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Compare and Contrast Dulce et Decorum est and The Charge of the Light Brigade

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  • Pages: 5
  • Word count: 1180
  • Category: Contrast

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Tennyson and Owen have very different views of war. In “The Charge of the Light Brigade”, Tennyson shows an attitude which focuses on duty and the army working as a team. It also portrays ‘the 600’ as brave and valiant, and tells us that they were glorious and that we should honour them because of how great they were. Tennyson’s poem skips over all the pain and suffering of the soldiers, and the fact that the charge of the light brigade was a terrible disaster. Instead, it just shows war to be an honorable and good thing to be involved in.

In “Dulce et Decorum est” Owen tries to show the full horror of war. Instead of showing the soldiers as great heroes, he focuses on the suffering and pain of living in the trenches, and the reality of war. Owen’s poem tries to dispel any good feelings that people might have about war, and instead show it as a horrible way to die. The charge of the light brigade ha a galloping rhythm to it, which not only serves to create a sound picture of a horde of charging horses, but also helps to keep the poem moving over all the problems of war and the real experience that the men who were charging would have had.

The speed and rhythm of the poem, therefore helps it to ‘gloss over’ all the bad things about war, and make it seem good. The first two lines help increase this ‘speed’ even more by urging the reader on with the words ‘Half a league, half a league. Half a league onward’. The ‘onward’ sounds like the spurring on of a horse, and half a league is about a mile and a half. This relatively long distance is repeated three times to add more of a feeling of movement to the poem. The repetition also shows the monotony of the horses’ hooves galloping along. The next line of the poem, line 3, refers to the ‘valley of death’.

A valley of death is mentioned in the book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible. By making a reference to it in his poem, Tennyson raises the participants in the charge to a higher level than everyone else and makes them seem very important. The fourth line in the first stanza of Tennyson’s poem, ‘Rode the six hundred’ does two things. Firstly, it treats the light brigade as one unit, and serves to make us forget that each person in the light brigade is an individual, and that each person that will die probably has a family for whom the death of their relative will cause a lot of grief.

Secondly, the ‘Rode’ keeps up the fast pace of the poem and is another reminder that the horses are still charging along. Line five and line six, ‘Forward the light brigade! Charge for the guns he said;’, keeps up the pace of the poem, and sets the scene for the rest of the poem. Lines 7 and 8 are very similar to lines three and four. They just repeat the same thing to drum it into your brain, making the charge seem more mechanical and dehumanizing its participants. Owens poem, “Dulce et Decorum est” Has a very different attitude to war.

It shows war from a more personal perspective, and does not treat the soldiers as heroes or even as an army. Instead, he compares them with weak, tired and possibly ill people like beggars. His first line, ” Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,” Throws you straight into the ‘action’, except there is no action; just ill soldiers bent double because they feel cold or unwell. You instantly know that the soldiers are not going to be shown as heroes, and that war will not be shown as good in this poem.

Like old beggars under sacks” is a simile, It compares the soldiers to beggars, thus discarding their heroic image and showing them as people who only live in the hope that one day things will get better. In line two of “Dulce et Decorum est”, ” Knock Kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge” the simile that was started in the first line is added to. ” Coughing like hags” shows that many soldiers were ill, and adds to the impression that this army is not heroic at all.

The ” Knock kneed” part of this second line shows that the soldiers could not stand up properly, probably because they were so tired. The word “sludge in this line is dissonant and clumsy. It is this way because it is harder to say and sounds harsher, just like going through sludge would be hard and harsh on your feet. A big difference between “Dulce et Decorum est” and “The Charge of the Light Brigade” is that throughout “The Charge of the Light Brigade”, mellifluous, flowing words are used, so the poem is continuously moved on and is easily said.

In “Dulce et Decorum est” many words are hard to say, and the poem is interrupted in the middle of lines to make it go slowly and make it feel ‘bumpy’. The second line of “Dulce et Decorum est” has three caesuras in it, which are put there for this purpose. The third line of “Dulce et Decorum est” talks about “haunting flares”. Both sides would have sent up these flares to light up no man’s land when it was dark to help see if the enemy was coming. They would have flashed and flickered.

This line gives the poem a more scary atmosphere because it lets your imagination ‘see’ the men trudging away from the trenches. Line four, “And towards our distant rest began to trudge. ” tells us indirectly that the men were tired, because the “rest” is distant, this shows that the men were not expecting to rest for a long time. In this line there is also a dissonant rhyme; the “trudge” rhymes with the “sludge” in line two. This emphasizes the harshness of these words.

In line five, it says, “Men marched asleep. “. This is a metaphor because it would be impossible to march properly while you were asleep. It means that the men looked as if they were trying to march while they were asleep i. e. they staggered around, and were very unresponsive to things they saw or heard. This increases the feeling of tiredness that was started in line four. Also, there is a long caesura in the form of a full stop after this statement, which keeps the poem slow.

Line 6 describes many of the soldiers as “blood-shod” because they had lost their boots and had had to walk barefoot over rough ground. This shows the suffering and reality of the 1st world war. It also says, ” All went lame; all bind;” which shows that the soldiers could not walk because of their bare, blood-shod feet, and that they were so tired that they could hardly see. They were obviously not properly blind because they would not have been able to fight if they were, so this is another metaphor.

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