Explore the theme of war in these three post 1914 poems
They were all portraying what life was like for those fighting in the 1st world war. War was not fought in the same way after 1914, weapons such as poisonous gas were used for the 1st time and the soldiers were not ready for it. Many soldiers became ‘shell shocked’ which meant they were over exposed to the noise of the explosions in the trenches and often became hysteric as a result of their condition. Each of he poets are men who actually fought in the war so they all share their own perspective on the situation.
The poems will also deal with the issue of heroism something which was installed before the soldiers entered battle. If you died a coward it was very disrespectful. Pride was everything to good soldier or so army publicity said. As in the English army poster of a giant ape towering over London holding a women. The Hero is a contradictory title for the 1st poem as it is about a coward. This character shamed his nation but when the officer was sent to report the death to his mother he tells a little white lie. He conceals the truth by telling some ‘gallant lies’ to ease her pain a little.
The poets perspective is one of disgust he calls Jack ‘Cold footed’ To speak of someone like that when they have just been killed is very disrespectful. For he must have been terrified of what was about to happen. The way he is described as an animal is not much better either. It isn’t fair to say these things about someone that died while serving their country. The mother at home waiting for new of her son is quite saddening but I don’t think she would feel any different about her son if she knew he died a coward, he is still her son.
The quote ‘We mothers are so proud of our dead solders’ kind of shows that she has now got something to brag about but would she still be as proud if she knew the way he died. This poem has a structure of six lines in each stanza and uses rhyming couplets all the way through. This keeps a steady pace throughout the poem and keeps you more interested in what will happen next, it makes you want to read on. The writer wanted to make an impression. Maybe it was to show the way war is, for it is organised and repetitive till the end.
The image of war represented is that it is scary. It is a negative view on war. The line ‘he died, blown to small bits’ shows a grim reality of war and the effect it has on the reader is a sense of disgust. The deserter is also a poem about a man who is trying to escape doing his duty but is shot while trying to go AWOL. The poem starts ‘There was a man,- don’t mind his name’ suggests that he wasn’t an Important person. The narrator might of left it out for he didn’t think this man deserved a title for something he has done.
The narrator however later on shows sympathy for the mans situation ‘Who can judge him, you or I? ‘. The narrator is kind of saying if you were in that situation would you not do the same. The poet does mention God in this poem, the narrator makes the observation ‘ God makes a man of flesh and blood who yearns to live not to die’. This shows that God wanted man to live not to kill one another. The poet uses different techniques throughout this poem. He mostly uses similes like ‘ as any frightened child’ ‘I’ve seen a hare with eyes as wild’.
He as uses repetition ‘An English bullet to his heart! ‘ The mother in this poem sees her son as a hero that died fighting but she doesn’t know that her son was shot trying to run from battle. The line ‘O well for all she does not know he lies in a deserters grave’ shows no sympathy for either the mother of person that has been shot. The Target is a poem written in first person by a soldier that is actually fighting. The narrative follows him as he asks himself what he shot a man in cold blood and while he justifies his actions to himself and God.
The poem starts with the lines ‘ I shot him, and it had to be one of us ‘Twas him or me’. This is an accrete depiction of war for you have to kill or be killed . The word you is used, this puts the reader into the poem because they are directed addressed by the poet. This mans mother seems to be the most important person in his life which may suggest he is young and innocent. In the line ‘Perhaps it might be best to die and set her fears to rest’. To me this says that he would die just so his mother does not need to worry. The quote ‘Perhaps he was the only son…
Yet God keeps still, and does not say a word of guidance any way,’ this show he is not sure of what he has done and is confused about there being no help from God. Mothers are mention in each of these poems and are all protected from what has really happened. Both mothers in ‘The Hero’ and ‘The Deserter’ are proud of their sons but do not know they died cowards. All the writers seem to focus on what effects war leaves behind. Both ‘The Hero’ and ‘The Deserter’ focus on cowards. The writers seem to have a different opinion on the matter, they seem to have sympathy for those that would of happily left them to die.
I can understand why they might want to run away through fear, confusion of the new technologies etc. Each poem gives a harsh depiction of war and gives you a slight reality of it. ‘An English bullet through his heart’ gives you a vivid image of what has just happened. I think the line in ‘The Hero’ gives you the most vivid image ‘he died, blown to small bits’ My favourite poem was the target for it is written in a first person perspective. All these poems give the dim reality of war and show you its more then just a bunch of people fighting.