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We have studied five poems of that only two poems- “The Charge of the Light Brigade” and “Who’s For The Game” are pro-war the other three are anti-war. “Who’s For the Game” is a poem aimed at all those young men at the time of the First World War to try and get them to enrol in the army. It talks about the war, as a fun game and that you should join with your mates as a bit of a laugh and kill some Germans while you are at it.
In the first verse Jessie Pope the poet who wrote the poem compares the war to a game of rugby with lines such as “who’ll grip and tackle the job unafraid”.
This puts the idea in the readers head that only strong tough rugby player will be able to fight for their country and that only the weak men who are scared stay behind while everyone else has the fun and gets praised and cheered.
In the second and third verse they use the idea of inspiring guilt in the men into joining the army by saying such things as “Who’ll give his country a hand” it personifies the country as a human that is in a fight and you are the only person that can help it. It also uses the idea of all your mates going and having all the fun without you and you being left behind. It uses ballad rhythm very well to get the reader to read it in an up beat way like a song or a chant.
“The Charge of the Light Brigade” is also the other pro-war poem. It’s a poem about a cavalry charge in the Crimean war that goes on a suicide charge to their deaths because a mistake was made in the communication between the officers. This poem is all about how the cavalrymen were prepared to charge to their deaths for Britain and because of this they become heroes. It starts with a use of feet in the rhythm it uses anapaestic diameter. This gives the idea of hooves galloping “Half a league, half a league, half a league onward,” This rhythm is broken in the third line, the poet does this to emphasize the word “Death” as it is an important word in this poem. In the second verse the poet expresses that the cavalry were oblivious to the situation they would be in soon as they rode into the valley, “Not tho’ the soldiers knew someone had blundered.”
There is a sense of patriotism, as they do not ask why they just do, “Theirs not to reply, theirs not to reason why Theirs but to do and die,” In the third verse the poet emphasizes the fact that they are trapped by repeating the word cannon to the left to the right and in front of them this works and brings up he idea of despair. It also personifies death as a horrible monster that has big powerful jaws, “Boldly they rode and well, into the jaws of Death, into the mouth of Hell.”
In the fourth verse the poet stresses the fact that even though the cavalry was greatly out numbered they still went in ‘all guns blazing’ as the saying goes, with the sabres in the air fearless. It also talks about the amount of men at the end of each verse it talks of there being six hundred at the start of the poem “Rode the six hundred” but as we go through the poem the number slowly depletes “Then they rode back but not the six hundred.” At the end of the poem they tell us to honour them, “Honour the charge they made! Honour the Light Brigade, Noble six hundred!”
The next three poems are all anti-war programs ‘Drummer Hodge’ is a poem written by Thomas Hardy it is a poem about The Boar War were they used to hire under age drummers that were too young to join the army to fight but they used to join so that they could play the drums for the soldiers. In this case there is a young boy that loses his life along with a lot of other boys. “They throw in Drummer Hodge, to rest uncoffined-just as found” this is the first line in this poem and it uses the word throw to almost mean that he was forced to his death or as the poet puts it “to rest”. The poet stresses the fact that Drummer Hodge was just a young boy from Wessex that did not know anything about the war and was not involved with the cause of the war yet still has to go and die in it, “Young Hodge the Drummer never knew- Fresh from his Wessex home- the meaning of the broad Karoo.”
The Drummer doesn’t even get any acknowledgement or funeral but is just left to rot without a coffin, underneath the stars. He never even gets taken home but left there in a strange place along way from home. The poet gives us the impression that he is a long way from home by bringing the fact that there are strange stars that he has never seen before, “Strange stars amid the gloam… And strange-eyed constellations reign”. Also in the last line, “His stars eternally” this is the poet’s way of saying that even though he didn’t get a funeral and no one even realized he had gone but the stars will always remember him.
