Comparing Wilfred Owen's Poem, Dulce et Decorum Est and Sting's Song, Children's Crusade
Is it really sweet and fitting to die for one's country? This may seem glorious to some, but to those who have studied World War I and its terrible consequences, this seems a lie. The poet Wilfred Owen was a participant in this war, and wrote the poem "Dulce et Decorum Est" ("It is sweet and fitting [to die for one's country]") to his poet friends about the voracity, hopelessness, and futility of war, and the desperate plight of the soldiers involved. Almost seventy-five years later, the popular artist Sting worried about the world in which his son was growing up, a world in which older, experienced adults took advantage of innocent children to increase their own power. Using World War I as a comparison to his own time, he wrote the song "Children's Crusade" about these scheming, power-hungry people. Both these poets describe a war in which children were abused, controlled by other's selfish wants. Although Sting mainly uses strong allusions to describe the soldiers' loss of innocence, Owen's poem uses jarring, tangible images of reality that are emotionally more universal.
As in other effective poetry, Sting uses strong language to convey the world's cruelty toward the innocent. He describes the soldiers in the war using the phrases "Virgins with rifles" (3), "Pawns in a game" (5), "Marching through countries they've never seen" (2). These phrases appeal to parental nature and sense of decency. "Virgins" suggests not only a feeling of inno-cence, but a feeling of virtue about to be lost. Sting uses the phrase "the flower of England, face down in the mud" (11), giving us a beautiful, fresh image to symbolize these young soldiers. He then ruins the pristine image by covering it with filth, showing the young mens' fall from innocence. To add insult to injury, he then stains the flower with blood, the blood of "a whole generation" (12), creating the vision of a shocking massacre. Sting uses flowers as uniting images in the poem, especially the poppy, which is the first flower to grow on graves after a war. Consequently, there are fields of poppies on the Belgian and French battlegrounds, the graves of many World War I soldiers. These fields of poppies have come to symbolize remembrance of the dead and the war itself. The poppy is also used to make opium, a vital part of Sting's second message in the poem, which is the sale of destroying heroin to children. This dual image of poppies facilitates the use of allusions that compare the past to the present.
These moving allusions made to past slaveries and injustices are paramount to the understanding of "Children's Crusade." The title itself refers to an event in the thirteenth century when several hundred children were recruited to take the Holy land from the Muslims. The expedition made it as far as the Mediterranean, where the children were sold into slavery by the same monks who had recruited them....