Death: Flowers and Bomb Shells

Death: Flowers and Bomb Shells

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Death is something that every person will have to deal with at some point in his or her life. The poems "Dulce et Decorum Est" and "Nothing Gold Can Stay" both deal with the concept of death, but in very different ways. They provide views of what death can be like from opposite ends of the proverbial spectrum. Death can be a very hard thing to experience, and the emotions that it evokes can be difficult to express as well. These two poems both express a feeling of loss through death, but the tones perceived by the reader in each are completely unalike.
     The setting of "Dulce et Decorum Est" is a battlefield during wartime, and tells of the main characters, the soldiers, fighting for their lives. The author, Wilfred Owen, was a soldier himself, who died in the war, which is one reason that this poem has such a personal tone about it. It relates directly to human experience. The reader cannot help but wonder if Owen experienced the horrors that he recounts in this poem. Owen also uses many personal pronouns, like "you" and "I" repeatedly as if to remind the reader war is a real thing and that they could easily be in the same situation. Line twenty-one reads, "If you could hear, at every jolt" followed by line twenty-five, "My friend, you would not tell with such high zest". The use of the word "you" and even "my friend" makes both of these lines very personal, as if Owen is speaking directly to the reader.
     "Nothing Gold Can Stay" also has a personal sense to it, but the author of this poem, Robert Frost, does not try to make the same connection with his readers. Allegory is put to use in this poem with the case of nature. Instead of using personal pronouns to draw the reader into the story as Owen does, Frost uses them to personify nature, always referring to it as "her". The opening lines of the poem say, "Nature's first green is gold / Her hardest hue to hold". This is a common occurrence in writing, especially when dealing with nature. By personifying nature as a woman, rather than just an object, the reader is able to connect more with that character. This is because it is easier for humans to relate to another person than it is for them to relate to an object, even if only on paper.

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     The tone of "Dulce et Decorum Est" is also affected greatly by the many harsh adjectives used to describe the scene on the battlefield. Many of these adjectives, such as haunting, stumbling, drowning, and smothering, are intensely graphic. These are words that everyone knows of, but does not necessarily experience in day-to-day life. Because these words are so striking they create a very vivid image in the mind of the reader. The power of these adjectives is so strong that it almost makes me feel uncomfortable while reading. This is because these adjectives describe actions that are considered extreme and even threatening. I would not want to put myself, or anyone that I know, into a situation that could be described using these adjectives. The subject of war and fighting can be a touchy one, which is why this poem really stands out. It goes beyond the reader's comfort level, forcing them to come to terms with the reality of fighting. While this approach may seem harsh at first, it is ultimately a very effective way for the author to get his or her point across. Sometimes it takes the unforgiving truth to make the desired impact.
The severe adjectives in "Dulce et Decorum Est" give a very harsh tone to the poem, despite the upbeat rhyme that appears on the end of every-other line. When I read this poem aloud it seemed to flow fairly easily and ended with a little "pop" at the end of each line. The optimistic rhyme scheme almost takes away some of the reality of the poem and can be distracting from the realities of war that Owen wants the reader to face. Rhyme is present in "Nothing Gold Can Stay" also, but in a much different way. Every two lines rhyme instead of every-other line, which does not create as much of a bounce. While it keeps the poem flowing, it also helps to keep the tone calm and relaxed. It does not divert the reader from the true meaning of the poem; it only adds to it.
     "Nothing Gold Can Stay" has an entirely different tone about it, which is almost peaceful. It creates an image nowhere near that of the previous poem. The theme of this poem deals mainly with nature, so throughout Frost uses elements that occur naturally, such as flowers and leaves. Things like this give the reader a beautiful image when they read, like in line five, "Her early leaf's a flower". When reading this line I automatically picture in my mind a beautiful flower, budding on a small bush. It is a beautiful image that is created by the tone I receive from the poem. While the tone of this poem is much softer than that of "Dulce et Decorum Est", Frost does not speak only of beauty. He uses beauty to create the tone of the poem, but at the same time reminds us that all good things must come to an end. The poem is ultimately about death, which is brought to the reader's attention in a few different lines, especially at the end of the poem. Frost writes, "Then leaf subsides to leaf / So Eden sank to grief / So dawn goes down to day / Nothing gold can stay". These lines speak of the deterioration of a leaf, which is the most obvious presentation of death. The last line, however, is a little more in-depth. The phrase, "Nothing gold can stay" means that, like the beauties of dawn, the beautiful things in life disappear or evolve in to something else. A human life is comparable to this theory because eventually we all die. Through this analysis the reader is subtly reminded of the theme of death present in the poem, but the overall tone of beauty still remains and they are not overwhelmed with explicit images.
     One element that is present in both poems, but is used to create a different feel is the use of color. In "Dulce et Decorum Est" colors are used as part of the gruesome image that Owen imprints in the reader's mind. He describes the white of a dying man's eyes and blood red that covers the soldiers as they march. The color green is also used to portray a deadly gas that envelops the men. This is a strange comparison to Frost's work where the color green is used to depict beauty. Traditionally green is a color that represents new life or freshness, and Frost uses it in that way. Owen, however, takes an opposing viewpoint, using it to stand for something completely opposite: death. The green gas that takes the life of one man in Owen's poem is a strong contrast to the budding green plant described in Frost's poem.
It is almost as if Frost is telling the story of life through his poem. He begins with a parallel to birth in the first line saying, "Nature's first green is gold". When spring finally arrives after a long winter and the green buds start to come out they are welcomed and treasured, much like gold would be welcomed by a person. When the buds bloom it is only a small amount of time that they stay in the form of a beautiful flower. Like Frost writes, "Her early leaf's a flower / But only so an hour". When babies are born they are pure and beautiful like a freshly bloomed flower, but they cannot stay that way. As people grow older and experience life their innocence is slowly depleted until the day they die. Just as the poem takes a turn with line six of the poem, "So Eden sank to grief". The Garden of Eden was a beautiful and wonderful place, but it was also the site of humans' first loss of innocence and beauty. With a drastic outlook on the situation humankind only went downhill from there. When referring to the Garden of Eden, where humanity took its first plunge downward, Frost is comparing this to our life experiences. Once we take that first dive there is no turning back.
     Owen does not use the same tactic as Frost when telling his story. There is no beautiful banter to sweeten up the reader beforehand. Owen gets directly to his point by setting up a vivid and gruesome image in the reader's mind. Where Frost had us picturing flowers and beautiful colors, Owen describes men that are "Bent double, like old beggars under sacks, / knock-kneed, coughing like hags," and all sorts of terrible images. Throughout the entirety of the poem Owen creates images like this one, and never gives the reader a chance to rest their senses. This, as mentioned before, is a very efficient approach because of the directness.
      Both "Dulce et Decorum Est" and "Nothing Gold Can Stay" are poems that were written to evoke a lot of emotion in the reader. While they deal with similar subjects, such as death, the moods of each poem are completely different and therefore induce opposite feelings from the reader. The author of "Dulce et Decorum Est" writes the poem as if recalling past experiences and gives it a personal and realistic tone that transfers to the readers. In contrast, the poem "Nothing Gold Can Stay" has a much more imaginary tone about it, leaving the readers open ended to the emotion that they can feel. Both poems present the reader with death in ways that differ, but in the end have the underlying tone that death is inevitable. However sad this is, it is a truth that we must all come to grips with in our life.
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