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The Art and Reality of War

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Many poems have been written about warfare, some romantic and others imbedded with the realities of war. In this paper I would like to compare two such poems and hopefully show the reader that the glories of war fall short of its realities. We will be looking at "The Charge of the Light Brigade" by Alfred Lord Tennyson and "Dulce Et Decorum Est" by Wilfred Owen.

These two poems are prime examples of both the romantic and the realistic views of war. We will see differences in their diction and word choice and by seeing this difference we will begin to understand the separation between the romantic and the realities of war. Both of these poems lay claim to the phrase “Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori” (it is sweet and proper to die for one’s country) but it is in the way that the poets use this phrase, or imply it, that defines their differences, whilst Owen rejects this idea, Tennyson accepts and encourages it.

"The Charge of the Light Brigade" offers its reader a very romantic outlook on war and the glory of war. Glory and honor are key aspects to this poem. What Tennyson does with "The Light Brigade" is to try and make his audience see the courage of the six hundred soldiers. He relates this courage with both honor and glory. To Tennyson a soldier must be brave in the face of death and be ready to charge into hopeless odds for his country, as we see in the second stanza. "'Forward Light Brigade!'/ Was there a man dismayed? / Not though the soldier knew/ Someone had blundered/ Theirs not to reply/ Theirs not to reason why. / Theirs but to do and die." What we also can reason from this stanza is that the soldiers seem to be merely numbers, pieces on a chess board. They have no human characteristics; they are me...

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...s that he gives them. Finally we see that the realities of war outweigh the romantic view of glory and honor. What Owen does is show the reader that people fight and die in wars and that it is not all bravado and the glory of battle.

Works Cited

1. Bergonzi, Bernard. Heroes’ Twilight a Study of the Literature of the

Great War. New York: Coward-McCann, Inc, 1965.

2. Fussell, Paul. The Great War and Modern Memory. New York and London: Oxford University Press, 1975.

3. Owen, Wilfred. “Dulce Et Decorum…” The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Ed. M. H. Abrams and Stephen Greenblatt New York and London: W. W. Norton & Company, 2000.

4. Tennyson, Alfred Lord. “Charge of the Light Brigade” The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Ed. M.H. Abrams and Stephen Greenblatt. New York and London: W.W. Norton & Company, 2000
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