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The Charge of the Light Brigade, Who’s for the Game and The Night Patrol Convey Their View of War

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The poems we have studied all contain a reference to war. Whether it is a description of a particular event or someone who has experienced the war and describes its effects, two of the poems promote war and the other three portray an unattractiveness to war. The Charge of the Light Brigade tells a tale of an incident that occurred in the Crimean War (1854-56). A brigade of lightly armoured cavalry misunderstood orders and charged into a narrow valley under heavy fire from Russian guns. This is a poem written by Alfred, Lord Tennyson to promote war and patriotism.

The other poem written to promote war is Who’s for the Game. However they undertake contrasting issues. The Charge of the Light Brigade tells a historical event rather than attempting to recruit people. Tennyson begins his poem with anapaestic dimeter. The poem begins ‘Half a league, half a league/, Half a league onward’. This creates a fast pace to the rhythm and the repetition gets us intrigued by the quick pace already. Throughout the first verse Tennyson intrigues us furthermore with the use of direct speech, ‘Forward the light Brigade/, Charge for the guns’.

This time creating a dramatic effect. This effect is used in The Night Patrol also in the first verse adding tension, ‘When you’re through, all three/, Then straight for that new piece of German wire/, About an hour; now over! ‘ There is also mention of death in the first verse of The Charge of the Night Brigade which is a common factor in all of the poems, as you would expect Tennyson to diverge from the fact of death as people can often become scared at even the mention of death. Constantly death appears ‘Into the valley of death/, Theirs but to do and die/Into the jaws of death’.

Nevertheless later we see suddenly in verse five the apparent chance of escaping death and becoming hero, which is something that the readers will want to be. ‘While horse and hero fell/, Came thro the jaws of Death’. This underlines the act of heroicness that the brigade underwent but also implies that there is a chance for glory. This is not the only thing that Tennyson implies but he also asks a few rhetorical questions throughout the poem. For example in verse two ‘Was there a man dismayed? ‘ and in the final verse ‘When can their glory fade? The questions are for a didactic purpose and allow the reader their own thoughts about recruitment.

The poem Who’s for the Game by Jessie Pope is another poem promoting war. However here Jessie uses a certain optimism to entertain the idea of joining the war. Unlike The Charge of the Light Brigade there is no mention of death but Jessie does use a lot of questions to great effect. ‘Who’s for the game/, Who’ll toe the line/, Who’ll give his country a hand/, Who wants a turn to himself in the show? The continuous questions seem to attract reader as a simple question that needs to be answered and can be answered easily by signing up for the army.

Another reason to sign up is to help the country. ‘Who’ll give his country a hand? ‘ the country is personified as someone in need, which intensifies the need for more recruits. It would also seem cowardly if you did not sign up and unpatriotic. The Charge of the Light Brigade begins with a galloping rhythm in contrast to Who’s for the game with a longer but slower flowing rhythm.

Jessie suggests that the war would be a joke, a challenge and a game. ‘The red crashing game of a fight’, notice the use of red instead of blood, maybe representing the feeling of anger to ease the most likely horrific consequences of the war. Jessie uses an easy picture of war in an attempt to persuade men to enlist. ‘Who knows it won’t be a picnic/, and be out of the fun’. Of course war is not easy and the other poems are a significant contrast to that picture. The Night Patrol, Drummer Hodge and Disabled are all poems against war and all the poems describe the extreme consequences of the war.

Drummer Hodge written by Thomas Hardy depicts the unfortunate death of the young drummer boy, miles from home. Interestingly Hardy does not even mention the cause that the young drummer boy is fighting for but concentrates on the unfamiliar surroundings and the sympathetic portraits of the young drummer. The poem Disabled also concentrates on the portraits of the victim who is now as the title states Disabled. Drummer Hodge is a poem that does not contain such unappealing factors as death and fear of death which is what The Night Patrol contains.

But here Hardy repeatedly conveys the stars and their eternal presence. ‘And foreign constellations west/, Strange stars amid the gloam/, And strange-eyed constellations reign/, His stars eternally’. Hardy uses the stars to convey to the reader that that is where eventually you will end up if you if you enlist in the army. Such a waste of life that a home loving boy has found a new home amidst heaven among the stars. Hodge suggests a country yokel or an agricultural name so far away from home. ‘Fresh from his Wessex home/, His homely Northern breast and brain’.

Basically Hardy is saying what a shame this boy died hundred of miles from home and a lack of respect to the boy was shown and that he did a service to his country and in return he receives death. The Night Patrol consists of a lot of physical detail and attempts to illustrate the horror of the war by describing objects and corpses, which converts the actual presence of the corpses and objects into the readers’ mind and senses. The Night Patrol incorporates imagery and in doing this tells a story different to The Charge of the Light Brigade and for different reasons.

The poem is about three soldiers ordered to carry out a reconnaissance raid and crawling into no mans land and witnessing the horrific scenes of dead soldiers. They see corpses left there unceremoniously decaying, this is intended to disgust the reader and convince them that they do not want to witness the atrocious conditions. The poem achieves the fact that there are corpses everywhere. ‘and everywhere the dead/, the dead men stank/, as bodies loomed/, of the last dead men’.

As I said before there is a lot of imaginary and the poem creates an effect that is off-putting of war. Packs, rifles, bayonets, belts/, Shell fragments/, sickly smell of rottenness/, The slimy pools/, they stank/, All blown to bits/, of lumpish dead’. Disabled by Wilfred Owen is another anti-war poem that describes the effect of war through a man who is now disabled. ‘He sat in a wheeled chair’, Owen uses sympathy in order to focus what the war has done to this man. Already in the first verse Owen mentions the effect of war and now the man cannot wait to die. ‘Till gathering sleep had mothered them from him’, mothered is not used as a verb here but is personified so sleep acts like a mother.

Maybe the man is wishing every time he goes to sleep he can die without further pain. In the last verse sleep is again mentioned ‘And put him into bed? ‘ sleep is a refuge for him. The other effects that war has that Owen mentions is the lack of contact with the opposite sex, which was originally why he joined the army to impress his girlfriend ‘Now he will never feel again how slim’. The nurses now treat him like he has some sort of disease, ‘All of them touch him like some queer disease’. The disease does not physically exist but Owen suggests it is there nonetheless and like all diseases, are harmful.

There are also signs of regret in the man and that he thinks it was a waste ‘In the old times, before he threw away his knees’. This is intended to show the reader that the man does actually feel regret and he is not just taking it lightly. We have seen only in these five poems that the effects of war are disastrous but each poet uses different techniques to persuade the readers both that war is brilliant and a chance to become a hero is worth fighting for but also that the consequences can be devastating. The poets convey their view of war to different purposes and inevitably to different outcomes.

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