Comparison of war poems
In this essay I will be discussing two different war poems, all set and written during the Boer War. I will write about how they portray to us the pity of war and the messages that are within the poems and the way the poets have used their language whilst writing the poems. The two poems that I will be discussing are A Wife in London by Thomas Hardy and War by Edgar Wallace. However, we have also studied Dirge of the Dead Sisters by Rudyard Kipling and The Hyaenas by Rudyard Kipling.
Each poem is unique within its own context. A Wife in London describes the life of women in England during the Boer War in an implicit way. It shows the nervousness that was felt by the women who were eagerly waiting to hear news of their husbands. In this poem Thomas Hardy shows an ironic and grim joke played on people by Fate. It also shows the suffering of those during the war time, although they were thousands of miles away from the fighting itself. The poet of War, Edgar Wallace was an orderly when the war began.
His poem is set in a field hospital where a doctor and his orderly are doing their utmost best to treat casualties of the war. The poem describes the gruesome fate met by soldiers fighting on the front line and it also describes the unsightly scenes that were experienced by those who were helping the injured. The poem is particularly about an injured man who has been brought in with a deadly wound, a ricochet, that can not be treated. Rudyard Kipling who wrote both Dirge of the Dead Sisters and The Hyaenas was a very famous poet and novelist of his time and pretty much today also.
In Dirge of the Dead Sisters Kipling writes about the courage and endurance of the women that volunteered to help in the war. He praises their actions and shows them as caring nurses who were prepared to take on any task without giving a care for their own selves. In The Hyaenas Kipling writes about the unfortunate fate of the soldiers that are dead and buried. He talks about the scavenging Hyaenas that would come and uproot the bodies of these helpless humans and eat them lavishly, thriving on the dead meat. He does not blame them for doing this but rather it is their instincts and habit.
Instead he blames the people for defiling the dead man’s name and not the hyenas, who only seek to satiate their hunger and not disgrace anybody. All poems tell us about the war behind the scenes. They describe to us the things that are not told to those who are living at home. They tell us the things are kept hidden and ‘censored’ from the general public. They tell us emotional and dramatic experiences to the more horrific and gruesome experienced and seen only by those who were on the battlefield or who had contact with those in the war.
I will now give a detailed analysis of each poem together with evidence, using quotations from the poems. A Wife in London explores the hardship and suffering felt by those that were thousands of miles away from the fighting. It is set during the winter months, “sits in the tawny vapour”, a time when people are feeling gloomy and sad. There is a lot of strong imagery used within the poem to reflect the woman’s feelings and emotions. The metaphor of the fog shows that the woman is in complete darkness, both literally and in the sense that she is deeply saddened and grieved.
This use of scenery to reflect a person’s mood is called pathetic fallacy. Just as fog slowly fades away, it is as though this woman’s fears and sadness to will fade away. However, the woman’s hopes are dashed when the fog gets thicker in the next few lines. “Like a waning taper The street lamp glimmers cold. ” The waning street lamp shows that there is no chance of the fog clearing as the light slowly fades from sight because of the thickening fog. Similarly, the woman’s thoughts and hopes are getting more and more pessimistic until they too will become cold with sadness and grief.
But the fact that the street lamp is glimmering, it shows there is still hope for the woman. The next verse, “A messenger’s knock cracks smartly, Flashed news is in her hand Of meaning it dazes to understand Though shaped so shortly: He-has fallen-in the far South Land … ” The instantaneous crack of the messenger destroys all her thoughts. Her mind is frozen and she fails to think properly. The little happiness that was inside her has been destroyed by a single knock. It is as though she knows for definite that it is the telegram boy’s knock and no one else’s.
This shows that the woman was slightly pessimistic and did not believe entirely that her husband would return. At first she is so shocked that she fails to understand what the letter says, but after coming back to her senses she reads the dreaded news of her husband’s death. The second part of the poem is the where Hardy uses his irony. The most ironic thing about the second part is that the woman receives a page full letter from her husband of his hoped return, “Page-full of his hoped return”. Another ironic thing about the second part is that “the fog hangs thicker”, although the woman is receiving good news.
The fog hanging thicker again reflects the feelings felt by the woman of her having lost hope completely and there not being a way back for her to see her husband. More irony is shown when Hardy writes, “Fresh – firm – penned in the highest feather”. This is ironic because of the fact that it does not matter as to whether the letter was written in highest feather or not because the man is dead, “his hand who the worm now knows”. This adds to the irony also. The same hand that had written using the highest feather is now worth nothing and a mere corpse for the worms to feed off.
