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A Comparison of Nineteenth Century and Post 1914 Poetry: "dulce Et Decorum Est" and "charge of the Light Brigade"

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A comparison of nineteenth century and post 1914 poetry: "Dulce Et Decorum Est" and "Charge Of The Light Brigade"

In this essay I will attempt to compare and contrast Wilfred Owen's "Dulce et Decorum est" to Alfred Tennyson's "Charge of the Light Brigade". I will examine the use of poetic devices in the poems as well as outline what is happening in each.

Wilfred Owen was born on the 18th of March 1893 in owestry, United Kingdom. He was the oldest of four children and was educated in an evangelical school. Though Owen rejected most of his beliefs by 1913 the influence of his education still remains evident in his poems and their themes of sacrifice, biblical language and his vivid, frightening description of hell. One of the main influences on Owen's poetry was his meeting with Siegfried Sassoon, though Owen soon fashioned his own style and approach to the war. The characteristics of Owen's poetry are the use of Para rhyme (The rhyming of two words which have the same consonants but whose stressed vowels are different), alliteration, and assonance.

Alfred Tennyson was born on 5th August 1809 in Somersby, Lincolnshire and died on the 6th October 1892 to later be buried in the poet's corner in Westminster Abby. Tennyson was often regarded as the chief representative of the Victorian age in poetry, succeeding Wordsworth as poet laureate in 1850.

Wilfred Owen's poems are inspired by the horrors of his own experiences in World War One from 28th July 1914 to 4th November 1918, the day that he died 1 week before the armistice. At the time of this poem there were excessive amounts of propagandistic poetry for example Jessie Pope's "Who's for the game?"

Lord Alfred Tennyson's "Charge of the Light Brigade" was written to commemorate the suicidal charge by British light cavalry over open terrain in the Battle of Balaclava (Ukraine) in the Crimean War from 1854 to 1856. This was the first war to have photographic media coverage. Of the 637 men involved in the charge, 247 were killed or injured.

Tennyson describes the valiant charge of the light brigade into "the jaws of death". Tennyson makes use of repetition, allusion, and personification to paint a vivid picture of the charge and at the same time give the reader an insight into the mind of the brave soldiers of the light brigade. The rhythm of this poem imitates the sound of the horses galloping towards the enemy and therefore has a fast pace

In the first Stanza the soldiers of the light brigade begin their charge towards the guns. At this time they are not in close proximity of the guns and do not yet know that this charge is nothing short of suicide, Tennyson uses the metaphor "into the valley of death" to show that despite the soldiers not knowing it yet many of them will die in the battle ahead. The reference to the "valley of death" is repeated throughout the poem, it serves as an allusion to the twenty third psalm of the bible which states "Even where I walk through a valley of deepest darkness I should fear no harm, for you (God) are with me" I believe this is extremely relevant to the situation of the soldiers as they must face death itself. The reference to a valley also gives the illusion of the soldiers being surrounded on each side, implying that the only

way to go is forward. The words "Rode the six hundred" are repeated to emphasise that at this point the light brigade has suffered no loss.

In the second Stanza the soldiers continue their charge although start to have doubts about what they are doing. The point is stressed that the soldiers have no choice but to follow the orders that they have been given, without question "Their's not to reason why, Their's but to do and die".

The third stanza depicts the soldiers surrounded by guns "Cannon to right of them,

Cannon to left of them, Cannon in front of them" yet valiantly riding onwards "Into the mouth of death, into the jaws of hell" these two phrases use personification to depict death itself and also to show the power of the opposing force. Despite the fact that the light brigade are almost completely surrounded they have yet to suffer any loss, this is indicated by the final repeating line "rode the six hundred".

The fourth stanza begins with the soldiers drawing their swords for battle "flash'd all their sabres bare" whilst continuously riding into the enemy quite literally "sabring the gunners". The scene becomes engulfed in smoke from the guns and the soldiers disappear into the mist, the reporters are completely blind to the action yet anxiously await the sight of the light brigade. Words such as "shatter'd and sunder'd" give an impression of the hectic and in my opinion clumsy conflict. As the stanza ends the soldiers begin to retreat after suffering serious loss "Then they rode back, but not, Not the six hundred." This is a contrast to the final lines of the previous stanzas.

In the fifth stanza the soldiers are clearly shown to be retreating "cannon to right of them, cannon to left of them, cannon behind them" "Came thro' the jaws of Death, Back from the mouth of Hell", as opposed to the third stanza where although the words used are quite similar the effect is very different. Now the soldiers are six hundred no more. By this time a significant amount of the soldiers have been slaughtered.

In the sixth and final stanza the writer Tennyson addresses the reader using imperative verbs "honour the light brigade", he also uses a rhetorical question "when can their glory fade?" the answer of course being, never. Throughout the poem the soldiers are portrayed as brave, dignified and smart even though they are riding into a situation that will almost certainly kill them.

Wilfred Owen's "Dulce et Decorum est" uses the well known phrase "Dulce et Decorum est pro patria mori" which means it is sweet and honourable to die for your country and was coined by the roman poet Horace in the 6th century. This poem immediately shows irony in the title, as it is quite obvious from the content of the poem that this is not Owen's view of death, infact it is quite the opposite. In the first line Owen uses a simile to show the effects of war on the human body "bent double like old beggars under sacks" this portrays the soldiers not as they are commonly depicted , as young , healthy, athletic and rather



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