Dulce Et Decorum Est
Dulce Et Decorum Est
World War One was a time of divisions, not only between countries but between the different people within one country. In many western countries the propaganda convinced young men to enlist to portraying war as a great adventure and the German’s as an imminent enemy – The Huns. But as news came back from the Western Front and Gallipoli, there was a sense that the war was not glorious, the dirtiness, the sheer loss of life was beginning to be revealed through poems such as Dulce et Decorum Est.
However, with enlistment numbers dropping, the image of a noble, adventurous war needed to be reaffirmed and this can be found in Who’s for the Game, by Jessie Pope. In this poem, Pope, affirms messages of jingoism as righteous and justified. She describes England as “up to her neck in a fight” and that the right course of action is to “grip and tackle the job unafraid” using sporting allusions to make the war seem like a game. For example, this “game” is “played”, the enemy is “tackled” as a rugby player would attack an opponent, and the entire war is just a “show”.
One could take a “seat in the stand” and “be out of the fun” or “toe the line”. This sporting imagery, suddenly removes the idea of war as a bloody, dirty, nightmarish suffering and transforms it into an exciting prospect. It attacks the reader’s sense of manliness, affirming Edwardian notions that men prove themselves under fire in war and also the chivalric notion of helping your country, personified as a woman stuck in a fight and also the idea of leaving fellow soldiers behind by not joining in the fun.
On the other hand, Dulce et Decorum Est, uses realism and hellish imagery to portray the war the way it is. The first line immediately strips the soldiers of all dignity, likening them to “old beggars” who had “turned…backs” to the enemy trenches. They were “bent double” and “cursing through sludge” and “drunk with fatigue”. The image of defeat, is portrayed through the soldiers being “deaf even to the hoots of gas shells dropping softly behind. ” These men no longer see any true value in living, their hellish nightmare of “haunting flares”, “thick green light” and the mention of “the devil’s sick of sin”.
Shows war to be an atrocity not fit for humanity. There is no sense of a “red crashing game” or any sense of “fun”. Suddenly, the reader wishes they did have a “seat in the stand”. Apart from the depiction of warfare, the idea of a noble death or death in war is conflicting in these two poems. Whereas, Jessie Pope omits any mention of death or suffering, Owen goes into immensely graphic, borderline gratuitous detail of the gassing of a man. He describes the man “flound’ring like a man in fire or lime” who was “drowning” in a “green sea”.
The unceremonious word “flung” describes the way a corpse is disposed. The individual human has been reduced to an object, a corpse that has no real value, and is a burden. Pope, creates an image of injury in war as honourable and respectable. The idea of returning “back with a crutch” as a heroic sentiment. Of the man who took a bullet and survived. She makes it seem as though there is no real risk of going to war, there is no graphic imagery and any mention of the bad aspects of war is referred to in opposites.
It won’t be a picnic” but from this the reader cannot conjure the image of war as a nightmare, as a hell the way that Owen does with his description of the “hanging face” engaging the visual senses of the reader, the sound of “blood come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs’ the smell “obscene as cancer” and one can almost taste the “vile incurable sores”, “bitter as cud” on their own “innocent tongues”. This activation of four major sense immerses the reader in the almost unbelievable scene of war. Even the soldiers in there half trance sate, march “asleep”, unable to comprehend their situation.
Thus, the audience of Jessie Pope’s poem is most likely the “children ardent for some desperate glory” described in Dulce et Decorum est. Desperately glorious. Perhaps that is the best way to describe how Pope conceives war. Furthermore, the poems contrast with this idea of patriotism. The quote found on war memorials and that ends Dulce et Decorum est, is attacked in Owen’s poem whereas it is affirmed in Jessie Pope’s inspirational call to action and invocation. Wilfred Owen describes the idea of “pro patria mori” as an old lie. As untenable to anyone who has had any experience of real war.
We must consider that Jessie Pope probably never visited the front line and never experience a man dying on her “guttering, choking, drowning” on his own fluids. The title of Owen’s poem is ironic, as the entirety of the poem seeks to disprove this notion. If we examine what Jessie Pope uses to make her poem such an effective example of propaganda, of making the idea of “pro patrai mori” noble, we see the anaphoric repetition of the who question. Of engaging the reader directly, of making the reader feel ashamed for not helping their “mother country”.
She uses ctive verbs such as “tackle” and “grip” to add to this idea of excitement which is absent in the soldier’s poem. Which is absent in truth. In conclusion, we see the whereas Jessie Pope attempts to obscure the truth about the futility and atrocities of war, Owen, a soldier gives us a confrongtingly realistic portrayal of the death of just one man in a retreat on the western front. Whereas Jessie Pope affirms ideas of jingoism, Owen shows how the soldiers on the front line couldn’t care less. Whereas Jessie Pope inherently affirms the idea of dying in war as manly and noble, Owen shows us how unceremoniously and graphic real deaths in war are.
University/College: University of California
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 7 October 2016
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