War Poetry by Wilfred Owen and Other Poets

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War Poetry

A popular theme for poets in the last century was war. Many famous poems were written about the two world wars, as well as the Korean and Vietnam wars. This essay will consider six poems with a war theme, three by Wilfred Owen and three by Australian poets. ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’, ‘The Send Off’ and ‘Insensibility (1)’ were written by Owen during the first world war to express his anti-war attitude. ‘Beach Burial’ by Kenneth Slessor, ‘Homecoming’ by Bruce Dawe and ‘Letter XV’ by Bruce Beaver are famous Australian poems about war. The poems have many similarities, but also have their differences.

The subject matter of the poems is obviously generally the same. Most are about soldiers dying/dead because of a war. ‘Beach Burial’ is specifically about the WW2 battle at El Alamein, and ‘Homecoming’ is concerned with the effect of the Vietnam War, but the rest are about war in general. The purpose of the poems is to convey the poets’ own beliefs against war, for example Wilfred Owen was an avid anti-war activist, despite - or maybe because of - the fact that he fought in WW1.
The emotion portrayed is mostly depressive, somber and bitter. ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’ seems slightly accusatory; this is because the poet asks questions of the reader, almost daring the reader to disagree. ‘Letter XV’ emits a confused mood, as if the poet doesn’t understand why war exists.

All the poems could probably be described as elegies, considering they are all laments for the dead.
‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’ is almost a Shakespearean sonnet, but the rhyming is wrong, so technically it is a Petrarchan sonnet (divided into an octave and sestet).
The other poems are either separated into regular stanzas – like ‘Beach Burial’- or have no real structure, such as ‘Homecoming’.
There is plenty of imagery in most of the poems. ‘The Send Off’ used the oxymoron ‘faces grimly gay’ to describe the men, indicating that they seem happy but they shouldn’t, since they are going to war. The poet also describes the men as ‘dead’ while they are alive, because he is so sure of their fate. Imagery is used in ‘Homecoming’ to describe the different types of men -‘curly-heads, kinky-hairs, crew-cuts’ - and their homes - ‘ridiculous curvatures of earth the knuckled hills’ - this paints a vivid picture in the reader’s mind. In 'Beach Burial’ dead bodies are given attributes of live men, such as ‘they sway and wander’. As well as this, the phrase ‘words choke’ is used to describe the lack of names for the dead soldiers. Personification is also used in ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’, where guns are ‘angry’ and the sound of shells is described as ‘ shrill, demented choirs’.
‘Alleys cobbled with their brothers’...

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