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Comparing two war poems written by Wilfred Owen: Dulce et decorum Est

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Comparing two war poems written by Wilfred Owen: Dulce et decorum Est

and Anthem for Doomed Youth.

In this essay I will be comparing two war poems written by Wilfred

Owen: ‘Dulce et decorum Est’ and ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’. By

comparing the two I will be able to distinguish the fact that Wilfred

Owen is very anti-propaganda and why he feels so strongly about this.

The two poems have many similarities but also a fair amount of

differences, which I will be discussing in this essay.

The two poems have a strongly anti war message and in both the victims

of war are the young men who’s lives are wasted. ‘Dulce et decorum

Est’ uses the description of a gas attack to show how horrific the

reality of war is. Owen describes the victim with,

‘The white eyes writhing in his face…the blood…gargling from the

froth-corrupted lungs.’

The physical horror of this helps to shape his message. It is

addressed to the propaganda poet Jessie Pope and tells her that it is

a lie to say that it is sweet and honorable to die for one’s country.

A similar message in ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’ describes the

slaughtered young men who ‘die as cattle’. Owen expresses his anger in

a set of contrasts between a real funeral and the lack of a funeral

for these young men. For example, instead of a service with a choir,

they only have ‘the shrill demented choirs of wailing shells’.

As you would expect, the tone and mood of both poems is deeply serious

as Owen has a strong message in both of them. However, they are

different. ‘Dulce et decorum Est’ expresses a great deal of horror and

anger. The horror is set aside for the terrible pain and terror of the

gas attack, not only for the victim but also for the poet. He writes,

‘In a...

... middle of paper ...

...ack, making a strong message to

contradict the vague, Latin phrase about how sweet it is to die for

your country.

In ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’ Owen develops a singe image, the idea of

the funeral ceremony for the dead. The first line asks about the

‘passing bells’ and the rest of the octave describes the various

sounds of war, which are substituted for the funeral bells. This

includes the ‘monstrous anger of guns’, the rattling of the riffles

and the wailing of the shells. The sestet begins by asking where are

the candles for the funeral service but goes on to tell us that ‘holy

glimmers of goodbyes’ in the eyes of the boy soldiers will have to

instead. The funeral cloth placed over the coffin is replaced by ‘the

pallor of girls brows’. Instead of flowers, they have ‘the tenderness

of patient minds’. All the images are based on the original

comparison.