War Poems Essay
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Compare three or four poems which show war as noble. You should write about:
* The experiences in the poem
* What the poems show as noble
* How the poets make war, or the experience of war, seem noble
* Differences between the poems
I have chosen to write about “For The Fallen”, “Henry V At The Siege Of Harfleur”, and “The Soldier”.
“For The Fallen” tells of the First World War, and the people who gave their lives to fight for their country.
The poem begins by saying how proud England is of her “children”, the ones who fought for her in the war. This gives the impression we should all be proud of them. The idea of the dead being like England’s “children” is emphasised by the third line of the first stanza:
“Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,”
This makes me feel that they were truly belonging to England. These young men were English to the core. The repetition of ‘flesh’ and ‘spirit’ really drives the point the poet is trying to make home.
Because this poem is written for the families of those who died in the war, the words used are very soft. This is to soften the blow of the fact the men died, so their families would not get too distraught. By using the word ‘fallen’, not only in the poem itself, but also in it’s title, gives a gentle idea of the way they died, when it was really probably quite horrific. Another word used to soften the blow of their death, is ‘sleep’. Binyon givers us the impression that these men are simply asleep, and they will awake one day to reign in Heaven, as stars.
The whole of this poem is telling us to remember the war heroes. Binyon makes the point many times in different ways throughout the poem, especially in reference to stars. Binyon tries to soften the fact that the men had died, by saying they will turn into ‘immortal spheres’, or in other words they will go to Heaven because of their bravery and goodness. He also says:
“There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.”
The references to ‘shine’ shows us again how the men who died will go to Heaven and live forever as stars. They will be there when all of us living have gone, and they will be remembered by all that come after us, until the end of time. He shows this at the end of the poem, by saying:
“To the end, to the end, they remain.”
The repetition of this last line really drives the point he is trying to make home. He is telling us it is noble to die for your country, and no one will ever forget you, because you died in such a noble way. He believes everyone should be proud of these men, and remember them forever.
Imagery is also used a lot. The poet not only personifies England, showing how ‘she’ mourns for her children, but also uses the image of darkness and light to represent the war. He says:
“As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,”
This is a direct representation of good and evil, exactly what is fighting in the war. However, instead of describing the war in detail, which would cause distress to those reading the poem, Binyon softens it.
The main aim of this poem is to make us see how noble it is to fight for, and to die for, your country. He uses word such as ‘august’ and ‘royal’, to emphasise his point. These words refer to the men who died for their country as being of a very high position. They are described as being like royalty, and very brave and noble to die for their country.
The poet also shows the fighters’ bravery by telling us of how they were determined to win in battle. He describes how they were before they went to war, which makes us think of how they were after. He does not need to put how they are, because he describes things so we can picture them for ourselves. He uses the word ‘aglow’; showing the young men who fought had a deep passion to do their best for their country. He also uses the word ‘staunch’, meaning they were determined to stand their ground and not to give in to the enemy. The poet then says they “fell with their faces to the foe”, meaning they fought well, and died in battle, just how they wanted to.
Laurence Binyon did not actually go to war. This means he probably did not know what it was really like, and how horrific it could be at times. He had not experienced the pain the dying men had gone through, due to terrible injuries they gained whilst fighting. This means, he had kept his own ideas about war, without knowing the true consequences.
“Henry V At The Siege Of Harfleur” was written by William Shakespeare. In all of his plays, Shakespeare saw war as heroic, and that it was wonderful to die for your country. This poem is no exception. It is taken from the play “Henry V”, which is based upon the king of England, and is a speech made by King Henry V, before his men went into the battle of Harfleur. Therefore, it is obvious from the start the poem is going to be about how noble it is to fight.
King Henry is keen for his men to fight for him to defeat the French. He is therefore going to try to build them up so they feel they need to fight. He begins by calling his army ‘dear friends’. This familiarity makes them seem as if they are personal friends of his. He decides to do all he can to make them fight alongside him. It is necessary for him to make them feel war is noble and courageous. He tells them they will all be killed whether they fight for him or not, so it is better to fight and die a noble death, rather than act like a coward.
