Poetry English language

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Ben Elliott     11x1                                                                                                                                                                     01/04/2011

Study a selection of War poetry. What are the poets’ attitudes to the War?

Wars have been around for many years, in fact, they have been around as long as humans have been around. When you come to think of it, Warfare means solving problems by force (fighting, War). The problems that might result to War could be: to gain land (this could be to gain power), to get resources from another country (oil, gold, and diamonds). Religion (this is the War that we are fighting now), to support another country who is lured (maybe reluctantly) into War, this is known as supporting an ally.

I think that the scale of Warfare has changed; firstly, the weapons used in War these days have become more sophisticated. Today we use auto reload rifles, bullet-proof vests, bombs with sensors etc. back in World War 1 (WW1) they used rifles, bayonets and had no knowledge of the machine guns that were used by the German army.  As a result, more people will be killed. Secondly troops can be moved from long distances much easily; before if you were in the English army (in the middle ages especially) you were shipped off to your location of War and you would march to wherever you were ordered to fight. Nowadays you are transported in helicopters or jet planes, so the soldiers can get to the battle-zone more easily, so the job will be done much quicker as a result. Most governments have now ensured that they have a professional army. In WW1 Lord Kitchener managed to recruit millions of British men, about a third of them were either: unfit, too young or unwell. Now the armed forces have become more sophisticated, they do fitness tests and medical and drug tests to ensure that the new recruits are well prepared for battle.

In approximately a couple of years I could see myself joining the armed forces, preferably the army, it, in fact, it is the future that I hope to fulfil as a career. If I was called up for the army like they were in WW1 then I would feel confident and relieved because it would be easier to get in there. Plus I wouldn’t need all the stress with the interviews and getting in.

I realise that poetry can change according to the fashions and attitudes of that periods of time. Just like everything else, I have studied a selection of War poems from a period of time and I am going to compare the attitudes from those times. I’ve learnt that generally people who go to War mainly feel happier if they have power over what they do, whereas people who fell unhappier are the people who have no power, and forced to go to battle.

The first poem we looked at was a poem by William Shakespeare, we realised that it wasn’t designed to be a poem but it was a speech extracted from a play called Henry V. The speech was written in 1599, but the actual event took place in 1415, it wasn’t exactly a War, but a battle known as the battle of Agincourt. This battle was being fought because England owned parts of France and France wanted their land back so Henry V called a battle to stop the French winning back the land. The French were probably professional soldiers, but the English were under qualified peasants who were forced into battle. They were taken from their homes, marched to a boat, shipped over to Calle (on the border of France) then march over to the battlefield. So evidently they would be feeling sick, scared and exhausted. The reason behind this poem is for Henry V to motivate his army by: reminding them about times when they have won before, give tactics, have confidence in them.

Although Henry V aims his words at his soldiers, it is written in the 1st person, like “our English dead”. This makes the reader feel as if the reader is if they are talking to them, which makes the poem more interesting. Henry also uses flattery “you noblest English” this kind of language makes the soldiers feel more important than they really are. He also uses inclusive language, by when he says “dear friends”, he makes it seem like he’s making them feel included and wanted, this would make them want to do this. Most of these soldiers were peasants, and would be using the weapons of their trade (such as pitch forks, axes, hammers etc). He persuades them that they can do this, truly when he says “I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips”. He persuades them because his army would be feeling uneasy and needed their morale lifting. Henry talks in the formal language because of the way he talks in a smart posh tone, a kind of language that most of us would not understand today, for example “…as fearfully as a galled rock” Henry talks in a formal language because he is a high status person, therefore a formal language is what suits his status.

I know that Henry V is very excited and really enjoys War. I know this because he was the one who sends them out to War in the first place. In those days the monarch was the one who decided about when or where they went to War. In those days the kings were actually at the front line leading the army out onto the battlefield. Nowadays government people sit in offices and decide War like they do on videogames.

