Comparing war poems from different eras

VennPoems

I found this a really useful way to compare and contrast poems centred around different conflicts and wars!

Thanks for reading,

Jack

“Over the Top”

Twisted smoke from enemy lines fights through the sky like wire,

Unlike the wisps of smoke from chimneys in our pleasant land.

Knee deep in the mud of the trenches we prepare to fight and fire.

At home we plough and reap and the harvest fills our hands.

At home and here our flesh is soiled with the earth’s wet mud,

Yet here our hands and flesh are also caked in blood.

 

Men keep watch of No-Man’s Land, over the broken earth,

The land almost looking like the ploughed soil of the farm.

However here they scour and aim for movement of such worth

To waste a single bullet and hope out of it comes harm.

“Over the top”, that fateful command that the general cries,

And out of the trenches come the Tommies, the infantry arise.

 

The guns fire and blaze and bullets condemn another soul

The shells send soil flying and flailing limbs fall flat.

Bodies entwine together, thrown into roughly dug holes

And in the trenches blood pumps round bodies entering combat.

Is this what life has come to, the rapid progression of man?

These piles of men are sacrifices for several feet of land.

 

One of our tasks in English over the summer was to write a war poem and this is the result!

Thanks for reading and feedback is appreciated!

Jack

Wilfred Owen and ‘Private Peaceful’

The similar themes and devices of Michael Morpurgo (in the film adaptation of ‘Private Peaceful’) & Wilfred Owen’s poetry.

‘Futility’

In ‘Private Peaceful’ we can see the main characters experience a loss of faith, Tommo near the beginning when in the prison cell says “Why does this war happen”, he also feels bitter because his father died and he feels that if God was just he wouldn’t have allowed that to happen. Wilfred Owen in his poem ‘Futility’ demonstrates the loss of faith that the soldiers experienced by mixing the vocabulary of religion and evolution, “was it for this the clay grew tall”. We can also see in ‘Private Peaceful the futility of war by the spoken line “All that fighting, no gain on either side”, showing how lots of death resulted in no progress. In the poem we can see that the soldiers are mainly farmers, “whispering of fields unsown”, which makes the fact that nature is fighting back even more poignant, showing how far these people have gone. In the film we can see that the brothers are farmers, and how when they go to war they still talk about their farming (for example when at the French pub).

Dulce Et Decorum Est

In ‘Private Peaceful’ Morpurgo uses the character of the Colonel to show patriotism and jingoism, he believes that the soldiers are doing their duty to their country and God. In ‘Dulce Et Decorum Est’ Wilfred Owen mocks people (like the Colonel) who believe the “old lie: Dulce et decorum est Pro patria mori” because he can see that dying for your country isn’t the best way to die. In the poem Owen talks about a gas attack : 

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 the film we get visual context in terms of the struggle for gas masks and how people reacted to the gas. In one scene the soldiers were warned of a gas attack and we could see how they fumbled to put their gas masks on and how some choked and struggled to breathe while putting them on.

 

Disabled

In ‘Private Peaceful’ the young men are persuaded to go to war by a sergeant or officer who says “Girls love a soldier”; we can see that they are tempting the men into the army by telling them that they’ll be more attractive when returning from war. However we can see Molly disapproves of Charlie going to war, showing how women didn’t want their husbands to leave them and their children. Wilfred Owen in his poem ‘Disabled’ also contains a character who believes that going to war will make him more attractive, “and maybe too, to please his Meg.” Owen expands on this by later talking about how the only women this young boy will ever encounter now are nurses who won’t glance twice at him “Tonight he noticed how the women’s eyes Passed from him to the strong men that were whole”. We can visualise such events in the poems by looking at scenes in the film, especially those in medical tents, with nurses tending patients. Another theme in the film is that of young boys lying about their age to get into the army (and thus achieve such success with women). We can see this in the character Tommo who lies about his age to apply for the army, mainly because Charlie has gone off with Molly. In ‘Disabled’ we see this when the young boy tells the army that he is 19 “Smiling they wrote his lie: aged nineteen years.” By showing this we can see how desperate the army were for volunteers.

Thanks for reading,

Jack