“Anyone, who truly wants to go to war, has never really been there before” Kosovar. This not so famous quote, tells about how blind people were to the horrors and tribulations of war due to a force we call propaganda. “Dulce et Decorum est pro patria mori” is a controversial phrase used to describe the benefits of going to war. It has different translations but it basically states “it is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country”, this is just one of the many techniques a nation could use to shade the soldiers to the harsh reality of war.
In this essay I will be evaluating two poems Dulce et Decorum est and The Charge of the Light Brigade. “Dulce et Decorum” est is a poem about war written by Wilfred Owen during World War 1 in 1917-1918. He was a soldier who experienced war first hand and wrote his poem with primary information. “The Charge of The Light Brigade” is also a poem about war that was written by Alfred Lord Tennyson, a poet Laureate during the 19th Century. Tennyson uses secondary information to write his poem. Both poems have a direct link to the quote but both have different perspectives of if it really is sweet and fitting to die for ones country.
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Within the evaluation of the poems I will be analysing Language, Form and Structure, Themes and Context for each poem and at the end I will sum up the main differences and similarities between the two poems. “Dulce et Decorum est” In the poem Wilfred Owen uses similes to portray the soldiers as weary, lesser beings that have aged prematurely. “Bent double, like old beggars under sacks, knock-kneed, coughing like hags. ” The similes comparing the soldiers to “beggars” and “hags” already wipes away the thought of soldiers’ being young, strong, healthy, able bodied men.
The words “knock-kneed” and “coughing” tells us that war is physically demeaning. Owen already starts to show the reality of war. This phrase also tells us about how young men could be transformed into old people. An alternative connotation may not mean that they were old physically but the phrase “old beggar” sounds like they have been scarred with the experience of seeing a comrade die, that is what has aged them. Owen tells the reader that the men haven’t taken a break from war making them exhausted. The following phrases suggest this: “And towards our distant rest began to trudge” Men marched asleep” “Drunk with fatigue” The first quotation literally tells us that the soldiers haven’t rested in a long time “Distant rest”. From another perspective distant rest may mean the soldiers are going towards inevitable death. The second “men marched asleep” are two words that contradict; marching is supposed to be full of energy and drive but modifying the meaning with the oxymoron makes it easier to understand how tired they were. Another connotation portrays the phrase as the man just doing an endless routine, in the sense that if you are used to something you could do it asleep.
Although, “men marched asleep” could indicate self realisation. This suggestion comes on the basis of the title “Dulce et Decorum Est”, the initial phrase tells that the energy that was proclaimed about war was never there and that they are realising the truth. The third quotation “Drunk with fatigue” carries on emphasising the fact that they are tired. This has some depth because by saying the soldiers were “drunk” with it tells us that they have had to much as with alcohol that can make you drunk if you have had too much. Wilfred Owens use of rhyme depicts the atmosphere of war as slow and unenthusiastic. Sludge”, “Trudge” The rhyme creates a slow rhythm this may mean that Owen is trying to tell us that war is not energetic also the word “Trudge” suggests the slow pace of the soldiers, this slow pace is a key factor in creating the atmosphere of war. Owen shows the reader that war can be unpredictable and dangerous. “Gas! Gas! Quick, boys” The immediacy and urgency of the gas attack is presented through the repetition of the word “Gas! ”. The capital letter on the phrase and the use of exclamation, making it easier to see that someone is shouting out.
The sharp entry to the second stanza off the back of the slow start is a juxtaposition this emphasises wars unexpectancy. Wilfred Owen compares the gas to a green sea to stress the gasses danger. “As under a green sea, I saw him drowning” The poet likens the gas to green sea not only because of the colour but because in both atmospheres it is impossible to breath fluently. The poet continues to mock the title by telling us about the “drowning” which represents chaos of a gas attack. The last two lines of the 2nd stanza do not rhyme this could be because of the slowness of death that is experienced through death from a gas attack.
Owen tells that there is a loss of identity during the chaos of war. “But someone still was yelling out and stumbling” The use of the word “someone” shows that during warfare you are note recognized by an identity and the word “yelling out” suggest chaos during the war. Another connotation may suggest that the soldiers were too scared to stick together as one and help each other. The third stanza is separated from the rest of the stanzas to show his initial reflection to the barbarity of war. “In all my dreams, before my helpless sight, he plunges at me guttering, choking, and drowning.
The poet repeats the word “my” to exaggerate that it is his reflection of the nightmare of war. The couplet could easily be a thought aloud because the word “plunges” makes us feel the soldier’s desperation as well as the poet’s helplessness. My point is also exercised within the gerunds by continuing the gerunds it suggest that after everyone he still couldn’t do anything to help the soldier. Owen uses inclusive language to make the reader feel sympathy for soldiers blinded by war. “My friend, you would not tell with such high zest”
The use of the words “My friend” and “you” already tells us that we are the audience of this quote. The phrase means that we will not talk about war/death enthusiastically because nothing good comes out of it. My point is also expressed somewhere else in the fourth stanza; the poet describes war as “obscene as cancer”. The incentive behind the poem at this point in time is to enlighten readers to the effects of propaganda on soldiers during World War 1. But during Owens time, this poem was a warning to any soldier or soldier to be, to not experience warfare.
