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On The Idle Hill and The Charge Of The Light Brigade

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In this essay I intend to write about and compare these two poems, ‘On The Idle Hill’ and ‘The Charge Of The Light Brigade. ‘ I have chosen these two particular poems because I feel I have a greater understanding of them and I found them the most powerful out of the selection, I also thought they showed best the experience of war. A. E. Housman wrote ‘On The Idle Hill’ in 1896, he was not thinking of a particular war when he wrote it he looked at the beauty and horror of war. I will use (1) to represent ‘On The Idle Hill’. Alfred Tennyson wrote ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’ in 1854.

He was writing about the Crimean war that occurred between 1854 and 1856. I will use (2) to represent ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’. In this essay I will look at layout and also various writing techniques for example, alliteration, metaphors and personification. Poem (1) is on the subject of war in general; it’s about the glory and the disaster of the whole experience. It begins with the build up to war by talking about the stillness before the war and also talks about the drumming noise from afar it then goes on to tell of the soldiers marching into battle.

It ends with the image of death and destruction like a blanket over the ground. Poem (2) is all about the Crimean War from a poet’s point of view. It follows the British Cavalry into war and it gives a detailed picture of all that happened during the battle. (2) begins with the order from the British cavalry commander to go forward and attack, he had mistaken the orders given to him and the poem then tells us about the tragic consequences. I am now going to look at the layout of each poem. (1) Is a small poem that consists of four verses that have four lines each; the lines are all of similar length.

It uses indentations to make the poem look attractive and to make it appeal to potential readers. (2) Is a lot more random; it has six verses that contain between 8 and 12 lines. The lengths of these lines vary and indentations are used randomly throughout the poem. I am now going to look at the language used by each poet. In (1) the poet Housman begins by setting the scene he creates a tranquil and calm atmosphere by using words such as; summer, sleepy, streams and dreams, I think he paints this picture to show how a peaceful area can be so damaged and disrupted by war.

He then introduces war by mentioning the drumming noise from far away; at the end of verse two is the first time he mentions humans, “Soldiers marching all to die,” (V2 line 4). He doesn’t go into any detail of the battle, which keeps this poem quite serene. He then goes straight to the death and destruction that was left after the battle, he uses words like; bones, forgotten, dead and rotten. They are all quite dark words and in the readers mind will probably create a picture of morbid stillness. 2) Is a very detailed report on what happened during the battle whereas the other was dreamier.

The first two verses are setting the scene by saying what happened when they first went into war, there are hardly any adjectives. Verses three and four however is full of adjectives such as; flashed, volleyed, thundered, boldly and shattered, they are all quite striking words and they are used by the poet to create a dramatic and vivid picture. This is the same in verses five and six but they also include words such as; hero, honour and noble.

These are used to show the courage and bravery of the Brigade. I am now going to look at the diverse writing techniques used by both of the poets. Alliteration is a commonly used technique, in (1) there are numerous examples of it, “Far and near, low and louder,” (V2 line 1), and in this case the alliteration is used to imitate the steady beat that is made by the drummers as they approach the battle. Another example is, “Bleach the bones of comrades slain,” (V3 line 3), here it is used to emphasize the awful situation, and to make obvious that many, many people died.

In (2) alliteration is also used quite frequently, “stormed at with shot and shell,” (V3 line 5); this is used to stress the violence and brutality of the battle. It is then use again, “horse and hero fell,” (v5 line 5), and this is used to put emphasis on the tragic circumstance the cavalry is in. Onomatopoeia is a word that imitates the sound it is describing; it is used only in (1). “Far I hear the steady drummer, Drumming like a noise in dreams”, (V1 lines 3 & 4), the word drum definitely sounds like the noise of a drum. It is used to create a feeling of rhythm and beat.

It is then used again but in a different way, “Far the calling bugles hollo,” (V4 line 1), the poet hear has written what he thinks a bugle’s call sounds like this gives the reader a sense of the noises that would be heard on a battle ground. An oxymoron is two words that are put together but that actually contradict each other. One was found in (1) it was used to describe the sound the drum makes, “Far and near, low and louder,” (V2 line 1). It is impossible for something to be far and near, this is used to describe the feeling that the noise was all around them and coming from every direction.

There aren’t any oxymorons in (2). Metaphors are a figure of speech in which a word or phrase is given to an object or action that it does not literally mean. There are no metaphors used in (1) whereas in (2) I found a couple, “Into the jaws of death, into the mouth of hell”, (V3 lines 7 & 8) of course there cannot literally be ‘jaws of death’ the phrase is used to represent death itself, it is almost personifying death by saying that it has a jaw and a mouth. Another not so strong metaphor was, “Flashed all their sabres bare.

Flashed as they turned in air,” (V4 lines 1 & 2), their swords or sabres id not literally flash it just seemed like they did because the sun will have reflected off of them. Metaphors in both of these cases are used to create pictures in the readers’ heads. Assonance is the use of the repetition of a vowel sound, it was used in (1) only once, ” high the screaming fife replies,” (V4 line 3) it is used to create a sense of rhythm and beat, the vowel sound may also represent the noise that the fife makes.

In (2) Assonance is also used ” Shattered and Sundered,” (V4 line 7), this again is used to create rhythm using this technique always accentuates the words and their meanings within the poem. Another example is, “All the world wondered,” (V6 line 3) this is a mix of alliteration and assonance and together these techniques make this phrase very powerful.

Repetition is a brilliant way of creating rhythm in a poem it features heavily throughout (2), “cannon to the right of them, cannon in front of them, cannon to the left of them,” (V3 lines 1,2 & 3), as I said it creates rhythm and in this case also underlines the xceedingly difficult position they are in. At the end of every verse in (2) a line is repeated which alters slightly throughout the poem, in verses 1, 2 and 3 the finishing line is, “Rode the six hundred. ” Whereas in verse 4 it is, “Not the six hundred,” verse 5 it is, “Left of six hundred,” and on the finishing verse, verse 6 it is, “Noble six hundred. ” By using this at the end of every verse it shows how they are managing in the battle, and it gives an overview of what happened in the verse. In (1) there is no repetition at all.

Rhyme is the most commonly thought of technique in poetry, in (1) rhyme is used very strongly throughout the poem. In every verse the words at the end of line one and three rhyme and the ends of lines two and four rhyme and this pattern does not break once, it creates rhythm and makes the poem flow, this makes it pleasant for the reader. In (2) rhyme is used an awful lot, again at the end of lines but it is not as organised its very random. For example, “Theirs is not make reply, Theirs is not to reason why, Theirs is but to do or die,” (V2 lines 5,6 & 7), this creates strong rhythm and lays emphasis on that particular section.

In conclusion, I think that these poems are very different in size, layout, language and writing style. They have very little in common and both look at the experience of war in very different ways. ‘On the Idle Hill is dreamy, still and tranquil whereas ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’ is dramatic, vivid and striking. ‘Choose Two Poems From the Pre 1914 Selection of War Poetry in Order to Analyse the Poets Use of Language to Describe the Experience of War’

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