Using at least one poem from each category, show how the attitudes to war changed and are reflected in the work of the war poets. I find poetry from the First World War particularly interesting because for many men, war was something far off, which they knew nothing about. Whilst warfare has inspired art in every form; the First World War has undoubtedly been the source of a greater collection of work than any other event of similar magnitude. As I have said, this was probably due to the fact that Britain had not been included in warfare for a while.
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Possibly one of the most interesting things about First World War poetry is the efinite shift in attitude towards war that may be observed. Most of the poetry falls under three headings (recruitment, experience and futility. ) In the course of this essay I intend to compare mood, intentions and attitudes expressed in these three different types of poetry. Compared to the morbid attitude of some futility poems, recruitment poetry can seem very vain. Using euphemism and often flippant remarks to produce a false illusion of pride and glory.
An example of this euphemism is in ” Who’s for the game? ” by Jessie Pope. Even the title is a metaphor suggesting that war is fun and not dangerous, this etaphor extends throughout the poem. The word ” Game” may produce a happy image of families playing games in many young men’s minds. She makes it sound as if she knows all about war, when the truth is she has had no experience of what war is actually like. But you must consider that these poems were written for a purpose, to persuade men to go to war. The image that recruitment poets tried to convey was that war was fun.
Poets like Harold Begbie and Matilda Betham-Edwards used the idea of pride to create feelings of guilt and to make men feel that if they did not go to war they would be cowards. Most ecruitment poems such as ” Who’s for the game? ” have a semantic field of patriotism, bravery and honor using words like ” tackle,” ” unafraid” and ” eagerly” however ” The two Mothers” by Matilda Betham-Edwards uses words like ” weeping,” ” grief” and ” mourn” to create a feeling of shame. It made men want to go to war so that their families would not be ashamed of them.
Most recruitment poems have a basic rhyming scheme, which is simple but affective. However, there were perhaps a few poets with more vision, men who had an idea of what war would actually involve and entail. ” In Flanders Fields” by John McCrae s a very famous poem. Possibly one of the poems most associate with world war one literature. It was ironic that poppies grew in Flanders fields because they are meant to be fragile plants. They may symbolize hope amongst the mass of dead. The ” torch” that John McCrae mentions is possibly referring to the torch of hope, but it also reminds me of the torch that relay runners pass on.
He may be saying take the torch and finish the race. The line ” If ye break faith with us who die” I found particularly interesting because ” ye” is an old fashioned way of saying you, though the rest of the poem is not written in this style. Did the poet intend to emphasize the personal affect in this line? It refers to the reader as an individual rather than a whole audience. The line ” We shall not sleep… ” suggests that more men must go to let the soldiers sleep. This might make the reader feel responsible. Rupert Brooke wrote another group of recruitment poetry.
Brooke wrote some very patriotic sonnets in 1914. Brooke was an idealist; tragically, few men who subscribed to such idealism at the beginning of the war retained this innocence. Their work often became much more bitter. One can only speculate as to how Rupert Brooke’s oetry might have changed had he not died so early in the war. Brooke wrote a recruitment sonnet called ” The Dead. ” I think this poem has a semantic field of reward, to make men want to go to war for the benefits. He uses words like ” rich,” ” gifts,” ” paid,” ” wage” and especially ” heritage” to entice the young men.
He suggests that death is a good thing in the line ” These laid the world away. ” He almost infers that death is an escape from life and the world, but then he admits that so many young men being killed is a loss with the words ” gave up the years. His attitude to war was a very flippant one. He wrote explicitly about pride and glory with scant regard for the true meaning of conflict. As the war progressed, idealistic youths were harshened by their experiences and became angry and cynical. They began to produce poetry to project the reality of war.
Most poetry from this period rails against patriotism and even god. The poets’ attitude to war became more negative; they shocked the people back home with experience poems containing the truth about the horrors of war. ” When you see millions of mouthless dead” is a poem by Charles Hamilton Sorley. This sonnet differs noticably from the poems I have mentioned so far. This was probably due to the poets more realistic vision of what war actually involves. Sorley’s sonnet is a very bitter experience poem that also reflects the futility of war.