As winter shows dullness and gloominess, its opposite, summer, seems to have a more cheery mood to it. “And of home-planned jaunts by brake and burn In the summer weather, And of new love that they would learn. ” This shows that the summertime was a time for the husband and wife to go out with each other and make ‘new love’ as the poem suggests. This could either mean that the couple had a little fallout between them and would settle it by making new love or it could mean that they wanted to spark off their married life once again, as soon as the war was over.
The idea of summer weather and love together has also been mentioned in Edith Nesbit’s In Hospital. “Beneath green leaves bright-fluttered by the wing Of fleeting, beautiful, immortal Spring, I should have said, ‘I love you,’ and your eyes Have said, ‘I, too … ‘ the gods saw otherwise. ” The poem, A Wife in London has been set out in two parts, each part containing two stanzas. The first is the day that she receives the bad news and the second part is the day that she receives her husband’s letter. Each stanza contains five lines with an ABBAB rhyme scheme. The poet uses certain words to catch the reader’s attention.
In this particular poem the first line of the second stanza reads, “A messenger’s knock cracks smartly”. The word ‘cracks’ has been used to catch the reader’s attention and also to break the silence of the poem that was present until that moment. The poet wanted to make the reader feel that sudden reaction and so uses onomatopoeia to grab the attention. I think the main theme and purpose of this poem is to show how people who are many miles away from the war suffer. It shows the anxiety and restlessness that is felt by family members eagerly waiting to hear news of their loved ones.
It is a very emotional poem but also shows the way in which Fate plays with its victims. It first shows the woman receiving the bad news, but what is worse is the fact that she is once again reminded of her husband through his letter arriving the next day. I think the poem is an excellent way of portraying the lives of people who are at home. It shows that there are many people that suffer during war times. People think the soldiers are the only victims but the real and biggest victims are those who are living restlessly, desperately waiting to hear of their loved ones.
I agree with the ideas of the poet and fell that this poem should be read by those who feel that war is something far away from them when really there are many in their own cities that are fighting against sadness and grief over the loss of dear ones and loved ones or those who are living nervously and at the ‘edge of their seats’. War explores the gruesomeness of war and the terrifying torments faced by those who are fighting or helping on the front line. The poem is set in an emergency field hospital near the front line. A battle is going on in the distance.
A badly wounded man with a massive injury caused by a ricochet is brought in for the doctor to treat. The poem is set into three parts. The first part is where the injured man is brought into the tent. The second part is where the patient is being treated and the third part is when the doctor is unable to keep him alive and the soldier becomes another casualty of war. We can tell that the tent is very close to the fighting because the first line reads, “A tent that is pitched at the base”. The ‘Case’ is brought in on a stretcher from a wagon.
We can tell that the soldier is in a great deal of pain from the line that reads, “The Infantry’s bearing the brunt”. It is again shown that the tent is pitched very close to the front line of fighting and that there are many wounded and injured inside the tent. “A mutter of guns at the front: A whimper of sobs at the rear” The last few lines of the stanza are those of the doctor. These lines are the ones that determine what has happened in the whole stanza. They sum up all the action through the eyes of the field doctor. “And it’s War! Orderly, hold the light.
You can lay him on the table: so. Easily – gently! Thanks – you may go. ‘ And it’s War! but the part that is not for show. ” From these lines we can see that there is an operating table in the tent. We can also see that the poem has been written to describe those things that are kept disclosed to the people at home. All the gruesomeness of war is really what comes through the field hospital. All the unsightly wounds and injuries are the things that are never shown or they are the things that are not usually associated with war fully.
This stanza shows that the doctors that go to help in the war had to be strong hearted and that the job was not for those who were very emotional. It describes the ugliness of war without even mentioning the injury or telling what has happened to the soldier. The second stanza starts off by describing the tent in brief, “A tent with a table athwart”. It also mentions the simplicity of the field hospital and the basic necessities that were provided to help revive the wounded, “A waterproof cover – and nought”. The next line is where mention is first made of the soldier’s injury, “limp, mangled work of a gun”.
