“Dulce et Decorum est” by Owen and “The Charge of the Light Brigade” by Tennyson Essay
The two poems I will be analysing are `Dulce et Decorum est’ by Owen and `The Charge of the Light Brigade’ by Tennyson. Tennyson and Owen have very different views on war, I think that it is important to look at their reasons for writing the poems, and their backgrounds. Tennyson was poet laureate, and therefore a high profile figure, and expected to write poems. He came from an aristocratic background, and had a higher-class family than Owen. He did not see war for himself; he simply read a newspaper article and wrote his poem as a result of that.
His information was secondary, and therefore ubject to bias, that was beyond his control. Owen had a much different upbringing, he came from a working class family, but managed to go to university, which was unusual at that time, for working class people. He was a soldier, and had first hand experience of the reality of war, so his information on which he based his poem was primary, and we can assume it was probably much more true to the reality of war. Owen wrote his poem out of a desire to communicate the horror of war to those who still believed that it was glorious and honourable, as promoted by Tennyson’s poem.
The two views on war held by Tennyson and Owen could not be more different. Tennyson believes that the valiant and courageous should be remembered for dying in that war, on the other hand Owen is adamant that no more young boys be sent to somewhere as abhorrent as that, without knowing the truth. He knows that a lot of propaganda is prevalent, and wishes that they made up their own mind about whether they want to fight, rather than be forced, or coerced into something that they will regret.
Tennyson uses a strict rhythm and structure, while Owen uses numerous similes and a much slower speed, to encapsulate his perception of war. Half a league, half a league, Half a league onward,’ This rhythm is set from the first two lines and last until the very end of the poem. In my opinion it reflects the strict regimentation of the soldiers, and the rhythm of the horses galloping towards their destination. It is designed to make the reader feel a sense of power and glory, disregarding the facts of the situation, that there was a terrible massacre of the English army’s finest soldiers.
Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,’ Owen’s poem is much more ironic, in that the poem is called `Dulce et Decorum est’ which is Latin for `it is sweet and fitting’ so he first line of the poem is a strong and shocking contrast, moreover the title is very ironic, as it was quite a common saying at the time, and he has named his poem after it, and then goes on to describe the atrocities of war, the exact opposite of the title. His similes metaphors are very effective, and in this simile he also uses alliteration, to emphasize the pain and suffering that the men endured.
The fact that the British army were in this grave position was bad enough, but that they were `like old beggars’ is the ultimate disgrace to the army that was arrogant enough to believe that they were unbeatable. This was poignant at the time he wrote the poem. Tennyson does use metaphors, but a minority in comparison to Owen, who uses many highly effective similes and metaphors. `Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,’ Here Owen continues to create an image of the downfall of the mighty army, and how poor they are now.
He compares them to `hags,’ which implies witches and the ugliness of war, and what it has made of them. He uses the word `we’ reminding the reader that he was one of those soldiers, and that he knows what is was like to be in that situation, going through the hell that those soldiers were suffering. The word `sludge’ gives the feeling of biting cold, and thick mire that made even walking difficult. Owen makes it very easy for us to imagine the plight of these poor men. `All in the valley of Death Rode the six hundred. ‘ Here Tennyson uses a metaphor that is effective on its own, but is also from the bible, Psalm 23.
This brings a religious angle to the poem now, and that God is on the side or the Light Brigade, against the enemy. He the writes `Rode the six hundred’ which is repeated throughout the poem, and in fact there were more like seven hundred and fifty men in the Light Brigade, but Tennyson only chose to ay six hundred, maybe to make them seem more heroic because there were less of them, or possibly just for poetic licence, to keep the strong, pulsating rhythm. Tennyson’s poem moves very rapidly, and does not dwell on the consequences, where as Owen focuses on the consequences.
Tennyson tries to whip up enthusiasm, without a thought for the reality of what is happening. ` `Forward the Light Brigade! Charge for the guns! ‘ he said:’ Tennyson creates an image of the Light Brigade approaching their target in a very commanding and impressive stampede, almost regal in their stature. The adrenaline rush that the soldiers were eeling was very important, to make sure that they did not become discouraged, and the generals would shout instructions to keep them motivated and rapt in what they were doing, and that is what Tennyson is writing about here, the sheer determination of the Light Brigade.
His use of exclamation marks conveys the atmosphere of the charge to the reader. `Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots But limped on, blood-shod’ This imagery uses a metaphor in `men marched asleep’ and also alliteration, to give the slow plodding feel of the soldiers walking on in the ghastly conditions. Use of the words `blood-shod’ s excellent imagery as it has a meaning that they were shod with blood and the similarity of sounds gives an enhanced mental image of the scene that Owen was recounting.
