Even though wars are made up of two sides fighting against each other, the effect and losses that they have on each and every country involved can be equally horrific and traumatic. During times of war, poetry can be an important outlet for soldiers to express their thoughts and feelings. WW1 saw countless poems written to both call for young men to enlist to fight for ‘the motherland’, to depict the truth and reality of war and to convey the pain and trauma of the aftermath. Rupert Brooke and Wilfred Owen are two such poets, both soldiers who witnessed war first hand, however for different amounts of time. Both poets use a range of poetic devices, such as emotive and descriptive language, literary devices and poetic techniques in order to describe their experience. While they were both soldiers during the First World War, their background, experiences of war and methods of writing were completely different. In the two poems, ‘The Soldier’ and ‘Dulce et Decorum Est,’ there is evidence that the poet’s experiences, views and values of war were completely different. Wilfred Owen experienced war first hand in the trenches and therefore wanted to reveal the reality and horrors of war to the general public. On the other hand, Rupert Brooke never experienced true war, in fact he only saw action for one day and so he only assumed what it must be like and did not fully understand what war could do to a person.
Both poems indicate the meaning of war and the power it has on society, people and the home front. They both demonstrate what war life was like, but in completely different context. In ‘The Soldier,’ Rupert Brooke personifies England as a mother figure, and it is shown how much love and how patriotic he was for England at the time of war. This is shown when he writes, ‘that there’s some corner of a foreign field that is forever England.’ Here, Brooke calls the dead soldiers a part of England. He believed that there was honour in dying for your country and that when you do die, you are heroic and a soldier to remember. He also believed that mother England was by your side and he would be willing to sacrifice his life because he knew England would be wherever he was. However, Brooke never witnessed war first hand, and never truly understood what war was like, due to his early death in 1915. Therefore, his poem is seen as a dream because he could only imagine what it would be like to fight for your country and die knowing that you had served well. In contrast, in ‘Dulce et Decorum Est,’ Wilfred Owen expresses the pain and misery of war and shows that in reality, dying for your country is dreadful, full of misery and not something soldiers want to do. Unlike Brooke, Owen served several years in war, grudging around trenches, serving for his country and experiencing the horrors and trauma. He understood what it felt like to walk away from a battle and know that all they had gained was more deaths and casualties. He knew what it was like to cough ‘like hags’ and curse ‘through sludge’ on his way back to camp. This proves that Owen’s poem is realistic and not a dream and that it reveals the truth about his suffering and grieving during war.
Brooke and Owen similarly write with passion and emotion. Both poems give knowledge and perspective to the audience through the use of tone and structure. In ‘The Soldier,’ there is a rhyme scheme and the poem is in iambic pentameter and this is mirrored in ‘Dulce et Decorum Est.’ ‘The Soldier’ is a fourteen-line iambic pentameter and consists of one stanza. This structure is typically used for pieces that have soft and loose themes. Because ‘The Soldier’ is a poem about war and the love of England, the structure is varied throughout. The length of the lines in the poem are diverse and this highlights the importance of the longer lines as they stand out more and allow the reader to further look at the meaning of these sentences. It also makes the piece less fluent and this makes it harder to read and comprehend. The rhyme scheme at the start of the poem is in the form of ABAB, but then changes to introduce the ending rhyme scheme of ABCABC. This change comes as a shock to the reader and it is used to express the love, sympathy and joy England gave to Brooke. Although the first poem has a similar structure to ‘Dulce et Decorum Est,’ there is a difference in the construction of these poems because the second poem has different purposes and values. ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ is in iambic pentameter, however Owen has created his own style and form of the pentameter to depict the brutal and unforgiving experience he had. This form of writing is called conventional poetry and Owen has used this influent structure to allow the reader to see and feel the bad parts of war. One example of this is the quote, ‘GAS! GAS! Quick, boys!’ This break in the iambic pentameter structure is important as it represents the panic and shock the soldiers were in when the gas was dropped. ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ consists of four stanzas and the rhyming scheme is consistent in the form of ABAB. By using this pattern, Owen can easily grasp the attention of the readers as the poem is song-like and every line is leading to a word that rhymes. These two poems by Brooke and Owen are intentionally altering their structure to create a certain effect.
In both poems, Brooke and Owen utilise literary devices to further express their emotions and perspective on war. In ‘The Soldier,’ there is minimal imagery expressed because Brooke did not know what war looked like and therefore could not develop any ideas. In direct contrast to this, in ‘Dulce et Decorum Est,’ there is imagery that is conveyed all throughout the poem. This imagery is true as Owen saw war with his own eyes and saw a man ‘guttering, choking, drowning’ right in front of him. The language used in Owen’s piece is truthful and accurate. This is because Owen had no shame is saying what was right and letting people know what war life was like in reality. He spoke harshly and aggressively because he knew that that was what people were going to react to. He overexaggerated every word to make it more accurate and effective on the audience. On the other hand, the language used in ‘The Soldier’ is soft. There is no aggression or hatred in Brooke’s words because he is speaking fondly of war because he wants people back home to like the idea of war and not get worried about their friends and relatives who are fighting for their country. Although the way in which their language presented is different, both poets use the literary devices of language to depict their emotions.
Poets convey feelings or thoughts about war because they want to express their personal experiences with the topic and show their audiences, through the use of important poetic devices, what war is in reality. ‘The Soldier’ by Rupert Brooke and ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ by Wilfred Owen both portray emotions on war through their writing, however with completely different perspectives. Brooke believed that dying for your country during war was beautiful and powerful, however Owen believed the complete opposite. In Owen’s last line of his poem, ‘The old lie: Dulce et decorum est Pro patria mori,’ he remarks that the quote, it is sweet and honourable to die for your country, is a lie. This proves the major contrast in the beliefs and understanding of the two poets, Brooke and Owen. Soldiers wrote poetry during war because they needed to express their feelings when there was no one to talk to. These soldiers, however, did not know that these personal, emotional pieces, would one day become famous worldwide.
- Ezez. 2019. ‘Essay on Comparing The Soldier and Dulce et Decorum Est | Bartleby’. Bartleby.com. https://www.bartleby.com/essay/Comparing-The-Soldier-and-Dulce-et-Decorum-F3C9Y7SZTC
- Ezez. 2019. ‘Dulce Et Decorum Vs The Soldier Essays’. PaperAp.com. https://paperap.com/paper-on-9168-dulce-et-decorum-vs-soldier/.