How do the two poets, Owen and Tennyson, in their poems ‘Dulce et Decorum est

Wilfred Owen was born on the 18th of March 1893 in Oswestry. He was the eldest of four children and brought up in the Anglican religion of the evangelical school. Wilfred Owen was one of the best and most famous trench World War One poets. His major pre occupation was trench conditions and the horrors and feelings that soldiers would have had of the war. He joined the army on the 21st of October and had 14 months of training in England, he was then sent to France in 1917.

He had a very short experience of the war, only four months. On this he based all of his war poetry. Very much shocked by the horrors of war experience, he went to Craig Lockhart War Hospital near Edinburgh. On the 4th of November 1918, seven days before the war ended Wilfred Owen sadly died.

Alfred Lord Tennyson, an English poet, often regarded as the chief representative of the Victorian age in poetry. He was born on August the 5th, 1809 in Somersby, Lincolnshire.

Alfred began to write poetry at an early age in the style of Lord Byron. One of his most famous poems, ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’ was based on the battle of Balaclava in 1854. He did not witness this battle but instead he read the report in the times newspaper. Alfred Tennyson wrote about how heroic the soldiers were and how we should honour them. Alfred used lots of effective imagery in his poems; this is basically why he is known to be one of the best poets in his time.

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Unfortunately after a very long life Alfred Lord Tennyson died at Aldwort on October the 6th, 1892 and was buried in the poet’s corner in Westminster Abbey.

In Wilfred Owens poem ‘Dulce et Decorum est.’ Owen refers to the soldiers ‘like old beggars’; he does this by using a very effective simile, to convey the soldiers exhaustion and physical distress. This gives us the impression that the soldiers looked old and acted old although they were young. They are robbed of their youth, tired and dishevelled.

In addition ‘Coughing like hags’ reveals the soldiers exhaustion. Wilfred Owen compares the soldiers to hags because hags cough disgustingly and appear ill. This also shows the soldiers were robbed of their youth and feeble. An effect simile is where he also describes soldiers as sleep-walking, using the metaphor ‘men marched asleep.’

Wilfred Owen is trying to get the readers to feel that the soldiers were so tired and exhausted they looked like they were sleeping as they were trudging.

In the metaphor limped on, ‘blood-shot’ Owen tries to convey to us the conditions of the soldier’s feet in the first stanza. He gives us a picture of the soldiers boots crusted with dried blood, not being able to walk properly, but limping. He is basically saying his shoes were made out of blood.

Although the soldiers weren’t actually drunk, Wilfred Owen quotes ‘drunk with fatigue’ this is another cleverly used metaphor because it gives a strong image of the soldiers stumbling around because they were exhausted. And needed to rest.

This is shown in the further personification ‘tired outstripped five nines’ He’s trying to say that like the men are exhausted the bombs are tired too. He tries to give us the impression that war zaps the energy from everything. This sounds very depressing.

In the second stanza Wilfred Owen increases the pace of the poem, unlike the slow pace at the beginning. In stanza two he tries to cram a lot of information in one stanza therefore the beat of the poem increases; he has a lot to say. This stanza is supposed to be a horror stanza. As the beat of the poem increases so does the strength of the imagery.

Wilfred Owen uses very powerful imagery when he says his fellow solider is ‘floundering like a man in fire or lime…’ Wilfred Owen reveals the soldiers mistakes and how confused they were when the gas hit the soldiers. This simile explains to us the chaos and the major mistakes that would have led to dying, that the soldiers made. He says it was like being dissolved by acid, the worst death.

A very effective metaphor is used in stanza two when Wilfred Owen is trying to explain to his audience that the soldiers die horrifically through his gas mask. He is trying to tell us that everything was nebulous as he writes; ‘dim through the misty panes’ as if looking through misted windows.

In Stanza three the rhythm gets slower than the rhythm in stanza two. Stanza three is basically about Owen revelling some of the repellent ways the soldiers died. He is talking from his passion and anger.

Right at the beginning of stanza three Owen says ‘if in some smothering dreams’ and this piece of personification is giving the reader the impression that a solider couldn’t escape from his dreams. It was as if he couldn’t escape from it.

The simile ‘his hanging face, like a devil sick of sin’ is a very strong indication of Owens’s utter tiredness and desperation at war. His fellow soldiers face in agony on the wagon, they have, ‘flung him in’ exhibits an expression so sick of the war it would be like the devil becoming sick of evil- impossibility. The sibilance makes the image be ‘spat out’ by the reader. He would be sick of his own doings.

Wilfred Owen uses ‘I saw him drowning’ he describes how, though they weren’t drowning in water, they were drowning in gas the effect is a simile. They were choking on the gas not drowning. This simile is put in the poem along with ‘dim through the misty panes’ to describe what the soldiers were seeing.

‘Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud’ this is Wilfred Owen’s way of conveying the anger he feels at the effect of the war had on young men, who didn’t deserve it. Wilfred is trying to emphasize how indecent the war was and what it did to its victims. Wilfred gives us the impression that war was a miligant torture in the body and a feeling of mental pain.

