The different attitudes towards war as expressed by Wilfred Owen, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Thomas Hardy and Walt Whitman
The poems I am studying span a period from 1854 – 1917; over 60 years in history. Each poem is written at the time of the war so each writer understood what was happening and the effect the war created, reflecting accurately a point of view prevalent at that time in history. Dulce et Decorum est by Wilfred Owen was written during World War 1 and is about a soldier being gassed. The tone of the poem is one of bitterness. In the poem the soldiers are on their way to rest, they were exhausted. Owen compares the soldiers to hags and beggars, “like old beggars under sacks, knock-kneed, coughing like hags.
He creates this image to put forward his view about the war; he believed that war wasn’t as glorious as it was made out to be. He carries on saying that the soldiers didn’t even have the correct uniform, “Many had lost their boots” and that the soldiers were so used to the war, they seemed dead, “All blind”, “Deaf even to the hoots of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind. ” During World War 1, gas was a very lethal weapon that killed thousands of soldiers.
Owen uses the gas to create the sense of panic and he also makes this seem more real by using dialogue, “GAS! GAS! Quick boys! Owen uses exclamation marks to make the piece more dramatic. Owen shows the fierceness of the gas by comparing it to fire, lime and water, “But someone still was yelling out and stumbling, and flound’ring like a man in fire and lime… ” “As under a green sea, I saw him drowning. ” Owen then grabs the attention of the reader by putting in a personal statement, “In all my dreams, before my helpless sight, he plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning. ” This makes the poem seem very realistic as Wilfred Owen is talking about a past experience. He has nightmares about this and he will always remember it.
It is a very sad verse in the poem that makes war seem devastating. The vivid description of the dead also makes the piece seem factual, it creates graphic image that stays within the mind of the reader, “The white eyes writing in his face” “The blood come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs, obscene as cancer. ” Owen uses this to deliberately shock the reader. The description is enough to stop anyone joining the army! “Dulce et Decorum est” really Dulce et Decorum est Pro patria mori, translated means it is sweet and glorious to die for one’s country.
The title of the poem contradicts the poem itself as the poem is all about how it’s not a magnificent thing to die for your country but in The Charge of the Light Brigade by Alfred Lord Tennyson, the title Dulce et Decorum est would be perfect as it is all about the glory of fighting and dying for your country. This poem is a very upbeat poem, you can tell this by the rhythm of the poem; it sounds like horses trotting. The Charge of the Light Brigade killed 400 men in a few minutes and it was due to a mistake. Tennyson believed that this was a heroic way to die and should be remembered forever.
As in Dulce et Decorum est, Tennyson uses speech in the poem to make it seem realistic, like someone is talking, “Forward, the Light Brigade! Charge for the guns! ” Repetition of the word Death is used throughout the poem, “Valley of Death” “The jaws of Death” and it always has a capital letter. This is to make death seem like a person, a being to be defeated. The main idea behind this poem is that it is honourable and noble to die for your country and this is reflected in the poem when the orders are given and the men obey them even though the orders are wrong.
If they die, they die and they will do anything for the country. This is emphasised when Tennyson says, “Their’s not to make reply, their’s not to reason why, their’s but to do and die. ” The beginning of the third verse starts with the repetition of cannon, “Cannon to the right of them, cannon to the left of them, cannon to the front of them volleyed and thundered. ” The strong impression caused by this repetition is of the soldiers being surrounded by cannon fire, and not being able to see anything else, he is emphasising his bravery.
Tennyson, in this verse used lots of verbs, verbs such as ‘volleyed’, ‘thundered’, and ‘stormed’. He uses these to create the image of action. He continues this action in the next verse by using flashed to describe the movement of the light brigade’s sabres which make the swords seem as if they were fighting with style, “Flashed all their sabres, flashed as they turned in the air sabring the gunners there. ” Tennyson writes about everyone watching and being amazed by the sight, it was incredible, “All the world wondered.
This gives you the impression that the light brigade succeed, “Cossack and Russian reeled from the sabre-stroke shattered and sundered” but the final line shows the death, “Then they rode back, but not the six hundred. ” The indication of death is carried on throughout the rest of the poem, “While horse and hero fell” “All that was left of them. ” Tennyson comments on the battle at the end of this poem. He ends the poem by asking us to honour the soldiers as they lost their life for us. He talks about how good war is and how it creates heroes; he has no negative feelings about war.
