old beggars under sacks”. He manages to conjure up in the reader’s mind the images of battered, wounded soldiers. Capturing the attention and interest of the reader from the very first line is an essential ingredient for a successful poem. He manages to hold the reader’s attention and one knows that it is worth continuing to read the rest of the poem.

In our minds we imagine soldiers as being strong, fit young men. Owen on the other hand manages to dispel this by exposing the true reality that underneath each uniform there lays a vulnerable young man of flesh and blood and feelings. The next quote is an excellent example. “Knock-need, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge”. One possible explanation for the use of the simile ‘hags’ is that he is comparing them to tired old horses ready for the knackers yard, which as far as the soldiers were concerned was death.

The line; “Men marched asleep, many had lost their boots” drifts leisurely and as a result causes an impact on the reader. The reader would expect the troops to march alert and responsive. On the other hand, it is said that the men are marching asleep which demonstrates how exhausted they were. There is also use of alliteration evident here; Men marched” which also contributes to the serene sense as the men march along. Even though we are talking about a vicious violent battlefield here, this line creates a sense of tranquillity and calm amid what in reality was total mayhem.

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Although these are soft soothing sounds with an innocent presence, they are effective in their contrast with the intensity of the battle that is to come. It also manages to portray an image in our mind of the troops marching along, exhausted but still moving. The line “But limped on, blood-shot, All went lame, all blind” also shows how determined they were to carry on and serve.

“Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots

Of gas-shells dropping softly behind”

In my opinion the above couplet conveys a very powerful message as to how tired and shell ...

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