In the beginning of the Great War the army was not a conscripted one. This meant that soldiers had to volunteer their services. As the British army was in constant need of new soldiers many methods were used to encourage the public to join the war effort. A widely used way of getting people to enlist was to use recruitment poems. Poets who had never actually fought in the war often wrote these poems. This is one of the distinguishing factors between recruitment and trench poems. I have looked at ‘Fall In’ by Harold Begbie and ‘Who’s for the game? by Jesse Pope. Harold Begbie wrote one poem I have studied titled “fall in”.
The title immediately sets the tone for the poem, by saying the reader should fall into line in the army. This poem has 3 verses, each verse has 8 lines which all have an alternate rhyme scheme. This poem uses methods that make the reader feel that it is their duty to enrol in and if they don’t they will be ashamed for the rest of their life. This poem uses rhetorical questions to make it seem like there is only one answer – to enlist.
This is shown in the very first line, What will you lack sonny, what will you lack when the girls line up the street, shouting their love to the lads come back from the foe they rushed to beat. ” This line implies that no girl will want a man who has not been to war. I think the use of the word “sonny” is important to this poem, as lots of older men use the word sonny so it could be a figure of authority or even the readers father. Which would encourage the reader to join the army. Each of the three verses refer to different stages in a mans life. The first verse is when you are a young man and you are looking for a girlfriend.
The second verse is when the man as young children who “Clamour to learn the part you took in the war that kept men free” This verse again implies that you will be ashamed if you do not fight in the war. The third verse is written at the end of the mans life when other old men talk of the war and he has nothing to talk about. The poem ‘Fall In’ focuses on the negative points about not joining the army. The main theme of this poem is shame, shame that would occur in later life if the reader does not enlist. The next recruitment poem I studied has a very different theme and approach to recruitment then’ Fall In’.
Jesse Pope wrote ‘Who’s for the game? ‘ This poem has 4 verses each verse has 4 lines. It also has an alternate rhyme scheme and uses rhetorical questions, which is similar to ‘Fall In’. The title of this poem ‘Who’s for the game? ‘ is very appropriate to the rest of the poem. War is referred to as a game; I know this as in the first two lines it says, ” Who’s for the game, the biggest that’s played, The red crashing game of a fight? ” I think that war is referred to as a game and a fight, to make it seem less important then it really was.
Although this poem does not focus on the shame of not going there is still an element of this. Most of the poem builds war up to be a game but there is also lines saying that if you didn’t go you would be a coward. One such line is in verse 3 “Who would much rather come back with a crutch, than lie low and be out of the fun? ” The second poem is more positive than ‘Fall in’ but both would make the reader want to enlist. The use of rhetorical questions is very important in these poems, as they imply that there is no argument against enlisting.
At the end of the first three verses the lines are very similar to each line in ‘Fall In’. In this way these poems are similar, both poems also are very structured and do not exceed the scheme of the poem. Both of these poems are intended to be read quickly, and to leave an impression with the reader. I know this as both poems have powerful last lines, referring to the country and god. All the recruitment poems I have studied give the same reason for enlisting. This is that if you do not you will be an outcast in society. I think the promise of a lonely life would have pushed many people to help with the war effort.
All the recruitment poems are very similar in their structure. Most are in short verses and have rhyme schemes. They are very regimented- like the army and leave an impression of pride for their country. Rhetorical questions are used frequently to impress a further need to enlist. There are many mentions of queen and country and also of god, to make the reader think that a higher power is calling them to join the army. While many young men were being recruited to the army there were thousands in the trenches, living an awful life.
There were many diseases present in the trenches and soldiers had to live in terrible conditions. These conditions were written about in trench poems. Two I have studied were written by Wilfred Owen. These are ‘Dulce et decorum est’ and ‘futility’. Dulce et decorum est is Latin; it means it is sweet and decorous. In this poem it is sweet and decorous to die for your country. The title is supposed to be a sarcastic comment; the poem goes on to say how bad life is living in the trenches and how much it is not sweet to die for your country. Wilfred Owen uses lots of similes in this poem.
I know this as in the first line of the poem it says, “Bent double, like old beggars under sacks, Knock-kneed, coughing like hags” This is so someone knows the extent of what he and others were going through in the war. Wilfred Owen also refers to himself in the poem; this adds a personal touch to the poem. I think that how Wilfred Owen uses ‘I’ and ‘our’ in the poem makes his ordeal seem more real to the reader. This poem does not have any real structure, but in places there is an alternate rhyme scheme but this is not consistent all through the poem.
I think that this shows the frame of mind Owen would have been in whilst in the trenches. The first verse of the poem is a vague account of what could have happened anytime in the war. The last three verses are a specific event that happened when gas was released and one soldier did not get his mask on in time. The last verse is about how Owen had to watch the man dieing and hear the gas destroying his lungs, he ends the poem by saying “My friend. You would not tell with such high zest to children ardent for some desperate glory, the old lie: Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori”
This means that it is not sweet and decorous to die for your country. This last line sums up what the whole poem is saying and is very powerful added to the images you get from the last verse. Futility is also a trench poem, it is also a poem about a man dieing and Owen’s thoughts on the man’s death. The man in this poem has frozen to death in the snow. I know this as in the first verse it says; “Move him into the sun-gently its touch awoke him once, always it woke him, even in France until this morning and this snow. ” This poem does have a structure – unlike ‘dulce et decorum est’.
This poem is quite similar to the first in the way that some lines rhyme and some do not. This poem uses rhetorical questions in the second verse, these question the need for war. This poem starts on one specific event but ends talking generally about the war. I think that recruitment and trench poems are completely different, in the ways they are structured, their views of the war and also the way their point is put across to the reader. I think that recruitment poems are generally more structured than trench poems. I also think that literacy devices are used more in recruitment poems, e. g. hetorical questions.
Recruitment poems often focus on the negative things that will occur if someone did not enlist, whereas trench poems say the negative things that will happen when you do enlist. Trench poems did not call on higher powers to tell the reader not to enlist but recruitment powers often refer to queen and country and god. I think that because trench poems were more structured and rhyming, made them easier to read and affiliate with for the average man on the street. I think that this made recruitment poems more successful than trench poems. Even though trench poems were closer to the truth.