War poetry is written either by those who want to promote war as a glamorous adventure or by those who want to depict war as a painful experience causing horror and despair to those involved. Poetry was used in some newspapers during World War one as a means of recruitment for soldiers. One journalist Jessie Pope was famed for this type of War poetry and was criticised by many poets who focused on the horrific truths war of for them and all soldiers. War poetry often gives us a accurate impression of the suffering soldiers had to endure. Poetry is also a valuable source of information on war.
In most historical books and reports we are given only detached, objective and factual information. War poetry from the likes of Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon give us their own personal feelings of war and the death as reported through their eyes. The two poems I will be comparing will be John Scott’s pre 1900 poem “The Drum” and Wilfred Owen’s post 1900 poem “Dulce et Decorum est. ” Both of these poems are anti-war but are written by people who have had very different experiences of war. John Scott who was a Quaker and opposed to all violence wrote “The Drum” in 1782.
Wilfred Owen was a soldier in the First World War. The things that he witnessed during this time left him deeply scarred; he expressed his feelings in his poems. The title of the poem “The Drum” refers to the recruiting drum played around the countryside by the army. The Drum is associated with war and in this poem as well as in the poem “On The Idle Hill” its use is clear. The first verse gives us the background to the drums use. We are told of how “thoughtless youths” are attracted to its sound and the glamorous side of war it portrays. The poem begins with ‘I hate’, immediately stating the poet’s feeling.
We are told of the drum’s “discordant sound” as if the sound of the drums spreads displeasure and disorder. The second line uses the word ‘parading’ followed by the phrase “and round” being repeated. This gives the impression that this happens again and again. It is also possible that this is like a child’s rhyme emphasising the involvement of youth. The focus on the young being victims of the drums attracting sound is shown with he use words like ‘thoughtless’ and ‘lures’. The phrase ‘To sell their liberty for charms’ sums up Scott’s belief that the young are giving their freedom away to seek wars mistaken glory.
Their search for glory is displayed in the phrase ‘Ambitions voice commands. ‘ This Personification shows us that the call for glory is part of military life but at the end of the first verse we are given the first example of what thoughtless glory will lead to. Alliteration is used to describe how the recruits will go on to ‘fight and fall in foreign lands’. This demonstrates how terrible it was as the soldiers will die in lands that mean nothing to them. The second verse also begins with the words ‘I hate’ reinforcing Scott’s personal feelings.
In this verse he concentrates on the inevitable suffering caused by war that, he starts a list of horrors with ‘To me’, again personalising the poem. The listing with and repeated over and over makes it seem that the litany of destruction is just being added to continuously. To end the poem Scott Personifies the word ‘Misery’ as if it was living in the hearts and minds of the soldiers. The title ‘Dulce et Decorum est’ is part of the old Latin saying that it is a fine and honourable thing to die for your country. By using this as a title Owen is making a statement to his intended audience who he resented deeply.
The first verse describes nothing but absolute horror and exhaustion. Words like ‘haunting’ describe the horror while a lot of Alliteration is used in phrases such as ‘knock-kneed’ and ‘the trudge of troops’ to show the level of tiredness. The phrases are used along with others like ‘Bent doubled like old beggars’ and ‘coughing like hags’ to reinforce the hellish conditions even the Five-Nines are spent from exhaustion. The word all is used twice to show that no one escaped the torment. The second verse begins frantically reflecting the panic of the men as shells of Gas fall around them.
The men are in a life and death situation and the use of ‘just in time’ demonstrates how lucky they have been to survive. But one man has not been so fortunate and his death in the sea of green is described in great detail. We are told how the was drowning as he watched helplessly. In verse three the idea of suffocation from the gas is reinforced. The inhumane situation is described when we are told the man body was flung on a wagon, this is not the heroic death that people believed they would have. Owen tells us that the sight of the dyeing man still haunts his dreams.
The man is described with words like ‘plunges’, ‘choking’ and ‘drowning’. The thought that even though the event has past the horror still lives with him again showing things which are very personal. In the final verse of the poem Owen is addressing the readers mostly likely those at home who still promote the war. He again refers to the gas attacks by using the smothering but he also talks about his own dreams asking the reader by using the ‘you’ if only they could witness what he has. Owen uses the word ‘flung’ to describe how they treated the mans body, this word shows that the mans death had no meaning.
He then goes on to describe graphically the mans appearance as he lye’s dead on the wagon. Phrases like ‘devil’s sick of sin’, ‘froth corrupted’, ‘Obscene as cancer’ and ‘vile incurable sores’ send forth strong imagery of horror. In describing these things Owen in the sense to make a greater impact. Sight is incorporated through the use of the word ‘watch’ then the word ‘hear’ is used and finally taste by using the phrase ‘bitter as cud’. The poem ends with Owen addressing those at home such as Jessie Pope who readily tell youth who seek glory that war is a great and honourable thing.
He uses ‘My friend’ when addressing these peopleperhaps an element of sarcasm but the poems end line is the most significant of the poem. Owen calls the saying ‘Dulce et decorum est Pro patria mori’ the old lie, not just a lie the lie that every youth at that time would have known. Owens title for the poem is only have the saying the rest he tells at the end maybe so that people will understand what dying in war is like so that they can make their own minds up on how honourable it is. Both of these poems send out a clear message that war is a terrible and horrific thing for all involved.
Both poets are very resentful of those who recruit the young to fight. Scott speaks of the ‘thoughtless youth’ who ‘sell their liberty for charms’ and in a similar vain Owen tells of ‘children ardent for some desperate glory’. In both poems we are told of wars misery but in must be said that Owen has used far more brutal and horrific imagery. I also think that because Owens war experiences helped to produce such a hate of war that there is more passion and personal feeling n his poem. Scott gives a very general view of war that although is quite true is not as striking or as affective.
Scott does make good uses of poetic techniques such as Alliteration and Personification to make his feelings come alive to the reader. He uses a rhyming scheme of couplets to make the poem like a nursery rhyme reinforcing the feeling that youth are the victims. Owens Poem is full of his own personal life at war. He demonstrates his hate of war and the horror of it which haunts his sleep time and time again. This poem would have made a strong statement to those who supported the war and made Owen unpopular with many but the graphic imagery would have made many stop and think about the reality of war.