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A comparison of Tennyson’s, The Charge of the Light Brigade and Wilfred Owen’s Dulce et Decorum Est

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In this essay I am going to discuss two poems, ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’ by Alfred Tennyson and ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ by Wilfred Owen. These two poems both consist of a war theme, with victims involved that give accounts on their experiences. I will also discuss the similarities of the poems. War in general is wrong and can always be avoided by some method. War is almost always started on a racial concept because all the wars that have gone by in recent years had always had one religion in general versus another.

Tennyson wrote this poem after reading a press report which glorified war. The report uses emotive images and was patriotic. This will enable me to draw up a conclusion showing the different attitudes towards war. The first poem that I am going to write about is ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’, by Alfred Tennyson. This poem is a narrative poem based on an account in the Crimean war in 1864 in Ballaclava when the Britain’s took on the Russians for a fight over land. The poem describes the Light Brigade’s hopeless charge towards the enemy’s main artillery position.

Their commander had mistaken his orders, and instead of sending the cavalry to retrieve some captured British guns, he sent them into a valley where the Russians were waiting with their firearms. The 600 men armed only with sabres could not match the Russian guns and cannons and few survived the short battle. The first verse of the poem is when the Light Brigade is walking, just before they are about to charge. This verse has repetition and rhyme creating the feel of horses galloping onwards with their pace, like the poem.

The first two lines of the poem show this as an example – “Half a league, half a league, half a league onward”. When the order came through by the General “Forward the Light brigade”, and on this order the Light Brigade charged. Alfred Tennyson must have used this direct order in the poem because he wanted to show immediately that ‘charge’ wasn’t the correct order, he just rein acted what actually happened with his poetry. He could have used the full order, which included more detail, but he stuck with the simple one so that he could get the message across quickly.

This simple order gives you the feeling that you are charging straight into the enemy instead of the orders full potential, which was to go around the back and surprise the enemy. “Into the valley of death rode the six hundred”. This is a strong image because being referred to as the valley of death; the soldiers must have had the knowledge that they were about to stare death in the eye. The language used in this verse is quite repetitive and goes to a rhythm, so that you feel like you are one of the soldiers just about to charge.

This verse has the vision of horse’s feet clacking as the Light Brigade charge, which is represented in this verses mood. This makes me feel patriotic because they are fighting for their country and the enemy is fighting for the country, and this is the indication that the people fighting are quite similar. They are similar because they have both got families and if any one of them got killed their families would suffer, when they are just fighting over a bit of land.

As the first verse finished the second one that tells this story further with the Light Brigade saying their final words before charging. Tennyson shows that the soldiers were brave to charge although they knew it was a mistake, because in those days if you didn’t obey your orders you were killed on the account of treason. The line “Not though the soldiers knew that someone had blundered”, and the word blundered emphasises the mistake. The soldiers still got the image of a hero and not a coward because they stuck to their requests.

Then in that verse it said three lines why they should continue to charge – “Theirs not to make reply, theirs not to reason why, theirs but to do and die”. Tennyson creates the image that the soldiers know that they are galloping to their doom, but for them to question the order would have them killed for treason, so they rode on as sitting ducks but with honour and pride. In this verse the message for you is to obey the order or die with reason. This verse makes me feel unhappy because six hundred soldiers are going to be killed with no form of protecting themselves.

In the third verse the Light Brigade are in a bad situation with Tennyson saying how bad it is with three lines in rhyming lyrics saying, “Cannon to the right of them, Cannon to the left of them and Cannon in front of them”. The key word in that was cannon because with the three times it was mentioned it made the Light Brigades task almost impossible. The three lines from the poem give you the image that had blundered as it said in verse two. The rest of the verse is fairly powerful because it said, “Boldly they rode and well, Into the jaws of Death, Into the mouth of Hell”.

The words ‘Death’ and ‘Hell’ create a powerful atmosphere because with the ‘mouth of hell’, it is as if the six hundred were being swallowed up by the Russians. Tennyson shows what heroes the soldiers are by saying that they stuck to their mission although they were riding into a trap. In the next verse the battle commences. The soldiers were ready to fight no matter the cause because it said, “Flashed all their sabres bare”. This verse creates the sense of the strength of the soldiers because they are still fighting although their chances of success are very slim.

This can be reflected in the language because it said, “Plunged into the battery smoke”. This shows you what heroes they are because they are going into attack the enemy with everything they have got. Where it said, “All the world wondered”, this is the world wondering why they are fighting and why they aren’t settling it out by agreements. It also says that rather fight over something when it can be agreed with no deaths, like a peace treaty. “Plunged into the battery smoke, Right thro’ the line they broke”.

