I have chosen to study these 3 poems;
`Night Patrol` by Alan Ross, `War Photographer` by Carol Ann Duffy and `Dulce et Decorum Est` by Wilfred Owen.
All of these poems are about the effects of war, and how people feel about it.
`Night Patrol` by Alan Ross. This is about a soldier that goes out on a night patrol, he is on a boat that leaves port at last light, and returns to the port at dawn. It shows the daily routine of a patrolling soldier at war.
`War Photographer` by Carol Ann Duffy. This poem isn’t first hand experience, she is writing as a male photographer that goes to report the war. The man realises the issues of war and death.
`Dulce et Decorum Est` by Wilfred Owen, this poem is about a man on the front lines. He faces and describes the dangers or war, gunfire, gas and shelling.
Night Patrol, this poem is told from a soldier’s point of view.
The soldier goes on his night shift – patrolling the channel by boat. The first three lines are about his view on going to war, he describes it as if he was forced to go to war.
He describes the headland so well that it seems he doesn’t want to leave it, but it is disappearing in his view. He talks about the docks, the cranes, and railways.
In his shift he sails south from land, he sees the moon as `a rouged face`.
He is talking about all this as if he’s not going to see it again, this could be the case though, as in the end he is going to war. He describes it so passionately, and as it disappears out of his view, he then looks at the `sea crumpled in the spray-flecked blackness`, meaning the waves and spray created at the back of the boat.
`Towards midnight the cold stars, high over Europe, freeze on the sky’
This is a very descriptive line that gives the reader a lot of information.
He is confirming that he is on a night patrol on a boat. He is also saying that he is somewhere in Europe, the North Sea. The way that he worded the line makes you feel the coldness that he is experiencing. He uses the expression of the stars freezing in the sky, giving it a cold feeling, a clear sky without clouds indicates a very cold night. I feel that he finds his day tedious and must have seen it many times before.
He sees `stigmata’ in the sky, meaning Anti-Aircraft guns firing away piecing holes in the sky. He also hears gunfire, this I think scares him as his life is at stake. It is made worse by that he can only hear them, not see them.
Then from Dunkirk he sees `red flames opening fanwise`, or an image of death, the fire then burns out and he is back to normal.
As the shift is coming to an end they pass another patrol boat coming from England.
Heading back he sees some clouds overhead, and back in early light he sees minesweepers going out. He is trying to get across that the daily routine starts all again, but for another man.
War Photographer was written by Carol Ann Duffy, it is not a first hand piece of writing, she has written about a male photographer that has gone to war to take photos. As this is not a first hand piece she may have not got all the detail correct, unless she has spoken to a photographer that went to the war.
In the first line it says that he is in his dark room and `finally alone’, this suggests that he has been waiting for this moment for a long time.
`With Spools of suffering set out in ordered rows’
The pictures taken were war photographs, most pictures taken in war had horrific outcomes, people dying or injured. What she is saying is that loads of pictures are set out in rows (each negative of the film). She then goes on to give you a little description of what the room looks like – red lights that softly glows. It is quiet and he is alone, as we know. He is taking his time, and carefully developing the film.
Taking photographs is his livelihood, so he was very professional about it, `his hands did not tremble then though seem to now’.
When he took the photograph he did not have the time to think of the horror and see the proper effect of war, he was there just to take photographs, as a professional. Now that he is in the comfort of his home, his emotions have caught up with him.
`Something is happening’, one of his photos is coming through, and he sees it as a stranger. He remembers how and when the photo was taken. The woman crying, lying there bleeding on the floor, `blood stained into foreign dust`. A very descriptive piece.
‘Hundred agonies’, these are the photographs showing the horrors of the war zones but only five or six will make it into the Sunday supplement. Discarding the photographs in theory is like discarding the stories and tragedies. The readers will be moved by the photographs, but, as they are ‘between the bath and the pre-lunch beers’, they are obviously more interested in their own lives.
In the final two lines the photographer is on a plane heading presumably, for another war zone. What he sees from this point is the landscape where he works, full of people who feel nothing for the subject that earns him a living.
`Dulce et Decorum Est`, is written by Wilfred Owen, he has done many other well-known war poems and was tragically killed during the great war. Dulce et Decorum Est is about a battalion going to war and facing a daily routine of being at the front lines.
`Bent double, like old beggars under sacks`, this is a very powerful first line that gets the reader thinking straight away. The message that he is trying to get across that these fine young soldiers have been worn down and are acting like old women. A flare is set off, and the whole battlefield is lit, meaning that they can see and be seen by the enemy. Men were so tired that they were marching asleep, some had lost boots, but that was the last thing on their mind. Swaying as they’re marching, `drunk with fatigue`.
Gas hit them, they are all fumbling to get their masks on, the large clumsy things that they are. Someone wasn’t quick enough and was burnt, by the `fire and lime`. Everyone staring out of there gas marks, a green mercy sight, as if under water.
`In all my dreams before my helpless sight he plunges towards me`, what he is trying to say here is that he is haunted by the memories of what he had seen, of the terrible effects of the gas making the man choke, drowning in his own blood.
In the last stanza, he is describing it as if he is there, saying that you have to be there to experience it. He describes the vision of the dead person clearly. `His hanging face, like a devils sick of sin`. It may look like he’s been hung. The body having been exposed to the gas is rotting away, his corrupted lungs, bleeding, `bitter as cud`.
He is saddened by the fact that all these people have lost their lives, but he may also be happy that the battle is over. To sum up this poem he uses a strong finish, Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori. Meaning it is noble to die for your country. It does not necessarily mean that he’s not afraid of death, just that he thinks it is noble to die for his country.
All of these poems have the relationship of war. The main message that all these poems are trying to get across is that war isn’t good. In all the poems there is a sign of fear, either first hand or not, the writer still knows that there’s fear. In all of the poems there is no positive part to it. In the `War Photographer` the photographer hasn’t got the time to realise what is really happening, he’s only there to get a front-page snap. When he’s home he can have all the time to recollect his thoughts. The photographer cannot be part of his home setting because of the horrors he has witnessed, and the people for whom he works cannot fully appreciate the photographer’s work because they have no idea of the real circumstances of war.
`Night Patrol`, the soldier that goes out on patrol seems to be scared, and wants to stay on land. He also seems fed up of the shift and continuous patrol that risks his life.