Throughout history, many poets have expressed their feelings towards war and battles. Two poems that express these feelings are Dulce et decorum est by Wilfred Owen and Charge of the light brigade By Alfred lord Tennyson. Wilfred Owen expresses the danger of war whilst Alfred lord Tennyson discusses how ‘Glorious’ it is to die for your country. The main themes in both poems is war and terror.
The setting of the poem is in the no-man’s land and in the trenches where the German’s and British soldiers fought. The setting is relatively important as the central theme is war. The setting tells us how the reality of war could be brutal and a ‘no-man’s’ land.
The structure of the poem is set out in 4 stanza’s (3 six-twelve lines and 1 two lines). At the end of each line, a rhyming pattern accurse to create an effect as they are mostly verbs so you imagine the soldiers marching which creates an atmosphere of honour as their marching towards death itself. The poem’s viewpoint seems to be a personal view as he was ‘in’ the poem itself making us feel his emotions and see his point of view. The poet used a range of poetical techniques to create a traumatic viewpoint of war and battles. He uses alliteration such as ‘knock-kneed’ which stresses the brutality of the soldiers and ‘men-marched’ which emphasises the relentless movement of the soldiers. Another technique that is effective is the range of vocabulary. An example of this is ‘fatigue’ which is pitiful language used to reveal the reality of war and how it can destroy lives in an instant. Owen also uses ‘zest’ to crisis the enthusiasm of propagandists who used glorious images to convince the soldiers to go to war. The last line of the second verse is set out as a list of 3 ‘guttering, choking, and drowning’ this use of verbs is associated with the lack of air and death. This shows us how dangerous the war can really be. The poet also uses onomatopoeia in ‘all went lame; all blind’ which is another range of pitiful vocabulary to emphasis what a critical state the men were in and how badly they were treated. ‘Cursed’ is usually a word to describe a violent way to talk. In this it describes a violent moment and could also mean the soldiers feelings of anger and how afraid they would be . As we read the poem, it creates a mood of tension, anguish and realism of the consequences of war..
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The form of the poem is set out in stanzas. The form of The charge of the light brigade is set in the valley between Fed Yukin Heights and the causeway heights which was used as a battleground for a small group of British soldiers against an army of Russians. This is very important as the whole poem is about the momentous battle. The structure of the poem is six numbered stanzas varying in length from six to twelve lines. Tennyson’s viewpoint of the poem is an objective viewpoint as the poem is written from afar. The first stanza of the poem explains how orders were given to emphasis the marching / charging of the men and how the charged into ‘the valley of death’. The second stanza refers to the duty of the soldiers and how they never questioned about walking into their death. In the third stanza, the mood or tone of the poem shifts from a glorious or positive attitude to a depressing or negative tone. This is the stanza in which the battle begins. It portrays the brigade’s overwhelming courage through graphic images created by imagery. Stanza four’s tone becomes more traitorous and hostile. It gives us the first hint that the brigade are unsuccessful and hints at tragedy and loss of life. Stanza five uses a different perspective and uses a range of vocabulary to describe how they lost the battle. The last stanza changes tense as the poet addresses the reader asking us (the readers) to remember the soldiers. ‘Honour the charge they made!’ this tells the reader to remember and honour the men who fought in the battle.
Tennyson uses many techniques to emphasis the bravery and courage of the soldiers as they went into battle. The first line uses repetition of ‘half a league’ to emphasis marching and how it was a small league. He repeats ‘valley of death’ to create a feeling of enclosure and claustrophobia. The metaphor is used to describe death and that the men were destined to die. Tennyson uses personification to personalize death. This is shown through quotes such as; ‘Into the jaws of death’ and ‘into the mouth of hell’. This describes how the soldiers ‘rode into their death’ and how the men never questioned about walking into their death and creates a sense of loyalty, honour and courage. He also uses animal imaginary to create the same affect as if a ‘beast devoured the soldiers’. This tells us how war can ‘eat’ and destroy many people and gives out the message ‘Honour the charge they made!’ Strong verbs such as ‘volleyed’ and ‘stormed’ describe the movement of the enemy which suggests there was no escape from their death like they were trapped, defenceless and facing inevitable death. Alliteration such as ‘world-wondered’ represents the innocence of the rest of the world not knowing the bravery of the soldiers and about the war itself whilst ‘shattered and sundered’ creates a hint that the brigade are losing the battle. This also creates a visceral affect. As you read through the poem, you recognise that the rhythm of the poem creates a relentless beat which reflects the trotting of the horses the soldiers rode. The poem creates a mood of glory yet, as we read on, it creates a sense of despair. The poet questions if it is ‘honourable’ to die for your country.
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Dulce et decorum est and Charge of the light brigade both share similarities and many differences. Owen makes it apparent to the reader that he is sceptical by the language of poets who have declared the glory of dying in war (such as charge of the light brigade). Tennyson gives a message of glory and bravery, with sacrifice for their country, a righteous and advantageous end. Owen’s poem discards ‘the old lie’. Owen fought in the war, and so his poems are more realistic and the view of the serving soldiers can easily believed. Although The charge of the light brigade offers graphic images of complications faced by the light brigade, Owen gives an even more graphic and horrific interpretation of war. While men like Owen experienced the war and say it was not honourable to die for your country, Tennyson views war as honourable and right to die for your country. As Tennyson only heard about the battle, it is easy to say it is honourable as he hasn’t experienced war. Tennyson wrote the poem The charge of the light brigade to celebrate the bravery of the six hundred men that fought for their country. He uses noble sounding phrases like ‘into the valley of death’ to describe the fate that waits for the men. Owen uses a lot of onomatopoeia and verbs to create sounds and images in the readers mind to show the realities of war. ‘I saw him drowning’ this creates a image of a man dying in a ‘sea’ of gas which suggests that the man gas was filled up his lungs like water when you drown. The only similarity of the two poems is the fact they are both based on real events (WW1 and Crimean war). Each of the poems use similar techniques but create different effects on the poem.
Dulce est decorum et presents a more gruesome view on war while The charge of the light brigade creates a more joyous way to celebrate war and the amount of courage they took to battle that day. They both succeeded to show their personal views on war from different perspectives but to me the more effective poem in Dulce est decorum et because it shows more graphic details on how the war could really be, creating more horrific images in the readers head about how the men’s health would be. Although The charge of the light brigade produces graphic images about war and it’s effects I personally think Dulce est decorum et is a more effect piece of poetry because it’s easier to understand the truth about how horrendous war can really be. It also reveals his emotions and addresses the reader making the poem more personalized for us (the reader). The techniques also grab the reader and draw the reader in to create more images in the mind.
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