When we read each different poem we can see the different techniques and methods used to convey each scenario. In the 4 poems I have studied we can see that some are simple pre-first World War jingoism whereas others show the horrors of the world war as they are. Some have symbolism and others contain consolation. In The Soldier by Rupert Brooke we can see that it is very symbolic and patriotic. It is mainly about dying for one’s own country. The opening line is very negative and pessimistic. ‘If I should die think only this of me.
The poet is assuming he has a high chance of dying in the war. The next line is very patriotic; ‘There’s some corner of a foreign field that is for ever England. ‘ This line may make you think that he does not give a care for his own life, he is more concerned with spreading the empire of England. ‘In that rich earth a richer dust concealed. ‘ This line just means that in the rich soil there is a richer dust (his remains) hidden. He thinks that the remains of a British soldier who died for his country is richer than any soil.
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware, gave, once her flowers to love, her ways to roam. ‘ We can now see that this poem is not really about the war but it is instead a story of how England shaped and created all the soldiers fighting and so they should be proud that the dust of England lies in a foreign field. He is saying that England made him what he is and gave him flowers when in love and let him roam. He personifies England as a woman when he says ‘her ways. ‘ As if it is a woman letting him roam her fields. A body of England’s, breathing English air, Washed by the rivers, blest by the sun of home. ‘
This line helps to create the effect that England is a person possessing fields and now air. It makes you believe that you belong to England and therefore have to fight for your country. You have been washed by the rivers of England and you are always blessed when the sun is over England. The sun is the same everywhere but Brooke makes it seem as if the sun is somehow better in England. ‘And think, this heart, all evil shed away, A pulse in the eternal mind, no less. He is saying that you live forever in the pure heart of England. ‘Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given. ‘ All of the thoughts which you have been given by England will be given back.
As if it does not matter that you are dead because the whole of England will benefit form your death somehow. ‘Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day. ‘ Again, England is personified as a woman. You can dream of England in your eternal sleep. You lived loving England and you can die dreaming of it. ‘Laughter, learnt of friends and gentleness, in hearts at peace, under an English heaven. This is basically saying that everyone in England is happy because they are under an English heaven. This poem is very patriotic and has very little to do with war.
It tries to make the reader believe that England is the only country in the world and that everyone in it is happy and pure in soul. And that when you die you will be rewarded in this ‘English heaven. ‘ The next poem is Vitai Lampada by Henry Newbolt. This poem is also very patriotic and it starts by describing a cricket match, ‘Ten to make and the match to win. This is very good because many schoolboys would have gone to the war and winning a cricket match was a great honour to your school so fighting a war would be so to your country.
Newbolt makes us believe that it not about ‘a ribboned coat or the selfish hope of a season’s fame, but his Captains hand on his shoulder smote: Play up! Play up! And play the game! ‘ This gives the impression that people play not for the reward or the fame but in fact for the honour of your Captains pride in you. The next stanza is set in the desert and it is no longer a cricket but real life war. The sand of the desert is sodden red, red with the wreck of a square that broke. ‘ This stanza is very harsh and hard-hitting.
It is saying that the desert is red with the blood of a failed military formation. ‘The Gatling’s jammed and the Colonel dead. And the regiment blind with dust and smoke. ‘ This is very hopeless and saying it looks as if there is nothing that can be done to restore the pride and honour of the soldiers fighting. ‘The river of death has brimmed his banks, and England’s far, and Honour a name, But the voice of a schoolboy rallies the ranks: Play up! Play up!
And Play the game! ‘ This last pair of lines is restoring the hope. It is saying that although things may look very bleak just remember the schoolboys at home in England and remember the pride of your schoolboy cricket match games. It looks as though no more people can die and England is far but just remember that schoolboy’s voice in your head. ‘This is the word that year by year, while in her place the School is set, Every one of her sons must hear. ‘ It is saying that the spirit of the school cannot leave even if the building does.
Every year schoolboys hear these words. And none that hears it dare forget. This they all with a joyful mind beat through life like a torch in flame, and falling, fling to the host behind – Play up! Play up! And play the game! ‘ This closing few lines is saying that everyone who passes through the school always hears the words and none of them forget it. And if you are falling you must pass them on like a torch in flame. It is almost like if you die then pass on the torch of wisdom from your school. This poem was very patriotic as well. It shows that many poets did not take war as seriously as it was.
The way it compares a cricket match to a war is quite silly. However these are the techniques which were used to entice people into signing up and fighting for their country. The next poem is very serious and takes a severe approach on war. Exposure by Wilfred Owen is a poem not about the enemy attacking but about the threat of the harsh weather conditions. ‘Our brains ache, in the merciless iced east winds that knive us… ‘ This first line introduces you to just how harsh the weather is.
The wind is so cold that it is almost as if they are being knived. Wearied we keep awake because the night is silent… ‘ This shows us that silence is seen as a threat and they don’t know what is happening – it is more assuring to hear someone and know what they are doing rather than not to hear them and have an idea. It also the pun on Silent Night, normally seen as happy here it is used in a different manor. ‘Low, drooping flares confuse our memory of the salient… ‘ the soldiers cannot remember what has happened of where the enemy because of the flares. The bright lights confuse them. ‘Worried by silence, sentries whisper, curious, nervous.