Owen’s poem does pick up pace when he talks about a gas attack, which contrasts with the rest of the poem, and Tennyson writes briefly about the fact that a mistake had been made, but the soldiers carried on, regardless. `Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling, fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;’ Owen describes the slow plodding side to the war previously, and here contrasts it to the extreme with a gas attack that forces hem all into action. He uses capitals for the word `Gas,’ showing the pure desperation in which they had to save themselves.
Gas was one of the most horrible ways to die, and it was not a swift death, so it was extremely feared among the soldiers, making this section of the poem all the more dramatic and contrasting to the rest of it. He uses the word `ecstasy,’ which is usually associated with pleasure, but in this case it is the `fumbling,’ to put on their gas masks, which makes it all the more noticeable and effectual. Tennyson does hint about the mistakes of the generals, and hat the soldiers knew about it, but then he reinforces his point, of patriotism and loyalty, regardless of the cost.
Owen focuses on one particular man, who is unfortunate, and treats him as an individual, not the generalisation of Tennyson. `And floundering like a man in fire or lime… ‘ Here Owen creates a scene of a man who had not fitted his gas mask in time, and is suffering the consequences of the gas attack. He uses the word `floundering’ to describe the way he is moving in this simile, and gets the reader to visualise a man in fire or lime, a horrible enough image in itself, but that only describes is movement.
Not though the soldier knew someone had blundered: Their’s not to make reply, Their’s not to reason why, Their’s but to do and die:’ Tennyson gives a glimpse of what had really happened in the battle, and that it was a farce, but then backs it up with one of the most effective sections in the poem, where the repetition of the `Their’s not to’ and the rhythm of the passage speeds up the whole poem, into a similar frenzy that the soldiers would be worked into by the adrenaline of the battle.
They had no say in the orders in those days, and to answer back to a superior was unheard of, you just ollowed your orders, and did not question them. Tennyson uses repetition again to show the odds faced by the brave soldiers, and how they pressed on regardless. Owen recounts his personal view of what happened to a real person, which is very effective as it gets the reader to envision the revulsion felt by the other soldiers, looking on this incident. Cannon to the right of them, Cannon to the left of them, Cannon in front of them Volleyed and thundered;’ Tennyson successfully accentuates the dire predicament that the soldiers are obliged to undertake. He uses the repetition of the hrase, with the same rhythm to underline the hectic feeling of the Light Brigade, as the ride towards their formidable enemy. `Dim through the misty panes and thick green light, As under a green sea, I saw him drowning. ‘ Here Owen uses a simile, then goes on to use it as a metaphor.
He describes the eerie colour of the gas as `misty panes,’ and `thick green light,’ which, combined with the fact that he is in acute pain gives a terrifying and harrowing account of the abhorrent way that men died in the war. The reader gets the impression that Owen feels guilty and helpless, all he can do is be a bystander, and ait for the pitiable man to die. Owen uses astounding onomatopoeic language, among very effective similes and metaphors.
Tennyson explains to the world the bravery and courage it took to do what they did. He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning. ‘ Owen selection of language is impeccable for its intention, as he uses the word `guttering,’ to describe the way the man sounded before he died, and it does so remarkably. It is onomatopoeic, and very convincing that it was in fact the final `plunge,’ of a dying man. He also continues his metaphor of the man `drowning,’ in the gas. Charging and army, while All the world wondered:’ Tennyson is writing his poem for the world to read, so in a sense, it is to the reader, without having to directly say it, he implies it.
He tells the reader that they charged the army for valour and honour, not because of a well-informed decision, but because they were so dedicated to their cause that they were willing to lay down their lives for their country. He acknowledges that it seems strange to charge an army, when you are armed only with sabres, and you are riding a horse, when they are armed with cannons, but he encourages he reader to join his perspective, that it was a valiant charge, and they should be honoured for it.
Tennyson gets the reader to be patriotic too, as he tells of the amazing attack that the Light Brigade made, even with the odds against them. Owen describes the awful disrespect for the dead, which became so because of the normality of somebody dying, which is horrific, that a person can die without anyone bothering or taking the time to be respectful to him. `Plunged in the battery-smoke Right through the line they broke; Cossack and Russian Reeled from the sabre-stroke,’ Tennyson has already inferred that they were fighting a attle that they were not going to win, but regardless they fought on gallantly.
It is very surprising that they did actually break through the Russian line of defence, and it was amazing that they got that far, but colossal losses were made to the Light Brigade, without doing a proportionate amount of damage to the Russians. Tennyson uses three rhyming endings out of four lines, which speeds the pace of the poem up to its maximum, and makes it mirror the frenzied attack on the mighty Russians. The Russians and Cossacks were renowned for their mercilessness and brutality, moreover there were many more Russians han there were Light Brigade.