I know that Henry V enjoys War from when he says “the games afoot”; this shows that he thinks of War as a game and something that is ought to be enjoyed. So he makes the other soldiers enjoy it as well. So the result of this would be that Henry V has total responsibility over what happens. As a matter of fact Henrys army won the battle so that is a coincidence. Shakespeare uses blank verse in his poems; blank verse means the organisation of the poems, it also is used for upper class characters, like Henry V was. So it is a way of identifying main characters in Shakespeares plays. An example of this is “once more unto the breach once more”. This contains something blank verse always contains such as iambic pentameter, which means the description of blank verse.

The second poem I read was different to Henry V, it was a poem called Boots. This poem was written by a poet called Rudyard Kipling. It was written 1889-1902, it wasn’t written at the same time as Henry V, but it was written around the same time length of a War known as the Boer War, this was a War in South Africa (which at that time was known as Rhodesia) with the Dutch settlers (Boers) versus the British and Commonwealth soldiers.

The soldiers in the Boer War had lots more weapons than the weapons in the Battle of Agincourt (Agincourt). The people in the Boer War used rifles and guns, whereas the weaponry in Agincourt was hand to hand combat, you had to see the soldiers to kill them. In this War you could shoot from a far range, so the chance of killing somebody is more predictable. In this poem Boots, the person is talking to us, so this unknown speaker is speaking in the 3rd person. The soldier in this poem is a foot soldier because he is in the infantry columns, which means that he has to march to wherever his battle zone was. The speaker in this poem has a very different attitude to Henry V.

To find out what rank he is, we know that he is in the infantry columns so that tells us that he is a foot soldier (as mentioned). So he is at the bottom of the pile, where as Henry V is at the top and calls the shots. Evidently he has been marching a long time, particularly when he says “seven-six-eleven-five-nine-an-twenty-mile-today”. This proves that he has been marching a long time. He adds them up because he has nothing else better to do.

I learn from reading this poem Boots it is written in an informal language, especially when he says “sloggin” and “taint”. This makes him a low status person, which makes him different to Henry V; he enjoyed War and looked at it as a game and a way to prove you as a man. However the speaker in Boots feels the complete opposite, the speaker doesn’t see War as a game; he sees it as a job that he has to do and-unlike Henry- wants to get it over and done with rather than have fun with it. The speaker wants to go home, significantly when he says “there’s no discharge in the War”. The language that he uses tells us that he is a working class person and he talks the same as somebody in the streets, so it makes the person more interesting because it is the kind of language that we are familiar with. This is different to Henry V because he is a high status person and speaks in a language that we do not understand. “Unto the breach, once more”, I personally wouldn’t understand this. On the other hand the speaker in Boots says things like “sloggin’ over Africa”. This I can understand what it means- “sloggin’” is another word for marching. Thus is something that we understand.

This poem tells me that this speaker and his fellow soldiers are marching to their battle zones, particularly when it says “we’re foot-slog-slog-slog-sloggin’ over Africa”. From this line we can tell that he is marching over Africa, slogging suggests that he has been doing it for a long time and it is something that he doesn’t want to do.

From what I inferred, I learn that there is a lot of repetition and a rhythm in this poem, indeed a bit too much repetition as it states in every line “Boots-Boots-Boots-Boots-movin’ up an’ down again” the rhythm is in the style of marching, which is appropriate for this theme-which is travelling to War. This would make the poem fore effective because it tells you a little bit more about the speaker and what he is doing. It also makes the poem sound like a song, like it can be performed, so a rhythm adds a bit of an extra picture to the poem.  We can infer that he is feeling pretty fed up, like it is driving him mad, examples are such as “Boots… moving up and down again…” and “men go mad with watching ‘em”. Whereas Henry V was like a small child in a fairground; he was telling them to go for it, never to be afraid and to be part of it. However this speaker seems to want to go home, and is annoyed that he cannot do that. On the other hand Henry V wanted to go to War and was annoyed of how his fellow soldiers were feeling so scared, so reluctant.

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Apart from the fact that this speaker is fed up of it, he doesn’t seem to have much power. So this has made him mad, it has made him think about the back of the boots belonging to the soldier in front of him. With Henry V, he has lots of power, and it has made him think nicely of War. By the way the poem is structured, there is no rhyme as far as I can see, nor was there much in Henry V.

By every verse in Boots there is the same line “there’s no discharge in ...

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