He uses words to do with the senses like ” blind” and ” deaf” to create a clearer image for the reader. ” Give them not praise. For, deaf, how should they know” I think is very bitter. It is suggesting that these men have been so badly affected by war, there is not anything that anyone can say to help them. Another very dramatic line is ” Nor honor. It is easy to be dead. ” It is linked to the previous line, and its morbid ideas on how dying in war is so pointless and futile are put across quite vividly. Sorley used no sarcasm in this poem; the mood is very somber throughout.
Another experience poem, written by Wilfred Owen is ” Exposure. ” It is about soldiers stuck in no mans land and their continuos suffering. Nothing changes in the poem, at the end, the soldiers are in the same position as they were at the beginning. The poem contains some suggestions of futility, in the second verse the poet asks, ” What are we doing here? The suffering they are enduring is not only physical, they are also beginning to realise how futile war is, they want to go home but they can’t. The rhyming scheme of the poem is quite complicated and clever, Owen uses half rhymes like ” knive us” and ” nervous.
The uses metaphor to describe the fires in the sixth stanza; ” crusted dark-red jewels,” this suggests that the fires are beautiful but like jewels they are not warm or comforting. In recruitment poetry the poet may often speak about god in a proud and thankful way, for example ” Now God be thanked” (” Peace” by Rupert Brooke. But” For love of god seems dying” implies that poets attitude to god also changed, in experience and futility poetry they begin to loose faith in god and almost rebel against him. Another very famous experience poem, also by Wilfred Own is ” Dulce et decorum est.
The title actually means it is sweet and fitting to die for your country. The title is ironic and would have probably shocked people back at home as they did think it was sweet and fitting to die for your country. The first stanza describes the men marching back. Owen uses metaphor to create a vivid image of the poor soldiers. He says they are ” hags” though they are still young, he also says they wear ” sacks” but they don’t they are wearing uniform, though it may be tattered. Owen uses these metaphors to compare the soldiers with tramps.
We can see that as the war progressed, the poets’ began to write very explicit poetry about their experiences, they didn’t try to hide or leave out any details because they wanted people to know the truth about war. I think we can see that they were slightly shocked themselves and wanted to spread the truth. In the second stanza, Owen describes a gas attack and how one man is too slow. Owen uses a metaphor to describe the man choking in the gas; ” floundering” He is comparing a man choking in gas to drowning in water.
This metaphor is continued in the next few lines with ” green sea” and ” drowning. In the last verses, Owen describes how they put him in the wagon and he how he died. He uses words like ” flung” and ” jolt” to make it sound like they were quite careless with him. This makes his death even sadder. These verses also describe Owen’s dreams; this may link in with the ” haunting” mentioned in the first stanza and his ” smothering dreams” in the last stanza. Then, in last line he speaks directly to the home front, to make them feel guilty. Towards the end of the war, the content and feeling of poetry became very futile, with a much more morbid atmosphere.
Could it be that the disillusionment and sense of futility we perceive in the poetry from the later part of then war reflects the sorrow and anger of the poets, and perhaps the disillusionment of the individual with concepts such as god? ” Anthem for Doomed Youth” is a futility poem written by Wilfred Owen. Even the title suggests futility. ” Anthem” means song, often an important song and doomed is uch more affective than saying dead or dying. The emphasis is on the word youth; some of these boys are very young. It is written as a sonnet. ” Passing bells” are the bells that rang to tell people that someone has died.
Also, ironically, this could mean the bells on cows and is probably linked to the metaphor ” die as cattle. ” This suggests that so many men are dying, no death is significant. Owen also may be inferring that the men are not treated like human. ” Patter out their hasty orisons” infers that the dead soldiers are not getting proper funerals just quick prayers said for them. This oem has a semantic field of religion; the poet has almost compared the church to the dreadful warfare using words like ” bells,” ” orisons,” ” mourning,” ” choirs,” ” candles” and ” holy.
