I have chosen the two poems “The Send-Off” by Wilfred Owen and “Dulce et Decorum est” by Wilfred Owen, because I found these two poems very moving, and I could associate with them, from what I already know about the First World War.
“The Send-Off” and “Dulce et decorum est” are both written by the same poet, and they both look at different aspects of the First World War. “The Send-Off” is about the young battalions of soldiers being sent away to their death. The title is very ominous and threatening, it makes you feel worried that you might be sent away as well. It also gives you a feeling of coldness and a feeling of not being wanted or cared for. The first sentence ‘Down the close darkening lanes…’ gives you a feeling of claustrophobia, a feeling of being alone. It is also reminiscent of the trenches, it is trying to give the soldiers a pre-view before they actually reach the real thing. The feeling of unwantedness continues on through the first stanza, ‘To the siding shed’, gives us the impression that the soldiers were just pushed to the side, like disregarded objects. The words ‘grimly gay’ show that the men are pretending to be happy and excited on the outside, but deep down they are probably very worried and anxious about where they are going.
Stanza two is very short, it is also very ironic. The words ‘wreath and spray’ are normally associated with funerals. The men have been given these wreaths, possibly suggesting that they are going to die, in reality they were given to them as good luck presents. Wilfred Owen has given us a different view of this topic, we can see it as if they have been given their last presents, a present of peace and security.
In stanza three, even though there is a suggestion of death, the atmosphere is very unceremonious. The porters think nothing of these young men leaving, they just carry on with their daily routine. ‘and a casual tramp Stood staring hard’ this shows that the tramp does not care either, he does not care that they are going off to die for their country. ‘Sorry to miss them from the upland camp.’ The tramp is only sorry to see them go because they fed him, and that is all he cares about.
In stanza four there is a definite feeling of conspiracy against the soldiers. ‘lamp winked to the guard’, this suggests that the guards know where the soldiers are going and why they are going, whereas the soldiers do not really know where they are going to end up. All they know is that the government knows where they are going, but no one else.
Stanza five is connected with stanza four. It says ‘So secretly, like wrongs hushed-up, they went’ this suggests that the war leaders who were going with them know what they are doing, and they know that what they are doing with these poor men is wrong. This stanza talks about how this was not this men’s home, and that is why there is no saying of good byes. No one here will ever know where those soldiers have been sent, this is why the whole trip is going to be a conspiracy.
Stanza six shows that no one will ever hear of these soldiers again. They will never hear if these men died or survived, or whether the flowers that they were handed before they left were in fact for good luck or a symbol of death.
Stanza seven is asking whether there will be hundreds of men returning, just like there were hundreds of men sent away. The answer to this would have to be no. Not enough men will be returning to have any celebrations of any form, too many men were just sent away to their death.
In the final stanza it explains how the men who do survive and return ‘creep back’. They ‘creep back’ because they are ashamed of returning because of what they did, they were not the only victims of the war, and they are ashamed because they killed also. They are also ashamed because of the men who have not returned from this terrible ordeal. When the men arrive there is no one around, no celebrations or congratulations, ‘to still village wells’. The final line is ‘Up half known roads’. This tells us that the men who are returning can not remember where they are, even though they have been there previously. They do not remember the scenes that they have returned to because they have got the scenes of tragic, sickening war in their heads, they have been mentally disturbed from this disgusting experience.
“The Send-Off” is a poem that uses a stressed and then unstressed rhythm. It keeps this up the whole way through the poem, emphasizing the darkness and sadness of what these men are going to. Throughout the poem the rhyme is also upheld, in an A, B, A, A, B formation, this gives the poem continuation and order, just like the battalions of men, it also is quite monotonous, therefore making it sound as though these men are walking slowly, not wanting to get on the train. In the first line Wilfred Owen uses alliteration by saying ‘Down the close darkening lanes’, the two D’s emphasize the mood and atmosphere of the men going to war. In the third line Wilfred Owen uses an oxymoron, which is where he uses two contradicting words to give the reader a deeper insight to the situation. He says ‘grimly gay’ telling us that these men were just pretending to be happy, and to be brave. Owen then follows on with a monosyllable ‘As men’s are, dead.’ Yet again this is another technique that he uses to emphasize a point. This time he goes straight to the point and says that the men undoubtedly will die.
Wilfred Owen continues by using yet another piece of alliteration, ‘Stood staring’, to emphasize that this man just stood there instead of asking what was happening, or being interested at all. Wilfred Owen uses personification to make the lamp and the signals come to life, to make them seem as though even they are conspiring against the soldiers. ‘Then, unmoved, signals nodded, and a lamp Winked.’ Wilfred Owen uses onomatopoeia ‘hushed-up’ making the word sound as though it is shhing. Just like what the poem is describing, this word is keeping the information about where the soldiers are going quite. ‘Shall they return to beatings of great bells In wild train loads?’ Here he uses a rhetorical question, just to make us realise that we already know the answer to this question, and that answer is no. The use of repetition ‘A few, a few, too few for drums and yells.’ Again Wilfred Owen emphasizes the fact that not many men will return from fighting in the war. I think he does this because it makes us have a feeling of guilt, it makes us think that we were the ones who sent them away. That we were the ones who killed all of those innocent young boys, who will never see their homes again.