Owen also wrote this poem to mock the phrase “Dulce et Decorum est pro patria mori” he does this in many lines of his poem. I saved this phrase for last because it is the most influential is “Behind the wagon that i flung him in” This phrase is powerful because many of the translation tell us that “it is sweet and proper””it is pleasing and beauteous”and “it is sweet and honourable”; as human beings there is no logic behind saying flinging a man behind a wagon is honourable. Gathering all of Owens firsthand experience of war his preparation of war is that it is a negative unethical way of settling dispute.
He tells us about a countries way of tricking people in to wasting their life on a war that has triggered current wars today and many deaths today. The first line of the “Charge of Light Brigade” already starts to contradict with “Dulce et Decorum est”, it portrays energy by the use of repetition. “Half a league, half a league, half a league onward” This burst of energy at the start of the poem already shows an energetic war. The repetition of “half a league” represents horses galloping. This contradiction is overwhelming compared to “Dulce et Decorum est” start which was very stagnant.
Tennyson’s perception of soldiers during war also continues to contradict with Owens views of soldiers being cowards. ‘Forward, the Light Brigade! Charge for the guns’ The word “charge” shows drive and bravery because not every day in a war do you see or hear about soldiers running towards guns. Here the poet creates heroes in our minds blinding us to the true atmosphere of soldiers running towards active guns. The word “charge” contradicts with Owens portrayal of war because in his poem the movement of the soldiers was slow the word “Trudge” suggests this.
The poet continuously shows the soldiers fearlessness by comparing the battleground to horrific scenes. “Into the valley of death” This phrase already tells us that death is inevitable and by delving into such an atmosphere, shows their courage. Another connotation may mean that the soldiers are showing an act of stupidity because as a reader you will not expect heroes to be walking stupidly into death. A comparison between both poems is the fact that the soldiers, when in the experience of war have no identity and are regarded as “someone”. Someone had blunder’d” The use of the word “someone” emphasises my point that the soldiers identity have been stripped from them, this more or less makes them equal to the soldiers portrayed in Owens poem. Another similarity could be the fact that war causes chaos, the word “blunder’d” suggests that within all the charging and riding the war still affects a soldier mentally making them call out unnecessarily. Tennyson uses repetition to tell the reader that the soldiers were acting as one big unit combining and contributing as the rode straight in to death. Theirs not to make reply, theirs not to reason why, theirs but to do and die” The repetition of the word “theirs”, tells us that they were collectively familiar with each other. It could also mean they were too disciplined and had no choice but to do what they were told. Again Tennyson uses repetition but this time the poet uses it to represent the soldier’s dangerous situation. “Cannon to right of them, Cannon to left of them, Cannon in front of them” The repetition of “cannon” tells us that the soldiers are surrounded and have nowhere to go but back, they continue march, this shows the soldiers bravery.
Another connotation has a similarity to Owens poem; the soldiers being surrounded by cannons show their helplessness within war, this is the same way that Wilfred Owen felt during the gas attack in his poem. The connotation brands war as a phenomenon that renders soldiers helpless. Tennyson shows extreme professionalism in the soldiers during a time of peril. “Boldly they rode and well, into the jaws of Death, into the mouth of Hell” This tells us that amidst all the chaos and fighting they are still riding good even under the pressure they were under.
By pressure i mean the fact they are riding into “mouth of hell” this phrase means that even at the door of death they were still knocked. The soldiers continue to be portrayed as gallant although their opponents have the upper hand. “Sabring the gunners there” The word “sabring” tells us that the soldiers are using swords also the word “gunners” tells the reader that the opposition have guns. Logic tells us that fighting with swords against guns is stupid but doing it in a war makes it seem great.
An alternative interpretation to the phrase may be Biblical in the sense that David used a sling shot to defeat a well armoured Goliath. The poet not only shows the soldiers as strong physically but mentally too this is a complete contrast to the soldiers at the start of “Dulce et Decorum est” “Right thro’ the line they broke” Many soldiers will stop fighting right after seeing the guns they were facing but these bold soldiers kept of going and managed to penetrate through the opposing side’s front line the words “line they broke” suggests this.
The soldiers in “Dulce et Decorum est” are immediately contrasted by saying “Bent double, like old beggars under sacks”. The poet glorifies the soldiers because against staggering odds they managed to return. “Back from the mouth of Hell” This suggests that they went to hell and came back, this is physically impossible but still they came out. The last stanza is similar to Owens last stanza because it is aimed at the reader When can their glory fade? The rhetorical question is in place so that it is aimed at the reader.
The phrase basically means when can their glory ever be matched, ever be removed from an unseen plaque. The poet exaggerates their actions to attract a lot potential soldiers to enlist. All the world wondered This phrase is propaganda it was probably put in the poem to let soldiers now what type of fame they will get if they join the army. Alfred Lord Tennyson’s purpose of writing this poem was to glorify the war and also use enough techniques within his poem to persuade a soldier to go to war. I believe he succeeded because of the bravery shown by the soldiers that he creates and the reaction in the last paragraph.
The two poems “Dulce et Decorum est” and “The Charge of the Light Brigade” are two poems that talk about war and propaganda infused into war. They are two controversial phrases that could be biased from both sides so we cannot say that one’s perception of war is right or wrong. But as for me I do not agree with the fictional book story “The Charge Of The Light Brigade” it sounds too unreal. Like I wrote in the beginning of my essay “Anyone, who truly wants to go to war, has never really been there before”, it is down to poets such as Wilfred Owen and Alfred Lord Tennyson to dictate a man’s perception of warfare.