But nothing happens. ‘ This line is basically an anti-climax because the whole first stanza builds up to ‘nothing happens. ‘ It is saying that all the soldiers’ worries are for nothing but they cannot help worrying. ‘Watching, we hear the mad gusts tugging on the wire, like twitching agonies of men among its brambles. ‘ This line paints a picture of soldiers watching the wire being tugged and pulled around by the wind and imagining their allies and friends tangled up in its ‘brambles’ as they die in agony while the soldiers have to sit powerless.
Northward, incessantly the flickering gunnery rumbles, far off like a dull rumour of some other war. What are we doing here? ‘ This line refers to the sound of gunfire in the distance, which seems so far away that it could have been in the past. It shows that in this poem the main concern is the danger of the weather. ‘What are we doing here? ‘ This question makes you ask yourself in your head what they were doing there when they were not fighting. Instead they sat and basically died a slow death.
‘The poignant misery of dawn begins to growl… We only know that war lasts, rain soaks and clouds sag stormy. Dawn massing in the east her melancholy army attacks once more on shivering ranks of gray, but nothing happens. ‘ This stanza refers to the fact that the soldiers have become so distanced that they no longer have any knowledge other than that of the war lasting, the rain soaking and the clouds sagging. It also says about dawn is starting in the east and the sun is rising. But once again nothing happens. The repetition of this phrase helps it stay in your mind. Sudden successive flights of bullets streak the silence, less deathly than the air that shudders black with snow, with sidelong flowing flakes that flock, pause and renew; we watch them wandering up and down the wind’s nonchalance, but nothing happens. ‘
This stanza makes you realise that the soldiers in the poem are not concerned with the bullets but instead with the deathly snow. It personifies the snow as some kind of flock of birds flying up and down the wind’s nonchalance. The word nonchalance helps to personify the wind as some kind of person who is not concerned with the snow. Pale flakes with fingering stealth come feeling for our faces – we cringe in holes, back on forgotten dreams, and stare, snow-dazed, deep into grassier ditches, so we drowse, sun-dozed, littered with blossoms trickling where the blackbird fusses.
Is it that we are dying? ‘ This last stanza shows the onset of frostbite. It personifies the snow as a stealthy creature, which has watched the soldiers and now chose to make its move on them. The phrase ‘snow-dazed’ ties in with ‘sun-dozed’, which is used a line afterwards. They help to create the effect that the weather has effected their state of mind. Is it that we are dying? ‘ This is almost like an answer to the question ‘What are we doing here? ‘ from the second stanza.
This poem is very pessimistic and shows a negative outlook on war. It also shows an unexpected view on the dangers of war. Most poems would be about the enemy (Germany) but this changes roles and makes the weather the enemy. It is almost like the soldiers fighting the weather are powerless and can do nothing against it. The final poem is Dolce Et Decorum Est (It is sweet and meek to die for one’s country). It is also by Wilfred Owen.
The first stanza of the poem refers to the soldiers as ‘old beggars under sacks’ and makes the reader picture soldiers as frail and helpless beggars underneath sacks. ‘Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge. ‘ This helps the image of old beggars. It makes it seem as if the soldiers have no immune system left. ‘Till on the haunting flares turned our backs and towards our distant rest we begin to trudge. ‘ This makes us imagine soldiers simply marching to their death. The flares from the enemy haunt them behind. ‘Men marched asleep, many had lost their boots but limped on, blood-shod.
All went lame; all blind; drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots of tired, outstripped five-nines that dropped behind. ‘ This is showing the deterioration of the soldiers’ health. None of them can see and they cannot even hear the ‘hoots (sound of the shells)’ which is all happening just behind them. They are so tired it seems as if they are in a state or drunkenness. ‘Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – An Ecstasy of fumbling, fitting the clumsy helmets just in time; but someone still was yelling out and stumbling and flound’ring like a man in fire or lime… im, through the misty panes and thick green light, as under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
‘ This is the gas alert. All the soldiers fumbled to get the ‘clumsy helmets (gas masks)’ on but one person still didn’t get it on and then drowned in a sea of green gas. The misty pane is referring to the pane of glass on the helmet. ‘In all my dreams, before my helpless sight, he plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning. ‘ This line shows that even in sleep the soldier cannot escape from the war and the soldier who he could not save haunts him in his sleep.
If in some smothering dreams you too could pace behind the wagon that we flung him in, and watch the white eyes writhing in his face, his hanging face like a devil’s sick of sin; if you could hear, at every jolt, the blood come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs, obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues – my friend, you would not tell with such high zest to children ardent for some desperate glory, the old lie: Dolce Et Decorum Est Pro Patria Mori.
This stanza is just saying that if you could have seen the pain and suffering of the soldier that we threw in the wagon then you would not tell your children that lie. The amount of emphasis put into how horrid the soldiers’ appearance was is quite amazing. ‘Like a devil’s sick of sin,’ a devil would never become sick of sin unless something was really wrong.
This poem is very graphic and shows only a small event in the war. It is mocking the patriotism of some people. In conclusion we could say that some poets may have been influence by government rule and may have just wanted to make money out of a war whereas others wanted to tell the true story behind the fighting and the ‘glory. ‘