Wilfred Owen’s three stanza poem has been structured like it has because he is talking about different subjects. In the second stanza he talks about the horrors of the war whereas in stanza three he talks about his anger towards the war.

By contrast, Tennyson’s poem ‘The Charge of The Light Brigade’ is a story like poem which recounts the fatal charge in a chronological way. Tennyson bases his poem on facts whereas Owen bases his poem on basic feelings that he and the soldiers might have felt about the war.

Whilst Owen uses very powerful imagery including metaphors and similes, Tennyson tends to concentrate on repetition, ‘Canon to the left, cannon to the right….’ He uses this kind of repetition to emphasize how outnumbered they actually were. He is able to show how inescapable the bomb ardent was and how surrounded the men were. They were surrounded.

Another example of how Tennyson uses repetition of metaphors is when he writes ‘Valley of death’ This tells us they were all going to die from the start when he says it in the first stanza and then the second stanza.

Tennyson mimics effectively the thundering of the horses’ hooves down the valley, which is helped by the strong rhythm and repetition ‘rode the six hundred’ this is a very good repeat because it emphasizes how many soldiers there actually were. This helps at the end when Tennyson says ‘They rode back but not, not the six hundred’

A very good countenance of Tennyson’s poem and use of dramatic order is when he says ‘Forward the light brigade’ this gives us the order which led to the soldier’s fatal death.

Tennyson tries to dominate our feelings when he says ‘Someone had blundered’ the drama of the fact that a ‘blunder’ was suspected but they did their duty. Tennyson wants us to feel pity for the soldiers but to also respect them for their honour and obedience.

Use of repetition again of ‘canon to the left…’builds up a feeling of claustrophobia and being trapped with no escape; that there was no escape from their deadly fate. This tells us how out numbered they were and how besieged they were. It gives us the impression that they were definitely going to die without question!

Tennyson uses very effective onomatopoeic words to add impression as if you were their so you can imagine what actually happened. He uses this type of language when he writes ‘Volleyed and thundered’ Similar to Tennyson, Owen uses some onomatopoeic words too like when he writes ‘…to the hoots of tired outstripped five-nines’ He uses this kind of imagery for exactly the same effect that it might have on the reader.

Another good use of onomatopoeia is when Tennyson writes ‘stormed at with shot and shell’ Along with the very effective use of onomatopoeia Tennyson also uses some alliteration which is repeated for an effect. This quote makes you recall the actual sound. Hence comparing the sounds of the battle. Tennyson uses some very effective phrases to make the reader feel pity for the soldiers as their bravery is emphasized. ‘Boldly they rode and well’ However this is taken over quickly by repetition of ‘into the jaws of death’ and ‘into the mouth of hell’ This is quite effective because he tells you one thing, then straight away he contradicts himself by telling you that they will die, the hill looks like a mouth, and the soldiers come down ready to be eaten.

This spectacular sight of the light brigade is also very effective, ‘Flashing their sabres bare’ This makes us imagine that the sun was glinting off the swords, therefore makes the reader picture the sight, but also emphasizes how poorly equipped they were against the canons although it makes you think that they would be winning because there are so many swords.

‘All the world wondered’ this is referring to all the people outside the war who were not informed of how the battle was progressing because there was no way of getting this hurtful information home. This is one of the only times where Tennyson writes about other peoples feelings, quite an opposite of Owen.

Tennyson makes it as if the light brigade were winning. But it was really quite the opposite. He tries to make you feel hope for the light brigade when Tennyson writes ‘Sabring the gun there’ and ‘Plunged in the battery smoke’.

Tennyson tells us after all at the end of stanza IV that they rode back’ but not, not the six hundred’ this makes you feel for the soldiers and want to help them.

Again Tennyson uses dramatic onomatopoeic words to describe the actions effectively ‘plunged’ and ‘reeled’ and ‘shattered’ and ‘sundered’, which is assonance. Here we learn that Tennyson starts to use onomatopoeic words quite often which give the poem a very effective meaning.

In the final stanza there is a change in mood. Here he starts to tell us his opinion and his feelings of the charge. He uses a rhetorical question to make the readers stop and think to try and answer the question, ‘When can their glory fade?’ He wants us to say that their glory can never fade.

Tennyson repeats, finally the words glory and honour so that the reader understands that his view is that theses men were very brave and honourable though the charge itself was tragic.

‘O the wild charge they made’ Here he tries to tell us how brave they were. He tries to tell us how brave they were. He also gives orders to us when he says, ‘Honour the light brigade’

In conclusion Tennyson and Owen communicate their ideas about war in very different ways and indeed have slightly different attitudes to war. Owen writes from first hand experience of war whereas Tennyson writes from a second hand experience, making his poem less personal. Owen communicates his ideas by using very influential and vivid imagery whereas Tennyson uses more factual story like structure. Owen and Tennyson both think that war is reprehensible and corrupt but Tennyson says in his last stanza that you should still honour the soldiers because it is never their choice to fight, it involves tremendous bravery and duty to your country.

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How do the two poets, Owen and Tennyson, in their poems ‘Dulce et Decorum est. (2018, Dec 16). Retrieved from

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