‘The charge of the light brigade’ was written in 1854 by Alfred Lord Tennyson, to honour those who died in war, in the battle of Balaclava. The poem was written during the Crimean war and published in the Times, newspaper. Tennyson’s attitude towards war was based on what he read in the newspapers. He was a poet laureate. Wilfred Owen’s also wrote a poem called “Dulce et decorum est” he was born in 1893 and died at a very young age in 1918.
He died during the battle; therefore his poem reflects his experiences. Both poems were written in different decades, and therefore are about different wars, and consequently, clearly illustrating the changing attitudes to war these poems are describing. One author saying how war is such a great thing and how brave the soldiers were and how it was a thing they just had to do. In contrast the other author is saying, how terrible war is and also emphasizes the death and injuries. Tennyson describes the glory and heroism of war, rather than the death and stupidity.
Starting with the ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’ Tennyson uses imagery and figurative language creates the tone of exhilaration and the theme of honouring the Light Brigade.
‘Charge of the Light Brigade’ can be divided down into three different parts, the charge towards the battle, the scene where the battle takes place and lastly, where they retreat and flee from their enemies.
The first stanza starts off with repetition, the effect of using this is to emphasise the point it’s trying to make, in this case, emphasising the distance they travelled, “half a league.” This suggests the soldiers rode one and a half miles. It also gives the poem a beat of the hooves of the horses and this continues through the whole poem. The next line “in the Valley of Death,” the use of the metaphor helps to convey that the valley is where many men were soon to die. The word ‘death’ is put into capitals to add stress and importance. Tennyson also uses imperatives such as ‘forward the light brigade’ and ‘charge for the guns’ showing the soldiers were inferior to Lord Raglan. It also helps to create an image in the reader’s mind of the scene. When Tennyson writes ‘he said’ he is referring to Lord Raglan but uses the word ‘he’ to show that he doesn’t have much respect for Lord Raglan.
This is because Lord Raglan led the 600 soldiers up the wrong valley, and some of the soldiers needlessly died. All that had said to happened is “someone had blundered” even the soldiers knew that. Tennyson doesn’t refer to any individual soldier alone but refers to them as the ‘six hundred’ showing the reader that no single individual is important but the collective is.
In stanza two, Tennyson uses imperatives again ‘Forward, the light brigade.’ This also shows movement. ‘Was there a man dismay’d?’ this is a use of a rhetorical question because the reader knows that they were not disappointed, they knew were going to die awaiting battle, they had to be heroic and fearless about it, “Their’s not to make reply, their’s not to reason why, their’s but to do and die.” This shows the soldiers had NO say in what’s happening they just followed the commander’s instructions into war. Their aim was to go out to war and die fighting. Also the ‘d’ sound effect is heavy, making everything seem worse and harder. Tennyson also uses alliteration ‘do and die’ which is used as another way of emphasis.
Battle scene, stanza three, starts off with another set of repetition.
“Cannon to the right of them, Cannon to the left of them, Cannon in front of them”. Repeating this emphasises that they are being attacked in every direction, and that it’s difficult to escape. It’s also again goes back to the point of how the men were brave and noble to go through it. Tennyson uses imagery to describe the determination of these soldiers who were “volleyed and thundered, stormed at with shot and shell”, but continued to attack. The courageousness of these soldiers is shown by persistency, even though they faced countless dangers. Also Tennyson glorified and made the soldiers seem brave by summing up theirs acts with this quote ‘Boldly they rode and well.’ This is an oxymoron. Then in the next line, Tennyson writes “into the jaws of death,” which is a contrast to the previous line as it is very negative. He also uses personification towards the end ‘death’ and ‘hell’ saying that they have a ‘mouth’ and ‘ jaws’ which adds reality and hazard to the scene.
Stanza four is the stanza where the soldiers strike the enemy gunners with their “sabres bare”-getting out their weapons out and charging at the enemy army while the rest of the world looks on in wonder – “All in the world of wonder’d,” and also the “world” is amazed at the heroism of these men who are continuing on. The next line reads “plunged in the battery-smoke” meaning the soldiers had just rode into the artillery smoke and broke through the enemy line, destroying their opponents – Cossacks and Russians. Right at the end of this paragraph the soldiers retreat and rode back but they had lost many men so they were “not the six hundred” any more.
The beginning of stanza five is anaphoric because it refers back to the opening of stanza three; Canons behind, in front and on both sides of them. They are now assaulted with shots and shells again, showing that the journey back is just as unsafe as the journey to the battle. It could also show a sign of claustrophobia. As the brigade rode on “back from the mouth of hell,” soldiers and horses collapsed; few remained to make the journey back. This also makes the reader feel sympathetic for the soldiers that died and how fearless they were, giving up their last moments of life fighting for their country, representing them.
