English: Comparison of war poetry
Dulce et Decorum Est and Icarus Allsorts: Mention how they are alike and how they differ. Look at the poets ideas and use of language. What contrasting thoughts about war do they present? Which do you think is a better poem?
The two poems studied are Dulce et Decorum Est, written by Wilfred Owen; a poem opposing World War I and Icarus Allsorts, by Roger McGough, focusing on nuclear warfare; written about fifty years after Dulce et Decorum Est, that prophesises a World War III during the height of the Cold War.
Serious views of the disastrous situation at the Western front are depicted in a very representative manner by an ex-soldier who has experienced the senseless death constantly around him. Icarus Allsorts is an attack on Western Powers, the general world population and presence of nuclear warfare. Ironically, the poem describes the possible devastating effects which could be caused due to a small, yet consequential mistake. Dulce et Decorum Est is a clear protest against the unspeakable horrors of the First World War, not expressly at pro-war poets. The barbaric slaughter of soldiers are graphically described to present a clear and indisputable picture of horror to the people who still believe that the sacrifice was acceptable.
After the Second World War the youth wanted to be different from their parents and were involved with politics. There was a cult about the pressing of a button that would start another World War, invoked by fear of the Cold War. The casual attitude of the super-powers was a great cause for concern for many people. Unlike Dulce et Decorum Est, Icarus Allsorts is conjecture and filled with black humour of the outrageous consequences of one person and the ease of started a devastating war.
“And grinning presses the button
That started World War Three.”
Dulce et Decorum Est tells of the true effects of the war on the soldiers. It tells of present experiences rather than future fears that are postulated in Icarus Allsorts. Icarus Allsorts endeavours to be very general about the effects to various nations, its message is aimed to very antiwar and against the superficial attitude of the superpowers. Dulce et Decorum Est is targeted at the establishment, tabloid pro-war poets, particularly Jessie Pope, who were oblivious of the hideous situation which young men were being sent. This poem focuses on the truth whilst Icarus Allsorts is wild conjecture. Truth is extremely powerful; Wilfred Owen uses his personal experience to give a very realistic picture. He states the situation as being his worst nightmare, but in reality, he is incapable to stop. Consequently, not all is what it seems as this text has been ripped from Nahoo at nahoo.net. His involvement as the soldier beg for his help, this he cannot deliver. Adjectives ending in ing prompt the reader feel part of Owens trauma as the sound of the g is guttural, mimicking the suffering of the soldier caught in mustard gas.
“In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning”
Immediate separation with Wilfred Owen and the dying soldier is shown metaphorically. Vaguely, Owen watches the figure drowning in the sea, as viewed through a port hole window in a ship. Metaphoric reference to the sea shows the might of the ocean, in a storm, and the rescuers powerless to perform their task. Moreover, there is little practical purpose of assisting a soldier in mustard gas as other soldiers are much spent themselves.
“Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.”
Dulce et Decorum Est is told in first person, in a style of a letter, to give a greater effect. Icarus Allsorts obtains a different hard hitting message, using black humour. Absolute disaster is integrated will the bitterness of reality with the final cold final statement.
“But that wouldnt bring
Three million, seven hundred, and sixty eight people back,
Fatalities, given to a precise number, make the final statement extremely cold and personalised to show that each person is an individual. This is contrary much of the black humour throughout the poem. The final, short rhetorical question secures the ruthless truth of the possible consequence of nuclear warfare.
“‘House!’ cried the fatlady
As the bingohall moved to various parts of the town”
Throughout much of Icarus Allsorts the poem ironically indicates to universal devastation. There are broad stereotypical statements that show the destructive power of a nuclear holocaust. Reference to the German butcher could be made as a statement of reprisal from Second World War.
“Raus! cried the German butcher
as his shop came tumbling down”
The initial lines of Dulce et Decorum Est takes the nobility out of war. The soldiers have lost everything, their health, youth and most importantly; their dignity. The descriptions of horrible characteristics directly opposes the writing of Jessie Pope, which, in her opinion, was just a game.
“Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,”
Similar to Icarus Allsorts , the situation is immediately given. An immediate impact is made therefore the effect of their messages greater. Icarus Allsorts gives the introductory statement in the Icarus Allsorts gives the introductory statement in the form a news report.
“A meteorite is reported to have landed in New England.
No damage said ”
This message is very ironic as there is a comparison with a news report which is harmless and a nuclear holocaust which is the destruction of much of the worlds population. The final sentence clearly shows the sharp contrast of words (the news report) and the actions of the general .