Owen uses the word ” stuttering” to describe the rifles; this is an affective use of personification. Does the poet wish to infer that the soldiers behind the guns are scared or nervous? The poet uses alliteration aswell as metaphor in the same line with ” rifles’ rapid rattle. ” These poetic devices, all used together, create a brilliant description of the load gunshots. Also, Owen may have intended to use onomatopoeia with the word ” rattle. It also helps to create fantastic imagery of the load guns. ” Survivors,” by Siegfried Sassoon is a futility poem.
The opening line, ” No doubt they’ll soon get well,” creates a feeling of denial and misleading hope. Sassoon uses this kind of sarcasm in another of his poems; ” Does it matter. ” The ” stammering” and ” discontented talk” which Sassoon mentions is probably a result of shell shock. Then he uses sarcasm again in the line; ” Of course they’re longing to go out again. ” This flippant suggestion is probably Sassoon making a mockery of the people on the home front because this is how they thought the soldiers felt. It would have certainly shocked many people.
In the next line, ” These boys with old scared faces,” suggests that the war has made these men old before their time. The word ” boys” infers that they have to be looked after as if they are children. Again, Sassoon begins with a sarcastic comment giving false hope; ” and they’ll be proud,” then the poet reminds the reader of the of the truth; ” Of glorious war that shatter’d their pride. ” When the poets recover from their injuries, they may feel proud, but then they will be reminded of the awful things that happened in the war.
Then Sassoon ends the poem effectively, with an accusation; ” with eyes that hate you. He is blaming poets like Jessie Pope for writing recruitment poetry about war when they knew nothing about it themselves. Here we can see that the poets’ attitude to war changed towards the end of it. They became angry and cynical. They began to blame recruitment poets for writing that war was glorious. Another example of this blame is in ” Suicide in the trenches” also by Sassoon. ” You smug faced crowds with kindling eye. ” ” Disabled” is a bitter futility poem by Owen. It focuses very much on how the oldiers have been affected by not only their physical injuries, but by their awful experiences.
There is a great contrast between the first and second stanzas of this poem. They have almost opposite semantic fields. The first is of sadness, creating a lonely and isolated feeling with words like ” dark,” ” gray” and ” saddening. ” The next stanza has a semantic field of warmth using words like ” glow-light,” ” light” and ” warm. ” Owen uses alliteration with the word ” glow-lamps” and ” girls glanced,” this adds to the happy feeling of this verse. The line ” before he threw away hi knees” implies that Owen thought that the death of these soldiers was more a loss or a sacrifice.
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Now he will never feel again how slim girls waists are or how warn their subtle hands” is probably talking about how he lost his arm but may also be talking about his mental scars and women not wanting him now because of his disability. This idea is backed up in the line ” all of them touch him like some queer disease. ” The line ” younger than his youth” I think is meant to mean that he is now older than he was in his youth. This is very similar to a line from ” Survivors” by Siegfried Sassoon; ” these boys with old scared faces. They both imply that the war has made them old before their time.
The line ” After matches, carried shoulder high” is ironic because he wanted to be carried high in celebration but now he is being carried shoulder high because he is helpless and cant walk himself. ” A god in kilts,” implies that he only wanted to join up to become a hero and knew little about war. Then the line ” Some cheered him home, but not as crowds cheer a goal” refers again to him wanting to be a hero. ” Smiling they wrote his lie” is sad because it’s obvious that he lied about his age, not knowing the truth about the futility of war.
Tonight he noticed how the women’s eyes Passed from him to the strong men that were whole. ” This is explaining how the women that look after him and pity him are much more interested in the men who did not go to war and are still whole. The war changed the world forever, destroyed so many live and the poets were profoundly affected. The poetry started of cheerful and thankful with many references to religion and faith, towards the end of the war the poets’ attitude changed completely as they realized the truth. They began to write poetry with to tell people the true, awful facts bout war.
Then towards the end of the war when the after effects of the war became clear, the poetry became much more bitter and started to question religion and the great sacrifice that had been made. After the war some poems appear happier, as if seeking resignation or resolution like ” Everyone sang” by Siegfried Sassoon. This poem is about a mans delight when everyone around him bursts into song on Armistice Day. This poem contrasts greatly to the kind of poetry Sassoon wrote during the war. It is about the ” delight” that ” prisoned birds must find in freedom. “