Finally, the last stanza, the shortest stanza in the poem. It is like a remembrance section to give credit to the soldiers who fought for their lives. The stanza is introduced with a rhetorical question, ‘when can their glory fade.’ The answer to this is that their glory can never fade because we remember them in remembrance Sunday for their hard effort they put in, to make us remember them. Tennyson uses imperatives, ‘honour the charge they made, honour the Light Brigade,’ telling us to honour and respect their courageous skills and bravery. The ending of the stanza is the phrase, ‘noble the six hundred,’ is a summary of the whole patriotic poem and it makes us recall the phrase.
In conclusion, the poem used a wide variety of personification, imagery, figures of speeches, and other poetic devices to provide to the tone of exhilaration and the theme of honouring the Brigade. Tennyson efficiently used strong figurative language and structure to tie together the reasoning behind the theme and tone of the poem.
Owen on the other hand, chooses to describe a very opposite side of war. Unlike Tennyson, Owen has real experience of fighting on the battlefield and because of these bad experiences he believes that it is NOT sweet and fitting to die for your country.
Owen capitalizes greatly on metaphors and similes. Right off in the first line, he describes the troops as being “like old beggars under sacks.” This not only says that they are tired; but that they are so tired they have been brought down to the level of beggars who have not slept for weeks on end. Another simile also used to express the men’s wretched condition after fighting in war is, ‘coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge.’ The use of onomatopoeia highlights the sticky and thick mud that the men forced themselves to travel through. ‘Coughing like hags’ this shows that they’re being compared to drowsy, ugly women. When Owen writes ‘we’, he makes the poem seem much more personal. All these soldiers are completely drained and warn out from a demanding day. ‘And towards our distant rest began to trudge,’ insinuating that the soldiers are dragging their feet to their much expected moments of relax before they have to go back again. The soldiers are physically and mentally crushed, as it is conveyed in this effective metaphor, ‘men marched asleep.’
The contrasting of ‘march’ and ‘asleep’ strongly underlines how exhausted they were and yet they had to keep on walking with will power. Most of the men had lost their boots and therefore were limping because their feet were cut and bleeding, ‘but limped on, blood shod,’ implying they were physically and mentally in pain and they are suffering a great deal to get back to their trenches. “Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots”. With this vivid description, you can almost imagine large numbers of people dragging their boots through the mud, tripping over their own shadow. This stanza concentrates on the soldiers’ discomforts and struggles. They don’t notice what’s going on in the background, ‘of tired, outstripped five-nines that dropped behind,’ suggesting that they’re not able to focus their attention to the bombs because the suffering of this journey is enough to think about.
The second stanza kicks of with exclamation marks informing us that “Gas! Gas!” must have leaked somewhere. “An ecstasy of fumbling”
The ‘boys’ were forced to run out into the mist, unaware of their fate. The vivid images displayed here are deeply affecting and can never be forgotten. It paints a mental image that disturbs our minds. The troops were torn out of their nightmarish walk and surrounded by gas bombs. Then the action focuses on one man who couldn’t get his gas helmet on in time when there was a gas attack. ‘Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time.’ Here, Owen has used personification to add life to the helmet, saying that the helmet a hard one to wear when you need it the most! Stanza two is opposite to stanza one as it is slow paced, and action less however stanza two is full of intense movement. Owen uses the word ‘ecstasy’ as stated before, which adds wildness and how out of control the soldiers are in this scene. A simile is used to describe the pain a soldier went through, when he didn’t put on his gas mask in time “but someone still was yelling out …. Like a man in fire or lime”.
This makes this part of the poem more dramatic and adds to the amount of danger that the men are in. “as under a green sea, I saw him drowning,” The first half of this quotation is a simile as the author has written as before the statement. The second half could be considered a metaphor as the man is not actually drowning, but it could be linked to the simile before it. Its also is personal for the narrator, from his experiences. Words like “guttering”, “choking”, and “drowning” not only show how the man is suffering, but that he is in terrible pain that no human being should tolerate. Also that line above in the context, is a metaphor and works very well because it helps the reader understand the feeling of being trapped by poisonous gas. It also describes what Owen saw with his own eyes, and makes the poem more personal to Owen.