“Dulce est decorum est” is a poem that is talking about soldiers marching through the trenches to safety. It is talking about the traumas and tragedy’s that Wilfred Owen experiences. In the first stanza has set a very vivid scene of pure and utter exhaustion, he says ‘Bent double, like old beggars under sacks.’ When I hear this it makes me have pity on the suffering soldiers who have fought so hard for their life on the battlefields, and now have the struggle of getting home safely. This sentence is also very ironic as soldiers shouldn’t be curled over they should be tall and to attention. Wilfred Owen hauls the reader into the poem, giving us a sense of actually being on the scene and being there in the trenches with those men. He uses ‘we cursed through sludge.’ The ‘we’ involves us, and when he uses ‘cursed’ this shows how strongly he felt about the situation he is in, about how much he was truly hating it. The ‘sludge’ just sets a terrible picture in your head of what the men were wading their way through. ‘And towards our distant rest we began to trudge.’
This gives us a sense of their slow and dismal feeling of the men walking to their safety. ‘Men marched asleep’, this again shows just how tired the men are, and they are so tired that they are falling asleep standing up, which is virtually impossible unless they are suffering from extreme fatigue. ‘But limped on, blood-shod’ this is saying that the men’s feet are covered in blood from the intense amount of walking they have done, some men might have been walking in no shoes at all because of the conditions of the trenches. ‘All went lame, all blind.’ This is an exaggeration where they are saying that because the conditions were so terrible they are causing these conditions on the men. The men are so tired that they are not even aware any more of what is going on all around them, ‘deaf even to the hoots Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.’
In stanza two there is an atmosphere of panic and of sheer terror, as the soldiers are being gassed. Messages are sent down the line ‘Gas! Gas! Quick, boys!’ Then Wilfred Owen describes how he saw a man, who took too long to put on his gas mask, he was taken over by the gas. Wilfred Owen explains how he saw him ‘drowning’, the gas suffocated him. This is a first hand experience and it makes it a lot more real to me, it makes me feel as though this is one of my friends telling me the story. There is a very claustrophobic feeling, a feeling of loneliness, a feeling of death.
Stanza three is very short, this makes it stand out, and it leaves an impression on you, an impression that you will not forget.
‘In all my dreams before my helpless sight He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.’
This is a vision that he can not get out of his head, Wilfred Owen feels that this man was talking directly at him, and he feels terrible about the fact that he could not do anything about the situation. He feels terrible that he had to stand there and watch him die.
In the final stanza Wilfred Owen is talking about how he felt, and how us, the readers, would feel if we had to walk behind the wagon that was carrying that dead mans body. He goes into great detail about this man, this is because he can distinctly remember his face when he was ‘drowning’ in the gas. Wilfred Owen, again, manages to involve the reader into the poem, he says ‘you too could pace Behind the wagon that we flung him in.’ This line also shows the unceremonious way that this man, who died for his country, was treated after his death. The way that no one cared, and no one cared because they were used to this sight, they were used to seeing men, dead.
‘And watch the white eyes writhing in his face, His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;’
This sentence shows how this man that has died, did not die peacefully, he died in pain.
‘Bitter as the cud Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,-My friend, you would not tell such high zest’
This is saying that if you had actually seen these sights you would not tell the lie. When Wilfred Owen says ‘My friend’ he is on our level, he can associate himself with us, and this makes us feel that we can be friends with him, and listen to him like a friend. ‘To children ardent for some desperate glory,’ the word ‘glory’ is the complete contrast to what this day actually is, it is not exciting or good. ‘The old Lie : Dulce et decorum est Pro patria mori.’ This last line in the poem means ‘It is sweet and fitting to die for your native land.’ The way that Wilfred Owen says ‘The old Lie’ shows that he does not agree with this statement at all, he does not believe that dying for your country is the right thing to do. This poem is emphasizing Wilfred Owens anger for the waste of life that the First World War caused.
‘Dulce et decorum est’ uses an iambic pentameter rhythm, this means that the poem has about ten syllables per line, making it rhythmic and very constant. The rhyme is also very constant and it uses an A, B, A, B formation, to give the poem a feeling of order, when in fact, the men are tired and instead of being tall they are slouching and small. ‘Men marched asleep’ this is using alliteration. Alliteration draws attention to the statement, in this case it draws attention to the fact that the men are so tired that they are falling asleep as they march. Wilfred Owen wants to emphasize this because it shows just how exhausting this was, and that they were getting so tired, just to get to safety. ‘floundering’ the ing on the end makes the word sound longer, it gives the effect that this man is not having just a quick death, he is dying painfully and slowly. ‘And floundering like a man in fire or lime’ this is a simile saying that this man was acting as though he was actually drowning. ‘He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.’ Wilfred Owen uses ing on the end of all these words to, once again, make them sound longer and make it sound as though this man is suffering before dying.
‘And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,’here again he uses alliteration, he does this to draw your attention to the fact that this man id pleading for Wilfred Owens help, even though he is now dead. Wilfred Owen uses senses in this poem to give us a concrete reality of war, to draw us into the story and actually picture the scenes of war in our head. ‘In all my dreams before my helpless sight.’ ‘If you could hear, at every jolt,’ I think that Wilfred Owen finishes off the poem very well by reciting the title, and using it in such a way that you know that this saying is wrong, and that in fact ‘Dulce et decorum est Pro patria mori’ is a lie.
The two poems that I have written about ‘The Send-Off’ and ‘Dulce et decorum est’ both by Wilfred Owen show how he feels about the First World War. They both give leave the impression on you that he hated war. This is probably because he was involved in the war and felt all of the feelings and saw all of the things that he talks about in the poems. They both talk about how reluctant the soldiers are to be there or to be going there, but the reason they are going to fight is for there country. The only reason that they are going to fight for their country is because they have been led to believe that that is the correct thing to do.