These two opposite quotes depict the two very different views on war. Many think of it as a glorious way to die. To die for ones country is supposedly heroic. Many of the people who say this however, have never actually experienced war, and have a very vague outlook on how it really is. The two poems to be discussed are very different, and each takes a strong opinion on what war is like.
The first, and earlier poem: The charge of the light brigade, by Lord Alfred Tennyson, talks more about the glory of war. It looks at war as a sort of game; like toy soldiers, perhaps. Tennyson based this famous poem on the Battle of the Balaklava, fought on October 25, 1854, during the Crimean War, in which a small force of British cavalry made a daring but dangerous assault against a Russian artillery line, due to a misunderstood order.
The British cavalry commander wanted to retake some guns held by the Russians, instead he told his men to charge the main Russian opposition. After the attack, only 195 of the 673 men in the Light Brigade returned. This poem was one of the most popular poems of the Victorian period. One critic said: The poem has become almost too popular for discussion; it is the one stirring, galloping piece of energy which all shades of mind and sympathy seem to admire alike.
The second poem dates back to the First World War. Dulce et Decorem est, written by Wilfred Owen. This anti-war poem, looks more into the real grittiness of war and individuals that struggled to survive.
The Charge of the Light Brigade
This poem written in the dactylic meter uses a lot of good language techniques, such as personification and repetition. The use of metaphors also helps to get his opinion across. It is written in the dactylic meter to emphasise the galloping of the horses, this tends to make the poem a lot more comprehensible.
The first line of the poem is a repetition of half a league which in distance terms, about one and a half miles. The total distance to travel was about three miles, so repeating it makes the distance correct. The second line then repeats it again; this makes the whole scene seem very dramatic. It also emphasises the large distance in which they have had to travel.
The next two lines talk about how they are just riding only to be met by Death. Death being personified here because of the capital letter. It is as if A giant being is waiting to kill them. That massive being maybe being the Russian artillery.
The next two lines are direct speech of the commander giving an order. This is very effective as it really creates a picture in ones mind of what is actually going on. It tends to give you a real perspective of how the commander can tell a whole brigade of men to do something.
The last two lines of the first verse are a repetition of the third and fourth lines. This really creates a feeling of inevitability of what is waiting in the valley of death.
The next verse is all about how men in war are just used as playthings and as if owned by the commander all they are allowed to do is take orders and not to agree or disagree. The first line is written in direct speech. This once again gives a feeling of the real thing. The first line also gives an effective introduction to the second verse, encouraging the men to go forward.
The next line comprises of a rhetorical question that tells us how the soldiers weren t aware of what they were about to do in terms of losing their life.
The third and fourth line follows the rhetorical question up by saying that this was because they didn t know that someone had made a mistake. In the whole poem this is the only reference to someone making a mistake and acknowledging how pointless and stupid war really is. The rest of the poem talks about how courageous it is to obediently carry out acts of virtually self-sacrifice.
The next three lines are very well put together. The rhyming increases the effectiveness of the message that the men had no authority to say anything about the situation even if they knew that they were going to die. Their s but to do and die gives the impression that their whole meaning of life is just to comply with orders, and that it is their duty to die for their country. The repetition of the first three words of each line also makes the poem more fluent and keeps the flow and rhythm going.
The last two lines of the verse are the repeating of the last lines of the first verse, once again emphasising how death awaits them. Rode the six hundred also gives you the feeling of how many men there actually were who were awaiting their death.
The third verse is telling us about what happened when the Russian artillery saw the British cavalry and how they reacted.
The first three lines give the placement of the cannons, one line after the other using repetition giving the feeling of being enclosed and surrounded. It also emphasises how they would have got a chlostrophobic feeling because there was no way out.
The next line consists of two metaphors, which explain how the canon balls were fired and how they tended to move around. The volley d is how the canon balls used to bounce along the ground. (During the Crimean war exploding cannon balls had not been invented. The balls just bounced along the ground at a furious rate and hit the advancing cavalry). Thunder d: this is the loud sound that the canon would make as the iron balls were fired. The reference to extremely rough weather gives a cold and eerie feel to the Russian artillery firing at them.
