How do the poets convey the human costs of war in "Dulce et Decorum Est" and "refugee Blues"?

Loss is a main theme in both poems. Although they are dissimilar losses as they are from different points of view, both poems affect the listener by the experiences these two victims go through and the way the poets suggest there experiences. One large difference is the fact that Dulce et Decorum Est is set in World War One and Refugee Blues is set in World War Two, however they both convey the message that there is no gain and pleasure whatsoever in war.

They do this in many ways, however the ways which enhance the poems the most are the timescale, the way in which human dignity is portrayed and finally the technical ways in which they express the costs.

Dulce et Decorum Est describes the immediate costs of war by using the verb formation of ‘ing’ endings which meant that the poem is in the imperfect continuous for example ‘guttering, choking, drowning’. This causes the reader to feel like they are more in the scene and it feels more emphatic.

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By using the imperfect continuous it feels as if the dream is being relived over and over again which is also mentioned in the poem itself ‘in all my dreams’, this is relevant because it shows that the war is almost everlasting. Owen also uses imagery such as ‘deaf ‘ and ‘blind’ showing that the costs of war are that people have lost their senses literally and their own minds because they are ‘blind’ from propaganda.

However Refugee Blues describes the long term costs of war by the number of stanzas used which make it feel as if it is going on for a long time and the fact it is set in the past makes it more drawn out.

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Auden’s phrases such as ‘return next year’ causes the reader to feel it going on and on, this is emphasised in the way that the last line of each stanza is repeated provoking you to feel like the refugees are being rejected many times and therefore they have lost everything.

One of the key topics covered in both poems are the costs of losing your human dignity. In Dulce et Decorum Est there are many parts in which Owen describes dehumanisation by using incongruous images such as describing the soldiers as ‘old beggars’ and ‘coughing like hags’. This distorts the image of what we have of mighty and brave soldiers and shows the costs of war for them such as their youth and how they have been mentally affected by the war seeing as we see beggars being drunk and crazy. Owen dehumanises the soldiers also by conveying them as animals for example, the men are “blood-shod”: their feet are bleeding because they have ‘lost their boots’ and usually horses are ‘Shod’, describing the men as cattle- merely to be slaughtered. At the end of the poem the dead man’s face looks like “a devils”- another example of dehumanisation.

And finally the person who is dying has no name (“someone still was yelling out”) and the men are faceless (they are wearing masks). Human dignity is also lost in Refugee Blues, however, in a different way, the refugees aren’t being treated like humans and animals are seen as better than them ‘saw a door opened and a cat let in’. Auden uses nature, in different verses, to contrast the free life of dogs and cats, birds, fish and even an old yew plant in the churchyard in comparison to that of restrictions placed on Jews, this is also in a way like dehumanisation- the world has turned upside down where animals are freer than humans. The Jews don’t have the right to live ‘You’re officially dead’ and each stanza is like another prohibition for the victim, all of these losses of freedom effectively change the victim into a refugee.

The form, rhyme and repetition in both poems don’t convey the costs of war, but rather develop the way the costs are described to make them feel more realistic. In Dulce et Decorum Est Owen uses similes and metaphors which really enhance the imagery in the poem and makes the reader feel like they are there with the soldiers. For example the change of pace in the second stanza gives the reader a stab of reality and fear, this is the suddenness the soldiers themselves would have felt therefore Owen puts us in their shoes. A good example of alliteration which Owen uses is: “Men marched asleep” this suggests the costs are that the war has got into the soldiers blood. In Refugee Blues repetition of similar endings of each stanza enforces and exaggerates the rejection and losses of the victim. And use of numbers shows that it is less of a personal experience but more an experience of ‘thousands’ of refugees- less specific and far more losses.

In Dulce et Decorum Est the reader is directly spoken to this ‘my friend’ is accusative and the reader feels like the culprit of telling ‘the old lie’ and is therefore is the cause of all these consequences the soldiers had to face. However in Refugee Blues the perpetrator is not the reader, but the countries rejecting the victims and ‘Hitler’ himself.

In conclusion, I think that Dulce et Decorum Est portrays the costs far more successfully than Refugee Blues because the imagery is far more haunting and lingering partly because he addresses the listener directly towards he end of the poem, making the reader feel more empathetic towards the victims. Although Refugee Blues is successful in portraying the loss, the listener is less emotive towards the victim as the listener is not the culprit, ‘Hitler’ is. Finally the pace of each poem also conveys the reader’s attention to the words and imagery, seeing as the pace of Refugee blues is slower, less varied and arguably too repetitive the costs are less evident, whereas Dulce et Decorum Est has sudden changes in pace which grab the reader’s attention while obtaining the marching like rhyme scheme such as when the direct speech comes in “gas, gas quick boys” it grabs the reader’s attention for the loss of life which will follow.

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How do the poets convey the human costs of war in "Dulce et Decorum Est" and "refugee Blues"?. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from

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