The poem Dulce et Decorum est is written by Wildred Owens. Wilfred Owen is one of the most famous war poets. He was born in 1893 and died in 1918, just one week from the end of World War One. His poetry is characterized by powerful descriptions of the conditions faced by soldiers in the trenches. World War One took place between 1914 and 1918 and is remembered particularly for trench warfare and the use of gas. Owing to the technological innovations in use during it, the war is often referred to as the first modern war.
The other poem that is going to be analyzed is “Break of day in the Trenches” written by Isaac Rosenberg. Isaac Rosenberg was an English poet of the First World War who was considered to be one of the greatest of all English war poets.
Both Wilfred Owen and Isaac Rosenberg have a strong association with World War One. Their poems are often violent and realistic, challenging earlier poetry which communicated a pro-war message.
Wildred Owens showed his contempt at the pro war message as he called them a lie. Their first-hand experience of war is arguably one reason why there is such a shift in the attitude of poets towards war.
On the opening stanza of “Break of day in the Trenches”, it describes the breaking of a day as the “darkness crumbles away”. It was still the same “old druid” time like always. Isaac described wryly about the war and how a “queer sardonic rat” leaps from his hand.
He thought about how this rat might go on and touch a German’s hand with “cosmopolitan sympathies”, how during the war people fight against each other and only if a German had known that the rat had touched an English hand, they would have shot it. This shows the extreme cruelty of war.
The opening stanza of “Dulce et Decorum est” is characterized by language about ‘fatigue’: the soldiers ‘marched asleep’, they ‘trudge’, and ‘limped on’. They are ‘deaf’, ‘lame’ and ‘blind’; all rather pitiful language intended to reveal the reality of war and its effects. They were “bent doubled” like “beggars” and “coughing” like “hags”. Wildred had given a completed opposite of the pro war images which were that dying for one’s country is a glorious thing. The image he gave was that instead of their youthful selves, they had been tired out by the war and have wrinkles like old ladies “hags”.
There is not a clearly defined structure to the poem, although Owen does make use of rhyme, mostly on alternate line endings. The poem opens with a description of trench life and the pathetic conditions faced by the soldiers having to “trudge towards their distant rest”. Then comes the gas attack, and the frantic struggle for gas helmets. This poem offers a graphic description of the effects of such an attack. As for the poem Break of day in the Trenches, it was not described as vividly as Dulce et Decorum est. Isaac’s poem have a wry sense of humor “sardonic”. The poem “Break of day in the Trenches” functions differently from the poem “Dulce et Decorum est “.
The way Wildred Owens and Isaac began their poems are very different. While Wildred uses vivid imagery, and description, Isaac’s poem was thoughtful and quiet in a way about how the war has turned the world upside down. Isaac talked a lot about poppies because poppies have long been used as a symbol of both sleep and death: sleep because of the opium extracted from them, and death because of their (commonly) blood-red color. A second meaning for the depiction and use of poppies in Greco-Roman myths is the symbolism of the bright scarlet color as signifying the promise of resurrection after death. In many Commonwealth countries, artificial, paper or plastic versions of this poppy are worn to commemorate the sacrifice of veterans and civilians in World War I and other wars, during the weeks preceding Remembrance Day on November 11. Therefore poppies holds a significant meaning in this poem. Poppies are also wild flowers that grew everywhere. He had extracted a parapet’s poppy, growing in the trenches, and placed it behind his ear.
In the second stanza, the speaker describes a vivid vision in a dream of a gas victim ‘guttering, choking, drowning’. He used onomatopoeia to place emphasis on the words ‘guttering, choking, drowning’. The verbs are associated with a lack of air and death. He was “floundering” and “drowning” in the poisonous gas, he was like being burned alive thus using word “lime” which is a substance that burns live tissues.
