The development of war poetry throughout WW1 was influenced by many different incidents. Many of the soldiers developed friendships with each other based on the amount of time they spent together in the trenches. One of the reasons soldiers developed such strong comradeships that lasted even after the war, was due to the amount of horror and bloodshed they had witnessed together, furthermore the shared experience of suffering and hardship led to strong companionship and their experiences affected what they wrote about in their poems.
Many of the men wrote poetry as a mean of expressing their despair as their situation and possible fate. In order to express my view over this I will be comparing and contrasting three different poems by Rupert Brooks, Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon.
The poem ‘The Soldier’ written by Rupert Brooke gives a strong and patriotic feeling to all of it’s readers, it tells us about all that England had given them, that they should fight for their country in return.
It also glorifies the heroism of the English soldiers who fought in the war and tells you that there is a larger picture to consider and war is not always started because of reasons of the government. Brooks speaks in favor of the war and states that the ‘richer dust’ that is concealed in the ground that sinks into the already rich earth is from those soldiers who fought in the war. He uses this metaphor to decipher that the soldiers should be proud and England will be proud of them for fighting for their country.
Another poetic device used in the poem is that he personifies England, talking about “her” like a mother looking after all the soldiers, ‘A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware.’ This is also in reference to ‘richer dust’ and it justifies that England has made the soldiers who they are and that they should return the favor by fighting for her. The use of alliteration in ‘foreign fields’ adds a flowing, enjambment style to the stanza as the “flowers” of England make it sound more natural and divine.
The second poem I will be comparing and contrasting with is called ‘Dulce Et Decorum Est.’ and is written by Wilfred Owen. His poem explains how the British press and public comforted themselves with the fact that, terrible that is was, all the young men dying in the war were dying noble, heroic deaths. Owen wanted to show the readers how inhumane and vile the war really was and that the soldiers were dying terrible obscene deaths. “Bent double”, a commonly used phrase, is an example of hyperbole (because someone might be bent over, but not really bent in two). It conveys the feeling of exhaustion felt by the soldiers, who are probably carrying heavy packs as well as having been sleepless in the trenches.
Another poetic device that Owen has used is alliteration, he is trying to describe and get attention to those words such as ‘knock kneed’, ‘men marched’ and ‘white eyes writhing’ he keeps these words hammered into your head so it is impossible to think of other things. Owen has also used many similes, one of them being, “like a man in fire or lime” is a use of simile to express the burning and blistering effect and the pain caused by the mustard gas when it comes into contact with skin, eyes and mucous membranes.
The last poem I will be assessing is ‘Does It Matter?’ by Siegfried Sassoon. Sassoon’s poem begins with a rhetorical question which lends, not only a sarcastic tone to the poem, but also an argumentative proposal. It is continued with him convincing to you that all these little things do not matter, as you will be fighting for your country. Another poetic device he uses is a metaphor; “dreams form the pit”. Sassoon suggests that soldiers should not have to suffer these horrific “dreams” alone and he condomes the lack of empathy towards the soldiers, stating how they are expected to “drink and forget and be glad”, however hard it may be. Sassoon also uses Repetition for the line ‘does it matter?’ and he follows it with ellipses to add the effect of silence and let the reader about it. ‘Does it matter? —losing your sight?..’ All a poet can do today is warn which is why true poets must always be truthful; Sassoon told everyone that the war is not what they think it is.
All three poems have different meanings and all had a different view over war but one thing they share is they all know how brutal war is and what effects it has on the soldiers. At the start of the war everyone was eager and enthusiastic but when the war actually started no one gave the soldiers the credit, there is the patriotic poem by Brooke which keeps repeating England and how it is great to give up your life for England as “she” has given you health and prosperity.
However the more somber poem by Owen, which shows us the real truth about the war as he personally, fought in the trenches with his friends and he had seen them die. He would have the horrific true perspective of the war. The Language he uses is so powerful and is also philosophical and full of wonder like futility, Siegfried Sassoon’s poem is also a very honest poem, he tells the truth but he justifies that they are fighting for their country and ‘losing your legs’ will be an honor as people will always be kind.
In conclusion, more than any other conflict, the Great War inspired writers of all generations and classes and some of the most famous poems were written in that time. The poems written by men such as Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon and Rupert Brooke, amongst others, are as poignant today as they were both during the war and immediately after it. During the war many of the poets expressed their views and feelings towards the war in their poems and English literature was enriched with dozens of poets, that fought in the Continent.