All of this contributes to Tennyson’s image of how gallant the attack was. If in some smothering dreams you too could pace Behind the wagon we flung him in, And watch his white eyes writhe in his face,’ Owen uses alliteration to give emphasis to the dream image, of being suffocated and smothered and mauled by the dream, he makes the reader liken this to what he has to endure, recalling all of the horrific scenes of the war, day after day. He challenges the readers to ask themselves if they could walk behind that wagon, and watch his writhing eyes, and knowing that you have no time to pay proper respect o them, moreover it could be you in that wagon next, or your best friend.
He uses the word `flung,’ to show how carelessly the dead were dealt with, and the impersonality with which they had to be treated. The soldiers were desensitised to the horror now, but still the memories, and nightmares remained. This particular incident seems to have been one that particularly affected Owen, and he uses this as an example of how every soldier would have similar ghastly and atrocious recollections of the war that would haunt them for the rest of their lives. It is no longer a recounting of his experiences, but t now involves the reader, and confronts their own views on war.
They have to revaluate what they think of war, and whether they would be willing to go themselves, or in most cases send their sons, husbands and fathers. This is hugely effective, for the sheer fact that it is unfeasible to read the poem and not take on board what Owen’s point is, and that he feels so strongly about it that he has to convey to the general public. Owen uses vivid language to express what he believes to be the reality of war. Tennyson steers attention away from pain and death, and asks that everyone honour them, regardless of whether they ied or not.
His hanging face, like devil’s sick of sin; If you could hear at every jolt, the blood Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,’ Owen has already challenged the reader about whether they could be the ones that fling the man into the wagon, then whether they could be the ones that watch him in the wagon, now Owen brings in yet another sense, whether the reader could listen to `the blood come gargling from the froth corrupted lungs,’ He challenges the reader in so many ways which makes it more efficient at achieving the emotion that he wants the reader to feel.
This conveys Owens views of war to he reader skilfully and efficiently. His use of a simile is one of the most effective in the poem; he uses a spiritual and hellish simile, which also incorporates alliteration, to give it a raspy, evil sound. The image created here is truly evil and foul, and I think that this summarises Owens feelings about war quite well, it is now clear to the reader what Owen is trying to communicate, and why. Stormed at with shot and shell, While horse and hero fell, They that had fought so well,’ Tennyson comments on the prowess of their adversary, as they are still firing at them when they are trying to retreat, and mentions hat soldiers have died, but he uses the word `fell,’ to take the attention away from the fact that they have died, and he wants the reader to focus on the glory of it all, in addition to that they should be seen as heroes whether they died of not. Tennyson and Owen’s poems both reach their climaxes in terms of their dramatic language and devices.
These make the point that each writer is making stick in the minds of the reader. `When can their glory fade? O, the wild charge they made! ‘ Here Tennyson uses a rhetorical device, to infer to the public that the glory of the soldiers, dead or alive should never be orgotten. Tennyson glamorises the whole image of war, and makes the glory of it the focal point, without mentioning the pain, suffering and death, which seems to be a large omission in my opinion, as that is a large part of the reality of war. Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud Of vile incurable sores on innocent tongues,’ Owen uses the word `obscene,’ which is often used in a different context, but here it makes the point that it is so foul, what he sees before him that he does not even want to look at it. He writes that it is `bitter,’ which provides a perfect expression of the ay that he feels about this scene. By writing about innocent tongues, he is implying that the men that are fighting the war are innocent; it is the superiors and government that are the guilty ones, the ones that command the armies.
Here, the soldiers have to live with the consequences, rather than the people who are really to blame. Nobody can bring the dead back to life, or undo what has been done, so that is why Owen calls the it `incurable,’ which is really a main theme of his poem, that what has been done is done, and all this suffering is not even their fault, it is simply paying the price for thers shortcomings. The last lines of each poem summarise perfectly the two views on war held by these two writers. 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. ‘ Owen is fighting the views of such people who think that to go to war is honourable, the exact opposite of the intention of Tennyson’s poem. He uses irony in his poem, as the title simply means `It is sweet and fitting,’ where as at the end he clarifies what he really means, and what he really thinks about war.
He has experienced war for himself, and does not want others to have such a horrific burden placed upon them without being fully informed of the great hardships to be endured in doing so. He calls it `The old Lie,’ which is a very strong statement to make against a saying that people genuinely believe in, with which he intentionally shocks the reaHe also says `My friend,’ this is applicable to everybody, not just to select people, and the reader knows that. `Honour the charge they made! Honour the Light Brigade, Noble six hundred! ‘ Tennyson’s use of exclamation marks makes his point very lear.
This poignant ending commands the public to follow his views on war, and instructs them to honour the whole six hundred, whether they returned or not. Tennyson writes with one clear aim, that patriotism is instilled in every person who reads it, and does not doubt his or her country. He uses repetition to make his point all the more clear and concise. His poem is mainly propaganda, and is not supposed to be used as a historical account of the battle, but as a symbol of the bravery of the soldiers, and a monument to their glory, that in Tennyson’s opinion should never fade.