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What do you learn about the First World War from your reading of
Wilfred Owens poetry?
From Wilfred Owens poems you can learn so many different things. He
was one of a group of soldiers, he wrote about the war as he
experienced it. So all of his poems are primary evidence because the
poems were wrote by him when the war was going on.
We can prove that Wilfred Owen was in the War by using a quote from a
poem he wrote. The poem is titled 'Dulce et Decorum
Est'. In the poem
he gives his opinion on war. He says
"Dulce et decorum est Pro Partria mori"
This means it is good and beautiful to die for your country. He wrote
it in Latin, the rest of the poem is english. By using Latin I think
it creates a distinguished impact on the reader. It draws their
attention to it. Honestly, Wilfred Owen does not believe it actually
is good to die for your country. He is being critical.
The opposition to this view of war would be a poet named Jessie Pope.
and Jessie popes' poetry is very different, Jessie
Popes' is usually more of a poem to recruit soldiers and get the point
across that if you fight for your country war is good. Wilfred Owens
poems are far more descriptive and appeal to the senses, giving us an
insight on life in world war one.
In the poem 'The Sentry' he appeals to the senses by describing the
weather as "water falls of slime" and describing the smell
"Stank old and sour."
We can learn from this poem that physical conditions in the war were
There would be high danger of dying and injuring yourself because
bullets were being shot everywhere and gas attacks were occuring
"Gas! Gas! Quick, boys!"(From Dulce et Decorum Est)
We learn how the gas attacks effect the soldiers in the poem 'Dulce et
Decorum Est' there is a section in the poem where Wilfred describes a
"Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light
, A under a green
sea I saw him drowning."
The misty panes were Wilfreds eyes; they were misted because of the
gas in the air. He describes the colour of the gas as 'green' and the
amount of it as a 'sea' so it spreads quite a distance and widths as
seas are generally known for being large. Green is known as the colour
of envy and maybe the gas is representing the opposisitions jealously
towards the enemy that they are winning.
In this poem Wilfred describes what the soldiers are like in their
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"Coughing like hags."
He is describing them as unhealthy old woman. They are supposed to be
fit soldiers ready to do their country proud at war but they end up
very ill and being described as woman. The woman were meant to stay at
home from war whilst their husbands goto war but now they have turned
into weak old woman too. The war has disintegrated everyone so it
seems, according to Wilfred Owen.
In another poem titled 'Disabled' he describes how he is physically
disabled now due to the war.
"He sat in a wheeled chair."
The war has now physically disenhanced him and his point in Dulce et
Decorum Est has been proved it is not good and beautiful to die for
your country. It is not beautiful and good being disabled for the rest
of your life. In disabled he uses irony to create sympathy too.
He is no friend to anyone, all England has done is send him to war,
and he has returned from his crusade disabled.
In 'Futility' another poem Wilfred has gladly wrote he describes how
he is visually effected.
"Move him into the sun Gently its touch awoke him once. At home,
whispering of fields half-sown, always it woke him, even in France."
Instead of fields he sees dead bodies now; his eye lines are full of
destruction and death and no longer peace and light. The sun seems to
have an effect on bodies, bringing them back to life. The sun usually
equals warmth, when the sun is out does it mean that good things are
happening? Which brings me to my next point.
In Exposure another poem Owen wrote. He says
"Our brains ache, in the merciless iced east winds they knive us"
In this quote cold is involved, Owen seems to use weather to create a
barrier between good and evil. Obviously the exposure quote is evil
and the Futility quote is good. The sun represents good and the wind
evil. The way his poetry effects me, is that I think there is a deeper
understanding to it than finding where it has similies and irony etc.
The Sentry contains a lot of flashbacks, the whole poem is generally a
huge flashback, and then again a lot of Wilfreds poems are.
"In posting next for duty, and sending a scout, To beg a stretcher
somewhere, and floundering about."
This quote shows that Wilfred constructed this poem around a regular
rhyming scheme. So, maybe his poem was not all true? Because since
this poem had to rhyme, he would just think of words that rhymed with
the one on the last line at the end. So his poems could have been
about effect and techniques and not about his accurate experiences in
the war. From the quote though, you do learn that it was hard to get
access to a stretcher.
In Exposure Wilfred is imagining where he would like to be.
"Deep into grassier ditches. So we drowse, sun-dozed."
He starts to imagine better conditions to be fighting in. He had
experienced so many wicked things that his mind had begun to repel
them and accepted better visions. Reality had become deluded and his
mind had frozen into pure bliss instead of cruel reality.
In Anthem for doomed youth he mentions how his fellow soldiers die. HE
has relationships with these soldiers, friendly relationships. They
had spent ages together and shared mostly the same symptoms of being
at war (all of the above I have mentioned).
"What passing-bells for these who die as cattle? Only the monstrous
anger of guns."
He is saying that these men are dying like farm animals do in
slaughter. Slaughter is a substitue for murder. Owen also mentions
guns are killing these people. Seeing people die must contribute to
all these physical conditions and mental states Wilfred dealt with.
Therefore, relationships are possibly what influenced Wilfred to write
all these poems. It was one way to express himself; he had no time to
talk properly just joke around and laugh when he could. He was away
from his family, so his way to contact them was by writing them. It
was like a complex diary that someone would discover years later.
From these poems I learn a lot about the physical state of the
soldiers, their mental state and the conditions they must have lived
in. It could have not been all completley true though as he was an
english soldier and he would have seen things worse than they were
because he was actually forced to be in it. However, they create a lot
of meaning and emotion in the reader if their minds can accept his
language and technique.