The two poems I will be analysing are ‘Education’ and ‘England to Her Sons’. The poems are very different from one another as they express very divert themes and manifest various aspects on the war. Comparing and contrasting the poems is interesting as we consider the perspective of both male and female poets and there judgment on the war. The poem ‘Education’ by Pauline Barrington conveys the sense of helplessness and fear for the next generation of children and questions whether she should honour ‘Mother England’.
The poem ‘England to Her Sons’ displays a strong sense of idealistic patriotism and infers that it is the sons of England’s duty to fight in the war. In the first stanza of ‘Education’ Barrington demonstrates how children play an innocent game of toy soldiers ‘The children play with soldiers made of tin,’ the game is brutalised by the realities of war and we question whether or not innocence can be preserved in an atmosphere of horror? This pure innocent image is modified and impacted on by the goings on in such a beastly war. Is it a game or reality?
We see a battle between idealism and reality. This differs from ‘England to her Sons’ as in the phrase ‘Sons of mine… I give you freely’ where the sense of an idealistic duty is portrayed where the sons of England are giving themselves and sacrificing themselves for the love of England which is no game and has a strong sense of meaning. The theme of recruitment is displayed as the men of England are accepting there duty in fighting and are in search of the idealised intangibles of honour, duty, glory and fulfilment which are reinforced by the sense of idealistic patriotism.
We see the idealistic view of young heroes returning home to womenfolk after glorifying themselves in fighting in the war. In the poem ‘Education’ Barrington uses duel techniques of repetition and rhyme ‘While you sow, Row after row. ‘ This creates a tone of frustration and helplessness as in reality women can’t do anything about the bloody war, the rhyming couplets create a repetitive rhythm to create an image of a desperate women battling against her doubts whilst continuing to honour the war.
In the phrase ‘Rain is slipping, dripping down the street;’ pathetic fallacy is used to set a dark, suffocating atmosphere to backup the tone of helplessness and mirrors her disillusioned feelings and the use of ‘the street’ is a definite article which makes her world narrower. As a woman she feels suffocated being in one house and one woman which narrows in. In the poem the women has no voice and displays the fact that women had no voice, she remains helpless because of gender and so the narrator speaks for her creating an isolated sense of frustration.
The women fears that the innocent new generation of children will have to pay for there fathers sins. The reality of war for women was having no voice and remaining helpless and fearing for their children’s damaged futures. This is related to ‘England to Her Sons’ as in the poem runs a male dominated view of war and is directed at the men of England. We see this in the words ‘Sons, His, He,’ the masculine pronouns reinforce how in reality women had no voice in the war and the view that women did not have the linguistic currency to deal with the reality of war.
The poem also supports how in reality the war was a male dominated experience where the women could only watch helplessly and have a minor influence. Women especially were encouraged to subscribe to the view that their role in wartime was to sacrifice their men folk to the cause. There was a great separation between front-line men and home-line women which is portrayed by the structure in ‘Education’ as men were surrounded by concrete nouns as war was a time for action whilst women were surrounded by abstract nouns. In the poem ‘Education’ women question the ideals behind war.
In the phrase ‘Your son has shot and wounded his smaller brother’ symbolic imagery is used to convey a sense of anger and frustration for the government rather than outright declaration fearing to offend ‘Mother England. ‘ This supports the phrase ‘The day is grey as ashes’ the simile is used to reinforce the idea of the world crumbling around her like ashes as she is aware of death and sacrifices of war. In reality women question the morals of war. Women were torn as not supporting the war would seem disloyal to their men folk who were fighting or had already died.
Women’s education was a conditioning in which they were taught to think of war as a mythical site of honour, glory and chivalry with significant overtones of religion. This reality of questioning the reasoning of war is greatly opposite to the idealised war morals in ‘England to Her Sons. ‘ In the poem the aspect of going to war is glorified and idealised to be an honour and duty to serve England ‘Strong in faith that sees the issue and in hope that triumph’ in the phrase we are subjected to a strong sense of patriotic faith in the war which greatly differs from the reality of doubts against the war in ‘Education.
While war was the reality experienced by men at the front fighting and dying in the trenches, women and other civilians living in the ‘unreality’ of England were subjected to heavy propaganda urging them to support the war effort and encouraging them to see war through a veil of myth. In ‘England to Her Sons’ we see personification of he idealised view of a ‘Mother England. ‘ The title ‘England to Her sons’ implies that all men are sons of England and that they are all cherished and loved by England. This idealised patriotic view runs through the poem and implies it is the men’s duty to fight for there ‘Mother England.
A similar idea is expressed in Barrington’s ‘Education’ in the phrase ‘History for the children of tomorrow,’ where women are torn between supporting the war or standing out against it for fear of the wars impact on their children and offending ‘Mother England’ their home country. Women could linken themselves to the mother of Christ as the man themselves were frequently linked to the sacrificed Christ. The two poems convey very different messages on the war. The poem ‘Education’ is a battle between idealism and reality and contemplates on is the war a game or reality?
The poem ‘England to her sons’ uses idealised patriotism and propaganda methods to encourage the men of England to join and support the war effort and has no mention of reality. The poem was written at the beginning of the war where poetry was used to express the national glorification of war. Later on when the horrors of war began to reach the home front the frustrated women would use poetry as a way of objecting to the war as in reality they had no voice and remained helpless. We do not know when ‘Education’ was written as anti-war literature was suppressed from 1914 under the Defence of the Realm Act.