War Poetry

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In this piece of course-work I am going to look at a few poems that are based around the trouble of war. I will first write a few lines about the poets that I will examine.

Wilfred Owen,

Wilfred Owen was born in Shropshire, in 1893. He was educated at both Liverpool and London University. He had ambitions to be a poet and wrote a good deal in his youth. After a severe illness in 1913 he went to France. In his time there he eventually became a tutor at Bordeaux, where he remained until 1915. He fell ill after a long experience of trench warfare, and was sent to military hospital where he met the poet Seigfried Sassoon. This poet had a great influence on him and encouraged him to write about the war.

Plans were made to publish some of his poems. He was redrafted to France awarded the M.C. but was killed on November 14th 1918. This was a week before the armistice. Very few of his poems appeared in periodicals during his lifetime, Sassoon collected and published them in 1920.


It was once written about Owen that until the last moment of his life he was preparing himself for a volume of poems, to strike out at the conscience of England in regard to the continuation of war. Owen himself claimed his volume of poetry was not about heroes. “English poetry is not yet fit to speak of them. Nor is it about deeds, or lands, or anything about glory, honour, might, majesty or power, except war. Above all, I am not concerned with poetry. My subject is war and the pity of war. The poetry is in the pity”.

Alfred lord Tennyson,

Alfred lord Tennyson was born in Lincolnshire, 1809. His reputation as a poet has fluctuated greatly. There is real power in Tennyson’s poetry and he often creates a real, imaginative atmosphere. One of his most famous poems is The Charge of the Light Brigade.

Laurence Binyon (1869-1943),

He was educated at St. Paul’s and Trinity College, Oxford. He worked in the department of orient prints and drawings at the British Museum, and then went to the Front as a Red Cross Orderly in 1916.

He became a professor of poetry at Harvard University in later life.

Now I will commence with the discussion on the poetry itself. War poetry gives us a brief insight into what war was like. People believed that war was romantic but it was far from that. I am now going to write about a few poets who experienced the war and wrote about their experiences.

The first poet I am going to investigate is Alfred Lord Tennyson. Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote the poem the Charge of the Light Brigade. This poem is about 600 British Cavalrymen who received orders to ride into the ‘valley of death’ knowing they were going to die. The cavalrymen couldn’t ignore the orders because they were given by a higher ranked officer.

‘Forward the Light Brigade! Charge for the guns!’

In verse two the lines which are of great significance are,

‘Someone had blundered, theirs not to make reply, theirs not to reason why, theirs but to do and die’

These lines are important because it shows that someone had made a mistake by sending the Cavalrymen into the valley.

In verse three the important lines are; ‘cannon to the right of them, cannon to the left of them, cannon in front of them’

These lines tell us that they were surrounded by cannons, and obviously had very little chance of survival.

The entire world wondered about what happened. They didn’t know why they rode into the valley of death. In verse 5 the poet says;

“Stormed at with shot and shell, white horse and hero fell, they had fought so well came through the jaws of death back from the mouth of hell”.

These few lines bare a really strong point and thus tell us how bad the battle really was and that very few survived. Verse 6 talks about the charge that the 600 made and how all the world wondered if they would come out alive.

“Honour the charge they made, honour the light brigade, noble six hundred”.

Now I shall write about another poem and poet. Laurence Binyon was the writer of For the Fallen. This was one of his many famous poems. Binyon has used some very interesting words and phrases, such as,

“Flesh of her flesh they were and spirit of her spirit”

This suggested that England was very proud of how their young soldiers were sent of to war. Binyon also says;

“Glory thus shines upon our tears”,

Which showed that England was also very proud of the soldiers that died, but even though they cried there was honour in their tears.

Verse 4 says how the soldiers that were sent to the war might not have the chance to grow old or do the things they used to do because they suffered the risk of being killed.

Verse 5 is talking about the soldiers that would not make it through to the end of the war. Another line that stands out to the reader is;

“As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,

moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;

as the stars are starry in the time of our darkness, to the end, to the end they remain”.

This line says that forever the soldiers will be remembered for the bravery they had shown.

Owen will be the last poet I talk about. I will be commenting on 2 of his famous poems which are ‘Anthem for the Doomed Youth’ and ‘Dulce Et Decorum Est’. Anthem for the Doomed Youth indicates that the poem is discussing a song for the young people who are going to die, ‘they are doomed’. The poem focuses on the young men who were going to fight in the war. It talks about the pity of death especially those so young. The poem questions the reason for this great loss of life and who will then mourn their passing. The last line of the poem describes how,

“Each slow dusk”,

Results the loss of more life and the drawing down of blinds, as these soldiers are gone forever.

The next poem is called Dulce Et Decorum Est. It is forth and final poem I am going to do. The words that stand out to me are;

“Men marched asleep”.

In my opinion this means that the soldiers marched extremely tired and with all the gunshots and explosions going on around them they couldn’t get any peace to get sleep.

Verse 2 is very striking. It talks about how a gas bomb explodes and all the soldiers rush and panic trying to get their masks on in time and how a soldier didn’t manage it in time. This is easy to point out as the poem says

“But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,

And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime….

Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,

As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams before my helpless sight,

He plunges at me, guttering, choking, and drowning”.

This is a very realistic poem with a very strong message.

I have talked about three poets, all of whom had fought in a war.


Throughout this essay I have spoken about three poets. One of which was Alfred Lord Tennyson, his poem was of a romantic nature, and was called the Charge of the Light Brigade. My second poet was Laurence Binyon his poem that I looked at, For the Fallen, was a romantic poem although verging on a more realistic account of war. What I mean by saying romantic is that the poem suggests that going to war and dying was a brave and thus gave the poem a sense of romance. And my third poet was Wilfred Owen. His creations were Anthem for the Doomed Youth and Dulce Et Decorum Est. both of these poems are very realistic.

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