Although both Dulce et Decorum Est and The Charge of the Light
Brigade are about battle and the death of soldiers, they portray the
experience of war in different ways.
Tennyson´s poem celebrates the glory of war, despite the fact that,
because of an error of judgement ('Someone had blundered´), six
hundred soldiers were sent to their death.
Owen´s poem, on the other hand, might almost have been written as a
challenge to Tennyson´s rousing and jingoistic sentiments. He presents
the horror of senseless death in the trenches and shows us how the
famous line from the Roman poet Horace, 'it is sweet and becoming to
die for your country´, is a lie.
We are told that Tennyson wrote 'Light Brigade´ in a few minutes after
reading the description in The Times of the Battle of Balaclava in
1854. He was a civilian poet, as opposed to a soldier poet like Owen.
His poem 'Light Brigade´ increased the morale of the British soldiers
fighting in the Crimean War and of the people at home, but Tennyson
had not been an eyewitness to the battle he describes.
Wilfred Owen wrote 'Dulce´ towards the end of the First World War. He
was killed in action a week before the war ended in 1918. He wanted to
end the glorification of war. Owen was against the propaganda and lies
that were being told at the time. He had first-hand experience of war
and wanted to tell people back at home the truth. Owen was an officer
and often had to send men to their deaths and 'Dulce´ gives a personal
account of what the war was like. Many patriotic poems had been
written at the time. Owen knew that they lied..
Tennyson´s poem is a celebration of the bravery of the six hundred
British troops who went into battle against all odds, even though they
knew that they would be killed. The poem starts in the middle of the
action. 'Light Brigade´ is written in dactylic feet (one stressed
syllable followed by two unstressed syllables) and this gives a sense
of the excitement of the galloping horses in the cavalry charge. 'Half
a league, half a league
Half a league onward´
Tennyson creates a vivid impression of the bravery of the soldiers
with many 'verbs of action:
'Flash'd all their sabres bare,
Flash'd as they turn'd in air,
Sabring the gunners there. The heroic command in stanza 1, which is
repeated for effect in stanza 2, sweeps the reader along without time
to question the futility of the gesture:
'Forward, the Light Brigade!
'Charge for the guns!´
He uses noble sounding euphemisms like 'the valley of Death´, 'the
jaws of Death´, 'the mouth of Hell to describe the fate that awaits
these men. He does not convey the gory reality of the slaughter.
Tennyson creates a feeling of exhilaration, of the nobility of warfare
with his use of poetic devices, such as rhetorical repetition:
'Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them´,
'Stormed at with shot and shell,