The second stanza in Dulce et Decorum Est shows the ease of dying on the Front. It is from a personalised view of a soldier caught in mustard gas. This personalised view makes the death of the soldier have a far greater effect. If the death was described in third person the reader would be detached from the action.
Icarus Allsorts manages a similar effect by the possibility of effecting everybody. Reference is made to different classes and cultures with stereotypical views. Interpretation by the readers is made simple due to the references which they have grown understand. The complexity of Dulce et Decorum Est demands more from the reader, yet the message is clear. In passing, it is worth mentioning this text has been copied from Nahoo at nahoo.net. Hidden meanings of Dulce et Decorum Est make the poem far superior to that of the ignorant pro-war poets this makes the message more effective. Icarus Allsorts has a simpler content as there is no need to attract the attention of other poets.
“My friend, you will not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,”
Sarcastically Owen calls the pro-war poet my friend, this implies a fellow poet, Jessie Pope, rather than an actual friend. Referred to as friend will not offend the pro-war poet yet it shows their responsibility to tell the truth and there adverse effect on the youth. Children suggest the young soldiers enlisting to fight and their homage to authority and the writings of poets. Desperate glory implies the venerability of the youth and the excitement craved for the war. Previous passages show in graphic details the truth about glory and the bitterness faced by the youth. Alone, these two lines show that suffering could have been averted if the ignorance of pro-war poets was less oppressive, but more consequentially they express bitter emotions towards the war.
Wilfred Owen named his poem after a well known Latin phrase for which he has great disgust and the descriptive details, throughout the majority of the poem, emphasise his contrariety to the phrase. It translates: It is sweet and fitting to die for ones country, it originates from a Roman poet named Horace. Wilfred Owen knows that the pro-war lobby have no understanding of the devastating circumstances at the front and makes his final irony obvious.
“The old Lie: Dulce et Decorum Est
Pro patria mori.”
Wilfred Owen tells of his horrific experiences, Dulce et Decorum Est shows his true feelings, from the soul of the poet. The poem explicitly portrays the degradation of soldiers on the front and a vivid example is given of the grotesque death caused by mustard gas, alliteration is used to emphasise the hideous state of an individual and the overall predicament of certain pro-war society.
“Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues, -”
Dulce et Decorum Est is a contrast from Icarus Allsorts. Roger McGough utilises the fear of people who dreaded the dropping of the bomb which would start a disastrous world war. The context of subject at the time, ensured success, as the threat of a nuclear holocaust was believed to be very real.
After careful study of both Dulce et Decorum Est and Icarus Allsorts, I find Dulce et Decorum Est more effective as the message is clear and convincing. There is a great depth of feeling as Owen feels very strongly about devastation of life at the front and this is very evident in his writing. His personal traumatic impression from the front greatly effects the reader.
Dulce Et Decorum Est
Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned out backs,
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame, all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.
Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!- An ecstasy of fumbling
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime. –
Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams before my helpless sight
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin,
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs
Bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues, –
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.
A little bit of heaven fell
From out the sky one day
It landed in the ocean
Not so very far away
The general at the radar screen
Rubbed his hands in glee
And grinning pressed the button
That started World War Three
From every corner of the earth
Bombs began to fly
There were even missile jams
No traffic lights in the sky
In the time it takes to blow your nose
The people fell, the mushrooms rose.
‘House!’ cried the fat lady
As the bingohall moved to various parts of the town
‘Raus!’ cried the German butcher
as his shop came tumbling down
Phillip was in the counting house
Counting out his money
The Queen was in the parlour
Eating bread and honey
When through the window
Flew a bomb
And made them go all funny
In the time it takes to draw a breath
Or eat a toadstool, instant death
Huddled outside the doors of their fallout shelters
Like drunken carol singers
Clutching shattered televisions
And at last week’s editions of T.V Times
(but the very last)
Civil defence volunteers
With their tin hats in one hand
And their heads in the other
Their ban the bomb badges beginning to rust
Have scrawled ‘I told you so’ in the dust
A little bit of heaven fell
From out of the sky one day
It landed in Vermont
The general at the radar screen
He should have got the sack
But that wouldn’t bring
Three thousand million, seven hundred, and sixty-eight people back,
Comments are welcome
Thank you for reading through my GCSE English essay, written in 1997. If you want to comment or critisise, please write me a letter with your views.