The Great War was the most horrific and blood thirsty war in history. It was started by the assassination of the Arch Duke Franz Ferdinand. The battlefields were endless stretches of trenches, this was known as the Western Front. The trenches were an awful place to live, they were made out of sandbags, duckboards, and rotting corpses. The trenches were also wet, muddy and full of vermin and disease. Many soldiers got trench foot, which was caused by standing in the mud and stagnant water that filled the trenches.
Many soldiers also were suffering from neurasthenia (shell shock) this was a nervous disorder that was brought on by all the horrific factors of the war; the noise, seeing people dying a quick and painless death or a long and agonising one which the other soldiers could not do anything about it. Many poems were written during the early stages of the war to help recruitment for the army, at this stage recruitment was voluntary, but in 1916 all men over the age of 16 had to join the army.
If you refused a white feather was posted through your letterbox-this signified that you were a coward. An example of a poem, which was written to recruit people to the army, is `Who’s for the Game? ` By Jessie Pope. This poem’s imagery makes war sound like a game or show. It makes it sound this way because she uses words like ‘fun’, ‘tackled’ and a good example is in the title, `Who’s for the Game? ` Using these sorts of images makes the person reading the poem think that the worst you can do is suffer a sporting injury.
The poem also has a perfect rhyme scheme, the rhymes are on alternative lines, ABAB CDCD and so on, an example of the rhyming is, ‘fight’ and ‘tight’ most of the rhyming words are one syllable long and there is a long pause after nearly every line this is due to punctuation such as full stops and question marks. The rhythm and rhyme are made this simple so the poem is simple and easy to read and so that it ca be chanted and easy to remember.
Pope also uses euphemisms, which makes the war sound not as bad to the reader. Pope uses euphemisms because the amount of people ready to go to war would definitely decline if Pope said that you were likely to die either a quick or long drawn out death. Pope got away with using these because news coming from the war was censored so nobody knew what was really going on out their except the men who had been sent home to be treated for war wounds or psychological problems.
Pope said in her poem, ‘Who would rather come back with a crutch’ as if that was the worst thing that could happen to you whereas that was the luckiest thing that could happen to you, she also said ‘ Who knows this won’t be a picnic – not much’ meaning that it might be a little uncomfortable and not that you would probably be witnessing the death of you friends. Pope uses a lot of rhetorical questions; rhetorical questions are questions that don’t need an answer because the answer is obvious.
She uses them to sort of hypnotise the reader by giving them two choices, these are to either make you say yes or no but the way that she asks the questions only gives you one answer and that is yes, for example ‘Who’s for the game? ‘ and ‘Who’ll give his country a hand? ‘ Pope also uses jingoism she says, ‘Your country is up to her neck… ‘ this implies that Britain is female the jingoistic idea in this phrase is that Germans mistreat British women.
The final tactic that Pope uses is machismo, she uses this to appeal to males and the masculine side of people she does this by using words that will appeal to the male behaviour such as ‘fight’ and ‘tackle. ‘ All these ideas will help dramatically in the purpose of this poem, which was to recruit people to go to war. The Great War was the first war of its time where most soldiers were literate and could read and write. One such soldier was Wilfred Owen, who was a poet. Wilfred Owen wrote a direct response aimed at `Who’s for the Game? ` Wilfred Owen had an interest in music and poetry at an early age, which his mother encouraged.
After finishing school Owen wanted to go to university but could not afford it so he went to France and taught English. After the war broke out he returned to England and volunteered his services. After training Owen became an officer and was sent to France in 1916. Whilst in the trenches a shell burst right next to Owen and he became shell shocked so he was sent to Scotland and treated for it in the Craig Lockheart Hospital where they specialised in shell shock. Also in the hospital was another soldier-poet, Sassoon. Sassoon was a published poet, he encouraged Owen to write. Sassoon helped write and develop some of Owens’s poetry.
One of Owens poems was `Dulce es Decorum est` this was the poem that Owen wrote in response to `Who’s for the Game`. The imagery in `Dulce es Decorum est` is the truth and horrors of the war. In this poem Owen uses a lot of similes and hardly any metaphors whereas in `Who’s for the Game` Pope uses a lot of metaphors and only a few similes. This is because similes are less definite than metaphors. Pope uses metaphors to tell you what to do and think, Owen uses similes to make you think and give your own opinion of what he’s trying to put across, for example ‘… like old beggars under sacks… ‘ and ‘… coughing like hags… we all have a different view on what image this gives us. The rhythm and rhyme in this poem is very important. It has the same rhyme scheme as “Who’s for the Game”, ABAB CDCD ect. But the rhyme is not very noticeable when read aloud but you can see it on the page.