This shows that they penetrated the Russian front line and in the quote then rhyming brings it to life, as if you were there. When it said “Then they rode back, but not, not the six hundred”. Tennyson’s repetition of not gives it a good effect because he doesn’t want to give an exact figure to show how bad it was, but just not the six hundred. Tennyson is using this language to a good effect because with all the people that were killed the effect of mentioning it in the poem would be catastrophic. This verse makes me feel very sad because people are dying, for what?.

This only gives them the pleasure of dying over a bit of land fighting for their country, when they could have had it sorted out with no killing in a contracted mutual agreement. The fifth verse of the poem shows that the Light Brigade are fully aware of their mistake and are retreating. In the first three lines, “Cannon to the right of them, Cannon to the left of them, Cannon behind them”. This repetition is quite effective because it is as they have come back from the dead to escape the valley of death.

Tennyson is developing the reader’s view of the soldiers by making them seem now that they are human. He shows that they are retreating because they are outnumbered heavily. He also develops the reader’s view of war because he just shows that the more power you have the more chance you have of winning and with no chance like the Light Brigade had, they pulled out because they were human. As I mentioned earlier about escaping the valley of death they are doing an impossible task of retreating whilst still being pulled back to hell with it, “came thro’ the jaws of death, back from the mouth of hell”.

The Light Brigade are clawing their way out whilst still being pulled back, still being fired at into the valley of death. Tennyson empathises that the Light Brigade were fighting so bravely because he describes them using the line, “while horse and hero fell, they fought so well”. This is a compliment to the light brigade by Tennyson because instead of thinking about the odds of them winning which were pretty slim – they pushed it aside and fought bravely for their country as anyone in that century would.

The language used in this verse is very complimentary because the Light Brigade are being honoured for their bravery and still gives the image that they are heroes although it might have been doubted in the blundered order. The Light Brigade are described as heroes, although they are retreating it is because of how brave they are and what dedication they give to their country when their country needs them in time of crisis. This verse makes me have more respect towards the Light Brigade because in a no win situation I haven’t seen or heard anyone fight as bravely as the Light Brigade did.

Tennyson finally emphasises his message in the final verse. This verse has a slower pace to the other ones that were at the start because it is slowing right down with the pace of the lyrics. Where it said, “When can their glory fade”, Tennyson is using this metoical question to ask the reader if it remains in their opinion if they are still heroes or not. In my opinion I didn’t think they were stupid to charge into a no win situation but should be praised for their courage in battle. The three most convincing lines that tells us to honour these men are, “honour the charge they made!

Honour the Light Brigade, noble six hundred”. Tennyson is now deeply complimenting the Light Brigade in saying how glorious they are. Tennyson also commands the reader to honour the men of the Light Brigade because of the noble task they did of fighting for country they should be honoured for bravery, nobility and praised for their efforts for their homeland. The message that this is saying is that to be a hero is everything although ignoring the success rate is not that important. I have sympathy for this poem because I don’t believe that war is the only way for people to start things out physically.

When I read the poem for the first time I knew instantly what each of the soldiers was thinking, it was like ‘there must be some kind of mistake in the order, but if there isn’t I will give it my all for my country in a tough situation’. The final poem that I am going to write about is ‘Dulce et Decorum Est; by Wilfred Owen. This poem describes the life in the trenches in the First World War where it was the British versus the Germans on the Western Front in Belgium-Northern France. The poet Wilfred Owen was a soldier in these trenches and described the misery of what happened and does it with great effect.

Wilfred Owen wrote this poem during World War 1. He wrote this poem but it is written not to glorify war, but to reveal the true nature of war from a consequence of first hand experience of human suffering. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the people were still loyal, honourable and had a sense of duty. However, Owen saw a great deal of suffering that led him to develop a moral view of war. This conflict is seen in the title of the poem. It suggested that war was in conflict with patriotism. The idea of Owen’s poem was a snapshot of war to frighten people.

Owen was trying to show people the harsh reality of war. The first verse of the poem describes the soldiers as “old beggars under sacks”. They are compared to beggars and this suggests to you that this war crumbled them physically and mentally to the state of being compared to beggars. Owen uses the simile “They were coughing like hags”. Coughing like old women shows how rough the trenches are because going in as fit young men, and being worn down into a state of hags takes some work with the crippling image of war. The men are described in details as “men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots but limped on”.

This quotation shows the soldiers worn down mentally and physically by the opposition, lacking sleep because they had to watch out for when the Germans struck. They were also partially deaf because of the heavy artillery use that was heard full on in the trenches because it said their hearing was “worse than the hoots”. The language used in this verse is particularly strong because it describes brutally the conditions that the soldiers went through regularly. Owen shows the reader how bad it would have been if they were a soldier then and how it would have crippled them into an ill state of health.

