Essay, Research Paper: Wilfred Owen And Alfred Tennyson

Literature: World War

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Attitudes to war and how they Developed Wilfred Owen and Alfred Lord Tennyson
both wrote well known poetry about war. Their poems were written in different
centuries and they clearly illustrate the changing attitude to war These three
poems are all describing the ups and downs of war. The one author saying how war
is such a great thing and how brave the soldiers were. The other author saying
how terrible war is, illustrating the death and injuries. In Tennyson’s poem,
because it was written earlier than the two poems by Owen, he describes more the
glory and heroism of war, rather than the death and stupidity. All three poems
make you feel pity, even if it may be accidental, which I feel it is in
Tennyson’s ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’ Let us look at Tennyson’s
poem, he starts by using repetition. This is a good start as you feel the beat
of the hooves of the soldiers’ horses and this continues through the whole
poem. ‘Half a league, half a league, Half a league onward.’ Not only do you
instantly feel the beat, but from the next line you feel you know a lot about
the story line. ‘All in the valley of death, Rode the six hundred.’ This is
repeated at the end of the verse, which I feel is very effective, as I feel it
emphasises the fact of the unbalanced odds and the soldiers’ imminent doom,
which of course makes you pity them. The second verse tells how the soldiers
were so loyal to their country, that even though they knew they were in mortal
danger, they didn’t question their superiors. The first line in this verse, is
an order by the commander that suggests confidence in the troops. ‘Forward the
light brigade!’ Further on in the verse repetition is used which illustrates
the soldiers’ bravery and again their respect for their superiors.
‘Theirs’ not to make reply, Theirs’ not to reason why, Theirs’ but to do
and die.’ In the third verse Tennyson again uses repetition describing the
deadly position they were in. ‘Cannon to the right of them, Cannon to the left
of them, Cannon in front of them’ This helps you understand what they were
facing during this battle and how impossible their fight was. It makes you feel
pity for the six hundred soldiers. In this verse Tennyson glories in the
soldiers’ bravery, saying: ‘Boldly they rode and well, Into the jaws of
death, Into the mouth of hell’ This means that by taking this mission they
were practically committing suicide and it also, again, makes you feel sorry for
the soldiers. The forth verse tells, briefly, the story of the actual battle and
how despite the odds the soldiers still attacked and made progress against the
enemy. ‘Flashed all their sabres bare, Flashed as they turned in the air,
Sabring the gunners there’ Here he again uses repetition; I feel this time it
emphasises the bravery of the soldiers still attacking a helpless cause.
Tennyson expresses the helpless cause further on the verse: ‘Charging an army,
while All the world wondered’ At the start of the fifth verse he again uses
repetition to describe their position. ‘Cannon to the right of them, Cannon to
the left of them, Cannon in front of them’ In this verse he again tries to
show their bravery, with phrases like ‘While horse and hero fell’ and
‘They had fought so well.’ The sixth verse is a conclusion, commenting on
the loyalty and bravery of the soldiers and how it was a tragic loss of life.
‘When can their glory fade, O, the wild charge they made’ And he continues:
‘Honour the charge they made, Honour the light brigade, Noble six hundred’
In ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ Wilfred Owen tells a story of a death in the
trenches from the memory of another soldier. It starts by describing the
terrible state the soldiers were in, demonstrating against war. ‘Bent double,
like old beggars under sacks, Knock-kneed, coughing like old hags, We cursed
through sludge’ A few lines down, it says; ‘Men marched asleep.’ And
another similar line; ‘Drunk with fatigue.’ This is saying how tired the
soldiers were and how badly they were being worked. The next verse starts with
panic: ‘Gas! Gas! Quick boys, An ecstasy of fumbling’ This verse explains
the gas attack, the panic and the death of the unnamed victim. ‘And
flound’ring like in fire or lime… Dim, through the misty planes and thick
green light, As under a green sea, I saw him drowning’ In this section of the
poem he compares the gas to the ocean, which I feel, gives you the idea of dense
waves splashing over the victim and drowning him. After this verse there are two
lines separated from the poem. They read: ‘In all my dreams, before my
helpless He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning. I feel these separated
lines give a more personal touch to the writing and makes the reader feel more
involved. The last verse starts by describing the appalling way they throw his
body in the back of a truck and the face of the corpse. ‘His hanging face like
the devil sick of sin, If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood’ Then Owen
rounds up the poem in a great way discriminating against war by saying: ‘The
old lie: Dulce et Decorum est, Pro Patria mon.’ This, in English, means ‘It
is sweet and honourable to die for your fatherland, which Owen is calling a lie.
Wilfred Owen calls the next poem ‘Disabled’. He imagines the thoughts of a
very young and severely wounded soldier. He has lost all of his limbs and now
sits helplessly in a wheelchair, thinking sadly and bitterly of the past. The
poem starts by describing his surroundings and his crippled condition. ‘He sat
in a wheeled chair, waiting for dark And shivered in his ghastly suit of grey’
It was cold, because of him shivering and his ghastly suit of grey meant that
his skin was in bad condition. The next part of the verse turns to the voices of
boys outside. ‘Voices of play and pleasure after day, Till gathering sleep had
mothered them from him’ Owen is explaining how he’s falling asleep
protecting him from their voices and his jealousy of them. The next verse is all
about his memories and he compares them to how he is now. ‘Now he will never
feel again how slim Girls’ waists are, or how warm their subtle their subtle
hands, All of them touch him like some queer disease’ The poem continues
describing how handsome and popular he used to be. ‘There was an artist, silly
for his face, For it was younger than his youth, last year.’ This suggests
that his face had looked younger than his age and that it had been a
good-looking face. The next couple of lines find him again comparing himself to
his old self. ‘He’s lost his colour very far from here, Poured it down
shell-holes till the veins ran dry,’ The next verse it starts with an ironic
tone. ‘One time he liked a blood smear down his leg, After the matches,
carried shoulder high.’ This is ironic, he used to wear blood on his leg,
proudly, as a badge of courage, but now he doesn’t have any legs and certainly
wouldn’t enjoy the thought of blood because of his injuries. In the next few
lines he wonders why he joined the army and comes to the conclusion that he was
showing off and continues, saying that the army took no notice of his youth.
‘Aye, that was it, to please the giddy jilts, He asked to join, he didn’t
have to beg,’ The next verse comments on his disappointment on returning home
as few cheered him. ‘Some cheered him home, but not as a crowd cheer goal.
Only a solemn man who brought him fruits Thanked him; and inquired about his
soul.’ The next verse makes you feel pity for the even more than the rest of
the poem as it talks of his future. ‘Now, he will spend a few sick years in
institutes, And do what the rules consider wise,’ The second line saying he
can’t make his own decisions. Further down, at the end of the verse he tries
to escape from his thoughts. ‘How cold and late it is! Why don’t they come
And put him into bed? Why don’t they come? The two authors styles are
strikingly different. Tennyson tries to make the soldiers sound brave and
heroic, even glorious. Owen tries to make you feel sorry for them and their
suffering. Yet Tennyson glorifies the deaths, the slaughter of hundreds of men,
who died for no reason, in fact because of a mistake. Tennyson wrote his poem at
a time when propaganda was needed to promote a war between the British Empire
and the Russians. Owen wrote his poetry based on personal experience of the
horrors of the First World War, realising that war was not something to be
glorified but something abhorrent.
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