We have been studying two poems, the “Anthem For Doomed Youth” by Wilfred Owen, and “Attack” by Seigfried Sassoon. These poems are both anti war poems and were written during the time of the First World War. Owen’s poem is about the lack of appropriate burials and respect to the dead soldiers.
The other poem, Attack, is a narrative about an attack on the British soldiers.
In some ways the poems are very similar. As I mentioned before both are anti war. I can tell this from the way they describe people dying. In Owen’s poem the men are described as, “Dying like cattle.” In Sassoon’s poem they are said to have,
“Grey muttering faces masked with fear.” Death is inevitable. In each poem the poets suggest that the war is one sided, that they are “doomed” and they “flounder.”
Both of the poems make me stop and wonder where god is in all of this horror. The only “choirs” the soldiers have are the “demented choirs” of “wailing shells.”
Both contain a lot of poetic devices. The most extensively used one is alliteration. This helps us to almost hear what is happening. For example in the “Anthem,” Owen describes the gunfire as a “rapid rattle.” For a similar effect in Sassoon’s poem you can almost hear the slow ticking of a clock when he uses the alliteration “time ticks.”
There is plenty of onomatopoeia and graphic description, so we almost feel as if we are there on the battlefield. Words like “monstrous” and “menacing” give us pictures of the battle scene, whilst words like “roars” and “stuttering” provide the sound effects.
However, the poems do have their differences. “Attack” is more factual than the “Anthem” and the emotion doesn’t come until the end when you can hear, as if your right next to him in the trench, him cry out,
“Jesu make it stop!” In “Anthem” you can sense Wilfred Owens anger all the way through by just allowing yourselves to hear the bitterness in which he asks, almost sarcastically,
“What passing bells for these who die as cattle?”
The form of the poems is very different. Sassoon’s is set out all in one verse whereas Owen’s is set out as a sonnet with an octave and a sestet. This leads me on to showing you the difference in the overall content of the poems. Attack is about just one incident, exactly what the title suggests. It is basically a short story about an attack. Owen’s is split up into two scenarios. One takes place on the battlefield with the gunfire and bombs. The other takes us back home to what it was like for the wives and girlfriends of the young men in the war. Secondly “Anthem” is a discussion, which involves the reader, by describing the terrible conditions and also suggesting that this is there funeral,
“What passing bells for these who die as cattle? /Only the monstrous anger of the guns/Only the stuttering rifles rapid rattle.”
The poetic devices are not always the same. Firstly, the rhyming pattern is different. Whereas in Owen’s it follows the traditional of ending in a rhyming couplet of a sonnet Sassoon’s is very unusual, AACDBEDEDGGD. Owen uses rhetorical questions to speak out to us,
“What candles may be held to speed them all?”
Sassoon uses direct speech and this only comes in on the very last line where he cries out
“O Jesu make it stop!”
I think that Wilfred Owen’s poem is better, I feel the anger that grips you all the way through, although it’s awful to find that it ends so quickly because I would have liked it to go on forever. However I do like the final line of Sassoon’s poem when he shows emotion as it seems as though he is really there at the scene.