The next poem is I called ‘Disabled’ and it is written by Wilfred Owen. It is a poem about a man that served in the war that has lost his all his limbs. In the first verse he talks of “his ghastly grey suite” this is a suite that he would be made to wear it because it has been specially made for him without any limbs. It goes on to say that he hears the boys playing like used to before he became disabled and this saddens him, “Voices of boys rang saddening like a hymn.” He looks forward to the nurse coming to him and putting him to bed to blot out his sorrow and take him away from this world, “Till gathering sleep had mothered them from him.” In the second verse he goes back to before the war and talks about how he used to swing and swagger down the street on a Saturday night in the town.
Now he knows that he will never be appealing to girls again and now they touch him with no love or care but just purely professionalism and no passion or attachment, “Girls’ waists are, or how warm their subtle hands; all of them touch him like some queer disease.” He then goes back to talking about when he was before the war and says that he used to have artists wanting to paint him because he had such a good looking face but since the war it is almost as if he has had all the blood drained from his body, when he lost his limbs and all the colour has been lost from his face. All that is left is a pasty white body. “He’s lost his colour very far from here, Poured it down shell-holes till the veins ran dry… and leap of purple spurted from his thigh.”
He carries on talking about how when he used to play football with his mates that he would like a bit of blood on his leg because then it would look like he had played hard, “One time he liked a blood- smear down his leg, After the matches, carried shoulder high.” He goes on to say how he didn’t even join up to the army for any real reason it was just because he had had too much to drink and he did it to impress the ladies and he wasn’t even old enough. He joined because he thought he would look good in a kilt and would like to pose in front of the ladies. He wanted to join up with his mates and have a laugh with them and bond with them.
He talks about when he came back from the war he got a small cheer off some people but not as much as when he scored a goal in football. He feels that he got let down by the country as all that he got back was a small thank you off a priest and some fruit but he gave all his limbs, “Some cheered him home, but not as crowds cheer Goal. Only a solemn man who brought him fruits.” He reflects on how he must take pity like benefits from the nurses and also and how the girls were the main reason he joined up in the first place but now they look upon him with pity and turn to the other whole men, “To-night he noticed how the women’s eyes passed from him to the strong men that were whole.” At the end of the poem he can’t wait till the nurses come and put him to bed so he can drift away into his dreams and get out of this world, “How cold and late it is! Why don’t they come and put him into bed? Why don’t they come?”
The last Poem is called ‘The Night Patrol’ and it is written by Arthur Graeme West. It is about a night patrol in the second world war that goes out into ‘no mans land’ to listen to the Germans and see if they are up to anything. In the first verse it is direct speech presumably by an officer telling the soldiers what to do. Once the soldiers get over the top of the trench the poet goes on to explain in detail about what it is like in ‘no-mans land’ the poet gets the point across that this patch of land has not been used for its original use for many years, “tufts of crackling cornstalks, two years old, No man had reaped,”. The poet also goes into detail about the things that are strewn there from recent attacks, “Packs, rifles, bayonets, belts and haversacks, shell fragments, and the huge whole forms of shells.” He then goes on talk about the dead laying there and he talks of “the vile sickly smell of rottenness;” which spares no feelings for the senses.
There is no dignity for the soldier they even put them in weird positions so that they can guide their way back to their trench. The poet then talks of coming to the next obstacle which happens to be a number of dismembered corpses. This angers the soldiers because it is easy to dodge one dead corpse on your belly but it is harder to dodge lots of pieces of dead corpse, “All blown to bits, an archipelago of corrupt fragments, vexing to us three.” In the poem the soldiers finally get to the German wire the poet and the poet write of them lying down like the dead listening to the Germans, “We lay in the shelter of the last dead man , ourselves as dead,”. At the end of the poem they get back to the trench past all the dead corpses “and through the wire and home, and got our rum,” rum being the reward for doing what they did.
Out of all the poems I think Disabled by Wilfred Owen is the most hard-hitting and moving. It talks about touching him like a “queer disease”. It is similar to ‘Drummer Hodge’ as it stresses the fact that there is no reason for these wars and these innocent lives to go to waste. I think ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’ and ‘The Night Patrol’ are also similar as they both tell a story about a group of soldiers. Even though one of them is anti-war and the other one is pro-war. I think that ‘Who’s for the Game’ is on its own because it is written by a woman that has no experiences of war like the other poets.
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