As for the other poem, Instead of a smashed companion to exhibit the ironic lesson, we have ‘a queer sardonic rat’ – Rosenberg seeming to name with these words the tone and posture of his own poem, as if all were but the dry song of the commuting rat. Here, Isaac Rosenberg is telling us about the situation of living in the trenches. The poet has the intention to learn us things about all this and tells us, the rats are the winners of everything. The rats are cosmopolitan sympathies, because they are all over the world. You can find rats everywhere, especially in times of war. They are real profit takers. They eat everything, even human beings. Rats aren’t critical; they eat English man, but also German soldiers. A rat has always a specific grin on his face, like they are always laughing at you. Most soldiers are very strong “they have fine limbs and strong eyes”. But nevertheless, the rats are the real winners of war. Death in people “so also their bowels” are spread all over the world. This poem still appeals to readers of today. This poem is written in WWI yet the theme is still applicable now to wartime, to poverty…
In the 3rd stanza of “Dulce et Decorum est”, the speaker describes how the war still haut his dream which he sees the poor soldier suffering from the gas attack. The fact that he says “in all my dreams” shows that the author could not forget what had happened on the day when one of the fellow soldiers died. The language used in the sections depicting the gas attack is strong, representing both the anguish of the victims of the gas attack as well as the effect on those haunted by what they have seen: ‘watch the white eyes writhing in his face, / His hanging face’. The repetition of the word ‘face’ makes it clear which element disturbs the speaker most. It was the transformation in the face of the victim. The use of alliteration on the ‘w’ sound reflects the agonized twisting of the gas victim. In the last sentence, he sneers at the “old lie”: Dulce et Decorum est Pro Patria Mori. He is rejecting the accepted attitude back at home that serving your country in war is glorious. He is critical of the ‘high zest’, or great enthusiasm, used to convince men to go to war. He sees war as brutal and wasteful of young lives. His choice of the word ‘children’ is also significant; impressionable young men are almost lured to war by the promise of ‘desperate glory’.
In the third stanza of “break of day in the trenches”. There is still an explosion, buried somewhere in the lines ‘What do you see in our eyes/At the shrieking iron and flame/Hurled through still heavens?’, but the fact that all of this is through the eyes of a rat turns it into a general, continuing exposure to risk rather than a particular, expository event. In the first version, the poppy starts being worn in the ear, and then is kept safe by being flung to the ground. The irony in the second version is much more perplexing and less self-evident. We have been told that ‘Poppies whose roots are in man’s veins/Drop, and are ever dropping’. The image suggests that poppies feed on men’s blood, though, brilliantly, Rosenberg preemptively reverses the sentimental image of the poppy as springing from the blood spilled in the mud of Flanders; here the poppy drops, like drops of blood and men who fall in death (like the song of the lark, too, and the falling shell). The safety of the poppy now depends upon it being in the poet’s ear – though this makes its security as tenuous as the poet’s. If the poet’s body prevents the poppy from falling, it has after all been pulled from its roots, so has been kept safe only in its death.
In the next paragraph, I will compare the general similarities of the two poems’ message and how it is related.
Both “Dulce et Decorum est” and “Break of day in the Trenches” tries to relate an anti-war message. This is inferred from how Wildred demoralizes the image of soldiers fighting in the war and the tone he uses to describe the old phrase to encourage people to join the war, “Dulce et Decorum est Pro Patria Mori”. “Break of day in the trenches” saying that rats are more chanced for life then fine athlete, showing the chances of survival in a war and jealousy of a mere rat. Both poems relate the message by death, whether it is death of fellow soldiers or death of soldiers as a general, on the surface of earth.
In the next paragraph, I will compare the general differences of how the two poems relate their message. In the poem “Dulce et Decorum est”, Wildred relates the message in a dramatic and descriptive way. He uses a lot of imagery and specific vocabulary. He appeals to our emotions “in all my dreams” and senses of touch “ecstasy of fumbling”, hearing “Gas ! Gas ! Quick, boys !’ and sight “floundering like a man in fire or lime” “misty panes” ect. In the poem “Break of day in the trenches”, the poet uses a wry diversion of sense and humor. He does not use much imagery and only an extended metaphor or cosmopolitan rats .
Both poems talked about the same theme, the anti war theme. The poets demonstrated their themes very obviously. They held contempt for the war and described the goriness of war, dead soldiers “sprawl[ing] in the bowels of earth”, men with “froth corrupted lungs” ect. In conclusion, both poem have their similarities and differences in terms of function and themes.
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