He then says:
“In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;”
This is telling the men that although it is good for them to be humble in times of peace, when there is a war they need to be string, bold, and ruthless, like a tiger. Comparing them to this majestic creature gives them confidence to fight against the enemy, and fires their souls to fight for their king and country.
The antithesis used in lines one and two; three, four and five, six, gives them the sharp contrast we need to shock them into believing they should fight. It gives the men hard and forceful images to think about, encouraging them once again to fight.
Henry continues to flatter his army, by calling them ‘noblest English’, and reminding them of their great fathers. Their fathers fought in France, and the French had to surrender, because the English were so strong and forceful. Henry reminds them of this to encourage them to act as their fathers did all those years ago, so they are not letting them down or disgracing their name. He likens their fathers to Alexander, the Greek who conquered much of North Africa and founded Alexandria in Egypt.
Then, to give his men the other thought, he reminds them of their mothers. This not only makes them think fondly of England, and making the people there proud of them, but also makes them feel as if they have to prove themselves. Henry intimates that if they do not fight with him, they did not have noble father, and therefore their mothers must have slept with other cowardly men. They have to prove they are their warrior fathers’ sons, and also set an example to those who are weaker than them at home. He also gives them a self-fulfilling prophecy, by saying:
“…let us swear
That you are worthy of your breeding, which I doubt not;”
This means not only is he flattering them, but he is also encouraging them to fight. If he tells them they will fight, they most certainly will, to prove themselves to him. Also, by likening them to greyhounds, he makes them want to fight, as they feel eager to get going and stop standing still for so long.
Finally, in this poem, ‘England’ is mentioned a lot. This is to make the men think fondly of their home, and want to fight for it, to make it proud of them. By finishing the poem on a high point, he will encourage the men to strike forwards. Shakespeare has made Henry say:
“Cry ‘God for Harry! England and Saint George!'”
With these last words, Shakespeare portrays Henry of hoping to inspire them to fight. By putting Harry first, they will fight for their king; they are calling on God to support him; and he mentions the patron saint of England, St. George, who bravely fought a dragon to liberate his countrymen, as they will metaphorically do in their battle against the French.
Rupert Brooke, who died quite early in the war of blood poisoning, before he could fight, wrote “The Soldier”. Therefore, like Binyon, he did not experience the full horrors of war. The poem is written from the point of view of the solider. Although the title is very simple, the poem is personal, so this contrasts well. There are fourteen lines to this poem, meaning it is a sonnet, and the point here is driven home in the last two sentences.
The alphabetised rhyming pattern allows the poem to flow well, giving it a further sense of gentleness. The aim of the poem is to show war as courageous, so death has to be shown in a gentle way. The first thing that shows this is the way the poem begins:
“If I should die,”
The ‘if’ is uncertain, and the soldier, who is Brooke, does not know if he is to die or not. As with the other two poems, England is mentioned a lot, giving us the idea of patriotism, and therefore how noble it is to die for your country. The whole poem is about patriotism, of how the young men went to war, and never came back, but left a small piece of them where they fought. Brooke uses the idea that if an Englishman died in a foreign field, it would be like leaving a small piece of England there. This would, in turn, make the field a better place. This shows me he feels England is a superior country. He shows this by using the words ‘richer’ and ‘blest’. It is as if the foreign places have been altered in some way by having a piece of England there. The idea of the dead going back to the earth from which they were created, gives the idea of going back to God, and going to Heaven.
This poem uses the personification of England, like “For The Fallen”. The poet writes that the men are whom “England bore”, or she gave birth to. This shows a great deal of faithfulness to their home country.
This poem is written for people who knew the poet, his friends and family. However, it is not written exclusively for them, but for any soldier, as it tells of how they might feel.
These three poems show war as noble and patriotic.