The reason why the rhyme is not very noticeable is because the poem hasn’t many lines with punctuation at the end most of the poems punctuation is in the middle of the lines. The poem also has enjambment, as some of the sentences are more than one line long for example the first sentence is four lines long. This disguises the rhyme and gives the poem a conversation like rhythm.
This poem is written in the first person, which is I or we, in `Who’s for the Game` Pope writes in third person, which is you. Owen does this to make the poem sound personal, authentic and as if he’s telling a story. In the poem the emotion of anger and annoyment comes across from Owen because at the end of the poem he says, ‘my friend, you would not tell with such high zest To children ardent for some desperate glory, The old Lie: Dulce es decorum est Pro patria mori. ‘ He sounds angry and annoyed because of people like Jessie Pope who are exploiting young men of their needs to prove themselves.
He also sounds bitter and betrayed because he says ‘… the old Lie… ‘ The subject of the poem is that a platoon of soldiers are returning to a safer position after completing a patrol or watch in one of the forward trenches. While the Soldiers are going back they get gassed; one of the soldiers didn’t get his helmet on in time and dies in front of the rest of the platoon. The attack had psychological effects on Owen, who was one of the witnesses; the sight of his friend dying gave him nightmares. This poem puts the public image of the heroic soldier and turns it into the image which Owen saw; this was ‘hags’ and ‘beggars’.
The truth was most soldiers feared the gas attacks most because there was nothing you could do if one of your friends was dying in front of you whereas if your friend was shot you could help them. The purpose and message of `Dulce es Decorum est` is to tell the truth about the war and make people like Jessie Pope see that if they knew first hand how bad the war was that they wouldn’t be encouraging recruitment. Wilfred Owen also wrote another war poem this is called `Anthem For Doomed Youth` these poems are alike because they both talk about death in the trenches and way the soldiers who died where commemorated.
They also have a lot of contrasts for example the rhythms are different as `Dulce es Decorum est` is in speech rhythm and `Anthem for Doomed Youth` is in an iamb pentameter. `Anthem for Doomed Youth` is written in the style of the sonnet, this was a favourite of Owen, a sonnet has 14 lines each containing five stressed syllables and the rhyming pattern is ABABCDCD EFFEGG. Sonnets are set into two parts this is an octave, 8 lines, and then sestet, 6 lines. The octave normally contains the point of view and then the sestet contains a different approach or point of view.
In `Anthem for Doomed Youth` Owen uses the octave to say how the soldiers death was unmarked as he describes the death of the soldiers as ‘… for these who die as cattle? ‘ this can mean many things but I think Owen meant slaughter. Slaughter is a very meaningful word as it means that the people who were being killed were defenceless and whilst killing them the enemies were at no real danger. Owen uses the sestet to say that on the other hand people are doing their best in difficult circumstances to commemorate their friends or colleagues deaths.
Anthem for Doomed Youth` is comparing a traditional Victorian funeral to the funeral of a man who died in the trenches. He wrote this poem in a sonnet also because he’s trying to describe a traditional event so he used a traditional form of poetry. Funerals are also associated with solemn music this poem is solemn and musical. “Anthem for Doomed Youth” is full of metaphors he represents the ‘… passing-bells… ‘from a traditional funeral as ‘… the monstrous anger of the guns. ‘ He describes the ‘… candles… ‘ as ‘… their eyes… ‘ that will show ‘… the holy glimmers of their goodbyes. ‘ And also he represents the traditional ‘… rawing of blinds,’ as ‘… each slow dusk,’ this means that it was an everyday occurrence because dusk happens everyday.
Poetry of the time these pieces were written was very important, as they were a powerful artistic expression and part of everyday life. War poems reflected all kinds of opinion about the war and were all used for different purposes as I have discussed three poems of the time Jessie Popes `Who’s for the Game,’ written for the purpose of recruitment, and Wilfred Owens `Dulce es Decorum est` and `Anthem for Doomed Youth,` written for the purpose of to show people what the War was really like.
Owens’s close friend Sassoon also wrote War poems he hoped they would change the Opinion of the pubic this is a extract from a letter of protest that he sent to ‘The Times’ newspaper, ‘Also I believe that it may help to destroy the callous complacence with which the majority of these at home regard the continuance of agonies which they do not share, and which they have not sufficient imagination to realise. ‘ This means he writes the poems he writes to try and give people the thoughts and imagination for them to think on their own what is happening in the War.