Referring to First World War Poetry, Explain Who was the real enemy
In every single war, we know that there are enemies, enemies so we have people to blame. It is obvious that we should blame the enemies. Who would not? So why, in the First World War poetry, were the Germans not blamed as much as they should have been? Poems such as “Dulce et decorum est”, “Does it matter?” and “Base details” have no mention of the Germans but surprisingly, seem to be blaming their family, their supporters, the encouragers and also their own officers. These are the people worrying about their husbands, brothers and fathers, the people who are waiting to know whether they have lost a family member, the people who are proud of their men or otherwise ashamed, the people who use the word “coward” as a weapon to force their men to fight. These are the guilty people.
The poem Dulce et decorum est was written by Wilfred Owen, Who clearly aimed it at the encouragers. It seems that Wilfred Owen was angry at the people who had encouraged all the soldiers to fight. He wrote the poem with strong words and images to express all his feelings towards people. The rhythm and rhyme in the poem Makes the poem sound very passionate.
The first line of this poem says:
“Bent double like old beggars under sacks”.
The heavy use of the letter “B”, gives me the impression that the poem will end in a disaster and very tragically. Throughout the poem, Willfred Owen uses the same scheme, trying to make the poem sound very sad and tragic.
Wilfred Owen describes what was happening on the night of which he is writing about and again he does very well making it sound very catastrophic.
“Bent double like old beggars under sacks
Knock-kneed, coughing like old hags we cursed through sludge,
Till the haunting flares we turned our backs,
And toward our distant rest begun to trudge”.
He begins with the body positions of the half dead soldiers and this is probably because he wants the people to know that because of them these soldiers were in this way. In the middle of the first stanza, where it says:
“And toward our distant rest begun trudge”.
You could almost feel the relief that the soldiers would have felt but also can feel a hint of disappointment knowing they may not make it because the poem is nowhere near to the ending.
The next stanza is the most upsetting one because it is about gas. Everyone back at home must have known about what gas does to your body. The stanza starts off with someone shouting out “Gas!” You could feel how worried these soldiers were, knowing that they might die. Unfortunately, there was a soldier who died because of the gas attack. Wilfred Owen describes nearly every action that was made by the gas victim and it sounds absolutely horrific.
“But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And floundering like a man in fire or lime. –
Dim through the misty panes and thick greed light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning”
At this point, the people back at home or the officers may think that this gas victim could be their loved one and that they put him through this.
In the next stanza Wilfred says:
“In all my dreams before my helpless
Sight he plunges at me, guttering, choking, drawing.”
This makes me feel sorry for Wilfred Owen because he witnessed this and could not do anything about it. The people, who encouraged the soldiers, know that this soldier’s death could have been prevented if they did not persuade the soldiers to go to war. The description of the soldiers suffering would probably add to their feeling of guilt.
“But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And floundering like a man in fire or lime”.
Towards the end of the poem, Wilfred Owen reveals the fact that this poem was dedicated to the people who had encouraged him and other soldiers. Wilfred Owen is actually speaking to the people in the poem. He is very sarcastic when he says,
“My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory”.
He uses sarcasm towards the people to make them feel the anger that he has towards them. He points out that it was them who made soldiers go to war. Wilfred Owens tells them not to make youths go through what they did because they are very young and innocent. From Wilfred Owen’s view, the real enemies are those who had pushed all the soldiers to fight.
Base details is a poem about a soldier talking about the luxurious life that the officers had while the soldiers were suffering and dying. Sassoon makes their life style sound as if it is as good as heaven compared to the life of the soldiers during the war. This poem is also very passionate and you could feel the hatred that the poet had towards the Majors. Sassoon looks at the officers’ point of view and also speaks as if he was an officer.
“And speed glum heroes up the line to death”.
Sassoon is trying to give us the impression that the Majors knew that all the soldiers on the front line are going to die and knowing this, the officers stayed well away from the front line so that they are safe from dying.
In the fifth line it says:
“Guzzling and gulping in the best hotel”.
This line sounds as if the officers are very joyous and merry as if the war is not existing. The alliteration makes me feel disgusted that they are enjoying themselves. Sassoon had chosen very unpleasant words which makes the officers sound like criminals. The words that were put in are very good because I can picture what is happening very clearly. Those officers in the hotel will remember that they were having a very good time while soldiers were dying in the war.
In the next stanza when it says “Reading the Role of Honour”, It sounds as if all officers have to say this like it was on a script. The officers must have a Role of Honour to show how sympathetic they are towards the dad soldiers.
Sassoon’s fantasy conversation Sounds like snobby officers trying to show that they are aware of all the tragic things that were happening in the war. They act as if they are very sorry for all the deaths and show that they are sympathetic towards dead soldiers when really they do not care much as long as they are safe.
In the last two lines Sassoon suggests that the officers are almost certain that all the soldiers will die once the war is over and without a single feeling of guilt, the officers will go back home and die peacefully.
Instead of taking their roles in the war, the officers keep their nose well out of the danger and let many die. In this case, the real enemies to Sassoon are the officers who had relaxed the whole time during the World War.
Does it matter is another poem that Sassoon had written Which is a sarcastic poem like Base details. Sassoon uses a lot of sarcasm in his poetry to express his anger towards his enemies.
“Does it matter? – losing your legs?”
These words are put in a way that makes this line sound as if it is not such a big loss. It sounds so plain and boring although it is a big loss, which is priceless. In the next line Sassoon says,
“For people will always be kind”
It is true that when we see a disabled person, we tend to be much kinder to them than we are to an average person. This poem is very similar to one of Wilfred Owen’s poems, “Disabled”. You can tell that everyone is afraid of the boy because of the loss of both his arms and legs, and that they are showing pity on him.
“And take whatever pity they may dole”
“And you need not show that you mind
When others come in after hunting
To gobble their muffins and eggs”
You would feel sorry for yourself seeing people do things that you were able to do once. In this poem, other people have just come from hunting and then they started eating. The disabled person must be feeling very envious of the others, seeing them enjoying themselves.
The disabled person would probably be told by his family not to make a big fuss just because they no longer have legs. However, this is a big situation that most people would fuss and moan about. This would be said to him because they feel partly responsible for the disability and they want to make themselves feel better. They try to convince themselves that it is nothing to worry about. Sassoon is trying show to people that just because they are treating disabled people in a nice way it does not mean that they feel better about themselves but in fact they feel helpless.
The effect of the sarcasm in the poem is the guilt of those who had encouraged the soldiers to go to war. Sassoon is taking the role of a person who had been encouraging soldiers and saying blatantly that losing your legs and eyesight is not so bad. He or she may be telling him to look at the advantages of being disabled.
Unlike other poems this one does not talk about the war until the third stanza. At this point tries to show that this poem was for the people back at home.
“And people won’t say that you’re mad”
What all three poems were trying to say is that those people played a big part in the deaths and injuries of the soldiers. These poems and many more were written to get back at the people.
Some men will not even speak of the war because it was obvious that people would not understand. All that they would think about is their heroes coming back from the war. From being the family and friends to the soldiers they have become the enemies.