The next line also gives a reference to bad weather. It is saying that the shots and the shells of the artillery are almost hitting them like a storm would. It is maybe suggesting that the cannon balls are like rain which is hitting everything.
The next two lines are giving information about the position of the cavalry as they neared towards the Russian line. First it says the jaws of Death and then the mouth. This once again implying that as they got closer towards this being called Death they were being swallowed up it. This being that the artillery were surrounding them and drawing them in only to be killed. It is also repetition of the previous verses last lines, but this time they are not only in the valley of Death but have actually reached it and have been taken in by it.
The last line again, is repetition emphasising the vast number of men that were in the Brigade.
The fourth verse is talking about the men mid-fight. The first line talks about how the men swiped with their swords. The word flashed gives a more emphatic feel. The second line repeats the flashed which makes it seem more dramatic.
The third line telling us how they killed the gunners insitu. The fourth line tells us the impossible task that they have been given, charging an army really makes you feel that there are just too many men to fight.
The next line is very effective in the way that it sets the scene, by telling you of the onlookers. In that era people used to actually watch the wars as if they were just a play. This once again shows how the men were just used as toys and not seen as actual people who were actually being killed.
The next two rhyming lines tell us how through the smoke some of them managed to brake through the line of artillery of the Russians.
The consecutive three lines once again tell us about how the Russians fell to the British. The words shattered and sundered really stress how they fell hard to the ground.
The next two lines would again appear to be the same repetition as in previous verses but it isn t. It tells us they then rode back. However not the original six hundred. This makes you stop and think about all the men, which have been killed. It is very effective because the poem is telling you how successful the British have been, but then tells you that a lot of men have died.
Verse five is the basically the same as verse three, but is telling us that they are not going in but are coming back out of Death. The cannons are not in front of them but behind them. The poem is no longer talking about how they boldly rode into Death, but is now talking about how they are slowly being picked of a being killed. This is shown in line six, where it says how the horse and hero fell. This once again tells us about what view the poet has on war. He is telling us that the men who have come out and survived are heroes, but does not mention from then on about all the men ho have given their lives.
Verse six sums up how brave and bold the men were. The first line is a rhetorical question, and says that their glory will never fade.
The poem once again says about how the world wondered about how ludicrous it was to have made an attempt to infiltrate the Russians. The last line once again ends with six hundred, but his time they are the noble six hundred. All of the men that died are seen to have died for their country, and are seen to have died in the most glorious way possible.
Dulce et Decorem est
This poem written in the iambic pentameter, utilising diction and vivid figurative language emphasises Owen s opinion that war is terrible and devastating.
The title which means It is a fine thing to die for ones country, which is later found out to be the phrase which the poem envies.
The first paragraph talks about how the soldiers, coming from battle were going home. The first line using a metaphor says how the soldiers were bowed down, and were walking as if they were tramps. This is because the soldiers were dirty and their clothes were worn and ripped just like a beggars’.
The second line begins with alliteration; the phrase knock-kneed refers to what the soldiers have been reduced to. It then goes on to say they were coughing like hags. This implying that the soldiers had, in a way, been emasculated during battle and had been reduced to what seemed like old women that have no strength.
It then proceeds to say that the men were swearing as they walked through the sludge. Using an onomatopoeic word in this situation proves to be very effective, as the reader can then, really paint a picture of what is going on in their mind and relate to the poem.
The next paragraph starts off talking about the flares that were being launched in the background behind the soldiers. The poem describes the flares as being ‘haunting’. This was probably due to the flares illuminating the dark skies; just like a ghost would. When flares are launched they usually tend to make some form of whistling or howling sound, this may have sounded like the supposed howling of a ghost. Later in the poem, it says that the men were marching asleep. The ‘haunting’ of the flares could be linked to a nightmare they may have been having whilst asleep.
The second line of the paragraph emphasises how the men were tired, and because of this, where they were going seemed like a long way off. The words ‘trudge’ and ‘distant rest’ makes you feel as if the men will never get to where they want to go, and that it is just one endless struggle.
The first part of the third line of this paragraph can be construed in two ways. It can be taken literally, as if the men were actually really asleep, and had no clue as to what was going on around them and were just sleepwalking. Or just as a metaphor, and that the men just seemed as if they were asleep because of their posture and the way in which they were marching.
