Wilfred Owen's War Poetry Essay

2555 words - 10 pages

Wilfred Owen's War Poetry

If Wilfred Owen's war poetry had one main aim, it would be to expose
"the old lie": that war is always a good and justified thing and that
it is a good thing to die for one's country. Owen had experienced
first hand the horrors and tragedies of the First World War, so he
inevitably wanted to break open the false façade and let the world
know the truth. I am going to explore what I find to be three of his
best poems and show how he achieved this aim.

Owen was born on the 18th of March 1893 in Shropshire, England. He
received a good education as a child and in 1915 he enlisted in the
army when he was 22 years old. He was injured in a shell explosion in
France and transferred to a war hospital back in England, where he was
given the chance to stay for the rest of the war. But due to his
loyalty to his troops, he returned to the frontline. He was killed in
action attempting to lead his men across a canal on November 4th 1918.
His death was particularly tragic as it came just a week before
Armistice Day and the end of the war.

A common misconception is that all war poets of the First World War
were against war. Usually on their way to war, some famous poets such
as Rupert Brooke wrote some very famous war poems. Poems such as "The
Soldier" and "The Volunteer" give very positive and romanticised views
of war and words such as "lance", "chivalry" and "legion" came up very
regularly. These poets were not stupid or attempting to get people to
enlist, they just didn't know any better due to the classic public
school education and the fact that there was no media, such as films
to, inform the public of how terrible war is. Even Wilfred Owen
himself wrote a very famous pro war line: "O meek it is and passing
sweet to die in war for others". Propaganda from the likes of Jessie
Pope and Prime-Minister Herbert Asquith was believed by most people
and many signed up because of Pope's poem "Who's for the game?": which
compared war to merely a fun game that everyone will enjoy even if
they "come back with a crutch". Herbert Asquith wrote "The Volunteer"
which was one of the most romanticised war poems of all time. It was
about a young boy in a "city grey" with "no lance broken", who goes to
join the army. He dies but "lies content" and euphemistically goes to
join the "Men of Agincourt". These poems are incredibly full of
euphemisms of war and mention no words like "pain" or "death". But
when poets who thought they could find "glory and honour" in war
actually arrived at the battlefields everything changed and the
anti-war poems begun.

"Dulce Et Decorum Est" is arguably Wilfred Owen's most famous poem. It
uses very figurative language in order to describe the horrors of a
gas attack on a few men while they are "marching towards their distant
rest". It is split up into three parts. The first part describes the
"men marching asleep" "towards their distant rest". The second part
describes...

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