The mood and style of this verse is extremely negative because the poet has compared soldiers who have such a high profile to ‘beggars under sacks’. This verse makes me feel quite bad because they are suffering fighting for their country, whilst civilians object to fighting because they aren’t tough enough to survive its deadly elements. The second verse of ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ describes the change of pace, waking up the reader and soldiers as it mentions about an attack of poisonous gas by the Germans, to try and suffocate the occupants of the trench. “Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! an ecstasy of thumbing”.

The key words in this quotation is ‘ecstasy and thumbing’. These are the key words because Wilfred Owen is describing the soldiers as clumsy, due to the wearing down of themselves in the trenches, so that they are worn down to such a stage they have trouble doing basic functions. Owen then creates the scene that someone doesn’t quite make it to their gas mask and is drowning in the poisonous gas. Owen is clever as he explains, “someone was still yelling out in the stumbling”. Someone didn’t make it and everyone dreaded that it would be them.

He described it as “a man floundering in fire or lime”. This basically means that he was dying through being poisoned slowly and painfully. The main thing Owen is doing in this verse is using the language’s style for the dramatic effect. “He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning”. There was the chance of this soldier being saved but with the others being in a crippled like physical condition they didn’t have the strength and energy to save his life although they would have if they could, and saving him at that stage would be putting yourself in certain doom.

There is honour in this scene here being described to the reader because it is showing how badly wrecked the soldiers are to save their fellow soldier in his time of need. In the language in this verse it is very descriptive because it is describing the pain and suffering that one particular soldier was going through. Owen concentrates on the one soldier choking to death while others watch and wait for the gas to pass because he is creating an image from the first verse that they are all weak, too weak to fend for themselves let alone help another soldier.

This verse makes me feel terrible because of how anyone humane could watch another human being die when they knew that they could save that life. Verse three has Owen describe how the soldiers dispose of the most recent corps that occurred in verse two. Horrific images such as “the white eyes writhing in his face”, gives a powerful image of the dead corps being taken as a dummy that has served its purpose as a helpless pawn like in a game of chess.

He is a dummy being dragged away because his face is described as, “his hanging face, like a devils sick of sin”. The face is emotionless with something so evil and dark describing it, it makes it more powerful when it is overflowing with evil. Being described like a devil sick of sin is an extremely powerful simile because being described, as that is the worst image possible that could have been used and with Owen describing it as that, it must have been a disturbing sight to look at. The noise from the corps is described as, “obscene as cancer”.

This is an extremely powerful image because cancer is the biggest killer in the world and to have something else worse than it is preposterous. Another key line in this second verse is, “my friend, you would not tell with such high zest, to children ardent for some desperate glory”. This basically means that to obtain glory you have to go through pain and suffering just to get what you desire. Owen addresses his audience well in this verse because he is using phrases and sentences that make the corps duly unbelievable in his own powerful way.

The description of the body is a disgusting understatement, “bitter as cud”. I can’t believe how Owen is describing the corps but to him this must have been the worst experience he must have gone through in the trenches. This verse makes me feel sick because with such a powerful description of how the corps was described, I would have hated to have taken it away. Owen’s message is that it is a lie – ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’, in English this means to die for your country sweet.

This is wrong because dying for your country doesn’t do anything for your country, because you are just another number being shipped out to defend your country, for what! , nothing. Owen shows us that in his horrific description that it isn’t sweet because with his first hand experience it would have been in my opinion worse than hell. Wilfred Owen indeed served in the trenches in the First World War and survived all four years except of the few days he was killed at the brink of the war ending. ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ is his experience of trench life.

In the end The First World War was about two sides fighting over land and, with losses in the millions range, was it worth it to fight over a few miles of land?. Men wanted the images of a hero by serving in this war but all they got from it was a crippling from what they may never recover. With each poem they all had strong images of war tattooed into them. In the charge of the Light Brigade it has a positive view of war at the start but in the end it has a negative view. This is because of the number of men that were lost in a no win situation but who are still honoured for their brave efforts.

In ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ it gives a supposed positive image of war but is a negative of dying for your country. War is only started on racial grounds and can only be avoided if society could push the violence of war aside and could be grown up and negate like civilised people. In conclusion, I think that the main difference in the way that war is presented in The Charge of the Light Brigade and Dulce Et Decorum Est is that Wilfred Owen was involved in war, and therefore he knows first-hand what war is like, and is writing from experience.

In comparison to Wilfred Owen’s attitude, Alfred Lord Tennyson writes his poem with a positive point of view, as he has not been involved in war and therefore has not experienced first-hand what the soldiers have to go through. Of the two poems I personally prefer “Dulce Et Decorum Est” as I consider Owen’s honest portrayal of war a valuable insight which should be remembered and help people to understand the suffering of soldiers serving in war as this is too often forgotten.

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