The next part then says that ‘many had lost their boots, but limped on, blood-shod. This implying that the only thing that some of the soldiers had on their feet was blood. The poem then goes on to describe the men as lame, as if stripped from their once youthful vitality. It then says how they were all blind. This could have been for a number of reasons. Firstly the smoke from guns and canons, also just the masses of corpses and other things making them blind of what is really going on. Another way of taking it is because they were so tired they couldn’t see properly because they were falling asleep. It can also be said that they were blind because they were blind of the fact of what was really going on around them because of the condition.
The fifth line in this paragraph says that they were drunk with fatigue. This is because the soldiers looked in a state of drunkenness, however they were not like this because of any alcohol consumption but because of how tired and worn out they were. Another way of interpreting it, is that they were drunk of fatigue.
It then goes on to talk about another one of a humans senses, this time the ears, saying that they were deaf even to the sounds of gas shells dropping behind them, because of their condition. This breakdown of each part of the soldiers really gives you a feeling of how the soldiers’ whole bodies were being fatigued.
The next paragraph then takes a dramatic change of pace as a gas shell has been dropped on them, and the soldiers begin to panic and fumble around trying to fit their gas masks and helmets. The use of exclamation marks emphasises the panic. Using the word ecstasy with fumbling is very effective because usually you would associate the word ecstasy with something good. However in this situation it is being used negatively to create a scene that is very dramatic.
The rest of the paragraph talks about how a man had failed to act promptly and was calling for help. It says that he was flound’ring like a man in fire or lime. This creates a vivid picture in the mind of how the soldier is struggling to stay alive, like fire or acid is burning him.
The last two lines of the paragraph are about how the soldier was slowly dying. It refers to the green gas as ‘misty panes in thick green light’, doing this makes the whole thing more understandable.
The last line of the paragraph begins with the use of a simile. He is seeing the man dying as if he was drowning in a green sea. Using green sea here is very effective because of he green mist, it thence enables the author to talk about how the man looked as though he was drowning.
The next two lines are then isolated in a paragraph of their own. This is very cleverly done as it coincides with the fact that the man who dying is also isolated and no one can save him. The first part of the two lines starts off with him referring to his dreams, as if this was one of his nightmares, which a helpless soldier was looking to him for help but he couldn’t. It then proceeds to use the words guttering, choking, drowning. These words not only show how the man is suffering but that he is in terrible pain, which no one should have to endure. The repetition of the word drowning helps the reader to understand the suffering.
The last paragraph of the poem is trying to make the reader feel guilty for not experiencing something like this. It starts by saying that if you could just experience this in a dream you wouldn’t say that war is a fine thing, let alone experiencing it for real.
The first line is, in way, somewhat sarcastic; the key words being smothering dream, and you too. The poet has used the words in such a way that they are making the reader feel as if they will never experience something as bad as that what the soldiers have.
The second line tells us how they just flung him into the wagon. Again this is another way of making the reader realise what they were going through. It says that we ‘flung’ him in the wagon. This word is used very cleverly as it gives the feeling that it had become just another normality for them, seeing another man die. There was also a sense of urgency and all they had time to do was o fling him and not contemplate about mourning him.
The third and fourth lines then compare the victim to the devil, seeming corrupted and baneful. It says that his eyes, which have rolled back and his drooped face, are like a devil’s sick of sin. This really gives you the impression of what the soldier looked like at that moment.
The poem then proceeds to use many adjectives to describe the soldier to make the reader feel guiltier for not experiencing this event. The line where the author describes how the blood is coming gargling from the soldier s froth-corrupted lungs depicts a sort of mini agony of trying to stay alive, which can resemble all of the soldiers trying to do the same.
The seventh and eighth lines describe the effects of the gas on the soldiers. It describes the scene using similes, such as obscene as cancer. This is cleverly done as it leaves the readers open to their own imagination, because cancer can be seen in many differentiating aspects.
The poem then ends by saying that if you had seen all what the poet has just described then you would not tell the younger generation a lie about it being a fine thing to die for ones country. This is a brilliant way to end the poem as it leaves the reader with something to think about after the poem.