Stanza three, the last stanza is pointed at Jessie Pope, a jingoist. “If in smothering dreams you too could pace” Owen is attempting to get us to go along with his idea. Similes are used to describe the man that has fallen victim to gas attack. The gassed man was “flung” into the wagon, which reveals the urgency and occupation with fighting. The only thing they can do is toss him into a wagon. The fact one word can add to the meaning so much shows how the diction of this poem adds greatly to its effectiveness. “Like a devils sick of sin” this shows the unbearable evil that even the devil is sick of what he sees and this adds to Owens idea that it is not sweet and fitting to die for one’s country. Then Owen builds up negative images and evokes such emotions so to cause people to become sick. The images can draw such pictures that no other poetic means can, such as “Froth corrupt lungs”, “obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud” and “incurable sore on innocent tongues.” It shows troops being brutally slaughtered very vividly, evoking images in the reader’s mind.
Owen refers to Jessie Pope as ‘My friend’ adding irony as Owen hates jingoists and Jessie Pope was one. Jessie Pope tried getting as many men into war as possible and put it above them as something every man had to do. This completely contradicts Owens views as we all know his strong views on war and how he doesn’t want men to join the war that’s why it is ironic. The poem ties it all together in the last few lines. In Latin, the phrase “Dulce et decorum est pro partria mori” means: “It is sweet fitting to die for one’s country.” Owen calls this a lie by using good diction, vivid comparisons, and graphic images to have the reader feel disgusted at what war is capable of. This poem is extremely effective as an anti-war poem, making war seem absolutely horrid and revolting, just as the author wanted it to.
Dulce et Decorum est has 28 lines and its rhyming scheme,
A-B-A-B-C-D-C-D E-F-E-F-G-H G-H I-J-I-J-K-L-K-L-M-N-M-N. Rhyming structure is conventional, using full rhymes: sacks-backs,
Sludge-trudge, boots-hoots, etc. As we know, the poem contains 28 lines; the same numbers as a ballade except Dulce is irregular.
Also Owen tries to use an iambic pentameter as much as possible, meaning each line contains 9, 10 or 11 syllables although some lines have more.
The metre becomes most broken up in the description of the moment of
The gas attack, in these two lines:
“GAS! Gas! Quick, boys! An ecstasy of fumbling,”
“As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.”
These two especially pronounced breaks in the metric structure act to convey the sense of panic and helplessness.
In addition, ‘Dulce’ has a caesura, which is used to emphasise the men’s exhaustion.
The structure in the Charge of the Light Brigade is very fragmented, his rhymes were mainly repetition of the same word at the end of line or the entire line itself, and his meter was dactylic dimeter. Tennyson’s rhyme scheme is usually repetition last word in the line such as:
Cannons to the right of them, Cannon to the left of them, Cannon in front of them.
The rhyme scheme varies with each stanza. Often, Tennyson uses the same rhyme (and occasionally even the same final word) for several consecutive lines: “Flashed all their sabres bare / Flashed as they turned in air / Sab’ring the gunners there.”
Tennyson loves to use enjambment, especially the last two lines in his stanzas, which is determined by the lines “Into the mouth of Hell / Rode the six hundred” (23-24) and “Into the valley of Death / Rode the six hundred” Tennyson clearly tries to use the repetition of the same word in his rhyme scheme and dactylic feet in his meter, the repetition of certain phrases to provide emphasis, and enjambment.
Tennyson sees war as a time to represent your country, Owen on the other hand sees war as a waste of life. Death is seen as something positive in “The Charge of the Light Brigade” whereas in “Dulce et Decorum est,” there is nothing glorious or heroic about dying with “froth corrupted lungs.” Tennyson’s opinion of the soldiers is that they are heroes but this is based from reading an article which reported the incident which is in contrast to Owen’s personal experience of war, in this sense, Owen seems to have the right to call the soldiers as ‘ hags’ and ‘beggars’.
The message that Tennyson is trying to send is that the light brigade are to be remembered and honoured for their services and Owens message is that it is NOT sweet and fitting to die for one’s country so that ordinary people, the public, who are being brainwashed by people trying to persuade them to join the army don’t join because they should know what war truly is like. His poem is targeted to people like Jessie Pope, Jingoists who are trying to persuade people to join the army.
Personally, I preferred Dulce because it was written by someone who had personal, first hand experience of war so he knows what he’s talking about. However, I do not agree with his message entirely, as sometimes you can do incredibly heroic things whilst fighting for your country, and be remember for countless years on end as a hero. A modern day example is Remembrance Day where we give a minute or so honouring those who gave up their lives for us today. So to some extent, dying for your country is quite honourable because it doesn’t matter how you die.