This poem is upbeat and positive whereas Drummer Hodge by Thomas Hardy is a very sad and upsetting poem. Thomas Hardy has a negative view on the war; he believes that it is a sad thing. This was written during the Boer War and it is about the effect it had on young soldiers… death. The opening line is very depressing, it gives a brutal image of the war, “They throw in Drummer Hodge, to rest uncoffined – just as found. ” Like in Dulce et Decorum est, he is just thrown into a hole and buried without a coffin; nobody will be able to find him.
The use of foreign words like kopje-crest and veldt are used to create distance, it shows how far away Drummer Hodge is from his home, “His landmark is a kopje-crest that breaks the veldt around. ” As you find out more about Drummer Hodge you feel even more sadness for him. He is a young lad, 13-16, far from his home and he is just dumped in a foreign country that he knows nothing about, “Fresh from his Wessex home. ” The continued description of ‘stars’ helps to put forward the idea of him being far away, “Strange stars amid the gloam. ”
In the final verse, Hardy talks about how there will always be a part of England in South Africa where Hodge rests, he blends into the landscape, “Yet portion of that unknown plain will Hodge forever be. ” He ends the poem on an optimistic note as he looks up at the stars, “And strange-eyed constellations reign his stars eternally. ” The war created many deaths like this. This poem is about the war’s effect of the soldiers while in “A Wife In London”, also by Thomas Hardy; it explains the effect the war had on the family left behind. This poem is about a woman getting a telegram about her husband’s death.
This is a depressing poem and Hardy puts this across in the opening line, “She sits in the tawny vapour that the Thames-side lanes have uprolled,” describes a foggy day/night. It creates a bad atmosphere; it is a clichi?? , you know something bad is going to happen, “Like a waning taper the street-lamp glimmers cold. ” The atmosphere is very tense. It is broken by, “A messenger’s knock cracks smartly, flashed new is in her hand” you know that this can only mean bad news. As she reads the letter you get the notion that she doesn’t understand at first what it is about.
She only reads what she wants to know, “He- he has fallen- in the far South Land… ” you get the impression that the letter continues but she doesn’t read any further. Hardy uses the weather to show her depression, as she becomes more depressed the weather becomes worse, “the fog hangs thicker. ” “A letter is brought whose lines disclose by the firelight flicker his hand, whom the worms now knows” a letter has been delivered from her dead husband. The line “whom the worms now knows,” means her husband is being eaten by worms as she reads the letter.
Hardy creates a twist at the end of the poem; the letter is a positive one writing about how much he loves her and how they will be together soon. It is the tragic – irony, she reads a hopeful letter after all hope has disappeared. This poem is very similar to Come up from the fields Father by Walt Whitman as it is about the news reaching the family and the effect this created. Come up from the fields Father is about the American Civil War where soldiers of all ages went to fight; many came from small, quiet towns.
Cool and sweeten Ohio’s villages with leaves fluttering in the moderate wind. ” In this poem the setting is tranquil and pleasant, an idyllic picture. Whitman does this so that the bad news will create a bigger impact. When the letter arrives the mood changes, “something ominous, her steps trembling” and there is an increase in speed, “Open the envelope quickly. ” Whitman uses dialogue like in all the other poems to give the poem a dramatic feel, “O this is not our son’s writing, yet his name is signed. ” Whitman’s view on the war is that it is a terrible thing and only brings sorrow.
Like in A Wife in London, Whitman shows this by the news being delivered and the son being injured, “gunshot wound to the breast, cavalry skirmish, taken to hospital, at present low, but will soon be better. ” It is an optimistic letter but the mother knows it is false. “Sickly, white in the face and dull in the head, very faint, by the jamb of the door” the mother feels alone; her son is dying in the war. “While they stand at home at the door he is already dead, the only son dead. ” the thought that this is the only son makes the death seem worse, it is a heartbreaking to lose a child and Whitman uses this to make the reader feel sad.
He emphasises her grief by putting her in “teeming Ohio”. The ending of the poem is a very sad and depressing one. “O that she might withdraw unnoticed, silent from life escape and withdraw, to follow, to seek, to be with her dear dead son” the mother doesn’t want to live anymore; she wants to be dead and rest with her son. Four out of the five poems are against war. Thomas Hardy, Walt Whitman and Wilfred Owen believe that it is a terrible thing that can only bring sorrow and unhappiness. Alfred Lord Tennyson is the only writer to believe that war is a noble thing. War creates lots of hurt and pain.