The poem then goes to describing the table. “A bottle that’s stuck by the pole, A guttering dip in its neck; The flickering light of a soul” The table, as it is described in the poem, has a candle on one of its poles. However, mention of an actual candle is not made but it is described as the “flickering light of a soul”. It is shown as if the life of the man depends on this candle. If the candle went out then that would mean the death of the man. The word “flickering” shows that the man has a half chance of surviving. It is similar to the glimmering of the street lamp in Hardy’s A Wife in London.
This line of the poem may be referring to the man directly and has no relation whatsoever with the candle. But in any case, the main object and purpose of the poem is to show the fine chances of survival that this soldier has of surviving. The next line of the poem, “the wondering eyes of The Wreck”, does not address the injured man by any title but is rather referred to as a “Wreck” to show the frail condition that he is in and to show the worthlessness and the lifelessness of the man. It also shows that the man has become from a Case, at the beginning of the poem, to a Wreck in the middle of the poem.
It shows how just one injury could change the physical state of a man from able to disable in no time. The last few lines of the poem are those of the doctor and they describe what is happening with the injured soldier. “And it’s War! ‘Orderly, hold his hand. I’m not going to hurt you, so don’t be afraid. A ricochet! God! What a mess it has made! ‘ And it’s War! and a very unhealthy trade. ” These lines show that the doctor is trying to help the injured man, but when he realises that the wound is one he cannot heal he is absolutely horrified at the sight of it.
It also shows that the doctor is trying to remain as calm as possible and he is trying to keep the patient in that same state. The last line again shows the gruesomeness and vanity of war. It shows how war is absolutely useless and that there are other ways in which problems can be resolved. It shows that war is an “unhealthy trade” between countries and a very cunning and sly one. It portrays war as a business matter between countries and shows how it is a dangerous game being played between those who are part of it.
I think this phrase portrays the act of war in a very explicit way and it just goes to show that war is waged solely for world domination and the conquering of countries through a trade that involves killing and murder. The last stanza of the poem describes the death of the soldier and the sympathy that the doctor feels for the soldier’s family. The second line shows that the soldier is going through the different stages of death, “A sigh as the chloroform drips”. This line shows that the wound which at first was seen as a mere injury had turned into a deadly wound.
The next few lines of the poem show that the soldier is now slowly dying. “… A cut, and the face has turned grey… ” This shows that the soldier is dead and there are no chances of his survival. The little flickering of life that was left has now gone. The last few lines of the stanza show the sympathy that is felt by the doctor for the soldier’s family. “And it’s War! ‘Orderly, take It out. It’s hard for his child, and it’s rough on his wife. There might have been – sooner – a chance for his life But it’s War! And – Orderly, clean this knife'”
The first line shows the worthlessness of the man by addressing him as “It”. It shows how war can devalue and destroy the respect that has been reserved for man. It shows how war can change the life of any human being. It also shows how once the doctor was willing to heal the wound but when the man has died the doctor is now telling his orderly to get rid of the body. The rest of the stanza shows how the doctor sympathises for the man’s family. It also shows the value of time by saying that if the man had come sooner there might have been a “chance for his life”.
The last line shows that the doctor must be really busy with his work that he doesn’t have time to sympathise for too long, as he abruptly tells his orderly to clean the surgical knife. The poem is set into three stanzas. Each stanza has twelve lines. The rhyme scheme for the stanzas is ABABCDCDEFFF. The rhyme scheme has been added for extra effect to the poem and more emotion to the poem. I think the last three lines of the poem have the same rhyme scheme because they are the spoken words of the doctor and also because they contain deep messages within them.
The poet has used repetition within the poem. In every stanza he has the word “War”. I think he has done this so that his object and purpose for writing the poem can get across to the reader. The poem shows how slight injuries can become deathly and deadly. It shows the conditions in which the soldiers were treated or many of the times, died. The poem keeps the man unnamed to show that this kind of thing could happen to anybody and at any time. It also explores the terrifying scenes that the doctors and orderlies saw while trying to treat the injured that it became almost impossible to treat them.
I think the poem has been written in praise and sympathy for those who were either fighting or helping on the front line. I think it is an excellent way of describing those things that are not revealed to the public. It is kept hidden from the people and probably will be kept hidden until someone discloses the information. I think he poet has done an excellent job by describing these things in a poem. He has not broken the headlines, but rather he may have broken a few hearts of those who suffered during the war, or were heavily involved in the war.