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    The Controversial Topic of War in Poetry

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    Many poets have chosen to write on controversial topic of war. Some are in favour of it and some are strongly apposed to it. Poets often choose to write about war to show the true human suffering that goes on. A good example of a poem that shows the pointlessness and sadness of war is ‘The Man He Killed’ by Thomas Hardy. On the other hand, other poets have a patriotic view of war and like to show that dying for your country is honourable. A poem that celebrates soldiers’ bravery in battle but also shows horror of war is Tennyson’s poem ‘The Charge Of The Light Brigade’.

    It is interesting to compare the difference in the poets’ approaches. ‘The Charge Of The Light Brigade’ describes a disastrous cavalry charge that took place during the Battle of Balaclava. It was based on the war known as Eastern War in Russia or in UK it is known as Crimean war, which took place between 1853 till 1856. Britain and France were together and they were both fighting Russia. He was the Poet Laureate. This meant that he wrote poems celebrating occasions of national importance and honouring the royal family.

    His poem dealt with a range of themes. Most of his poems celebrated war and shows in the whole pile of poems (The Charge of the light brigade is one of them) that dying for your country is honourable. The cavalry was given the wrong order my mistake and as they charged towards the Russians cannons they were cut down. We sense that Tennyson believed that we should celebrate and honour the brave men that gave up their life during the event but we also feel the horror and sadness of war. ‘Honour the charge they made’.

    On the other hand, Hardy’s methods are very different. In ‘The Man He Killed’ Hardy presents a dramatic monologue in which the speaker is reflecting on killing another and we hear how he thinks war is futile as results oh him killing a man. He says that in a different circumstances things might have been different and instead o fighting a man he might have shared a drink with it. Hardy’s poem was based on the Boer War. This war took place between 1899 and 1902. The countries which took part, in the war were Britain who took on the Republic of South Africa.

    Britain declared War which made Hardy more devastated. During the charge of the ‘The Charge Of The Light Brigade’ there is a lot of elevated and glorious language used in the poem. ‘When can their glory fade? ‘ This showed that Alfred lord Tennyson believed that these brave men put their life and soul into trusting their military. Another way the reader enforces his elevated language is when he says ‘Honour the charge they made, Honour the Light Brigade’. Here Tennyson is trying to show us how noble and faithfully this cavalry was.

    There are many images we get from reading his poem. Thomas Hardy felt affronted and abhorrence for the loss of life in wars which he then reflected in his poem ‘The Man He Killed’. Late in his life he became more devoted because Germany looked as if they were going to attack Britain. ‘Came thro’ the jaws of Death’ shows that only a few men survived the certain death but sadly many died. That statement can also be looked as a personification to the reader. ‘All in the valley of Death’ gives a strong and powerful image in the reader’s mind.

    The effect of this is that he is trying to show that it was an order that made sure that ‘the Light Brigade’ was going to die due to a military error. One type of language that I am going to describe is directly addressing the reader. In ‘The Charge Of The Light Brigade’ there are few in stances that the poet talks to the reader directly. An excellent example of this is in the 6th stanza ‘When can their glory fade? This is telling the reader that glory will be ever remembered and never forgotten.

    Another instance that the poet uses direct speech is also in the 6th stanza when he says ‘Honour the charge they made’. The poet is saying to the reader to honour what the cavalry did. Both poems have informal language which is known as colloquial language. ‘The Charge Of The Light Brigade’ have good examples of this, such as, ‘dismay’d, blundered,’ and many more. This gives an effect of violent verbs. In ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’ there are few statements that can be sensed as rhetorical question such as ‘Was there a man dismay’d? This shows that no one in the cavalry doubted and obeyed the orders despite it being a military blunder.

    He is trying to say was there a man in doubt but still look at what he did. In Contrast ‘The Man He Killed’ does not use imagery. Thomas Hardy wants to give the reader the impression that the foot soldier is a very simple person that has a lack of education and unprepared for the experience of war. We get the sense that the foot solider is very poor and has only joined the army for the money as he did not have anything else to sell.

    Was out of work- had sold his traps, just as I ‘ this shows that the foot solider presumes that the person he was facing on the opposite side was like him, out of work and he had sold all his belongings so this was not his choice but he was forced to join the war because of his circumstances. The poet feels sympathy for the speaker. ‘The Man He Killed’ is a dramatic monologue. The poem has 5 stanzas. The 3rd line tends to be longer than the rest, except for the 2nd stanza. Each stanza has 4 lines, each which give it a sense of regularity.

    In each stanza the first and the third line rhyme and the second and fourth line rhyme. ‘I shot him because- Because he was my foe,’. This shows that the reader is unsure why and what he has just done. This also shows that he is trying to justify in his own mind and trying to justify to the reader why he has killed the other man. He is also just coming to terms with what he has done. As the poem continues and as he starts to understand what he has done, he says that if they me each other in different circumstances such as outside a bar they would have had a drink. ‘Right many a nipper-kin’.

    The poem has a measured rhythm. If you just listen to the beat and forget the words you would see that it sounds like a nursery rhyme. I believe that this is done so that in his own mind and also to us the reader, he is trying to convince himself and trying to come to terms with what he has done. As we first read the poem it sounds like a nursery rhyme with the beat but as we read on we find out that it is something far more serious than what we expected so the writer tricked us. Conversely, ‘The Charge Of The Light Brigade’ has 6 stanzas, which are similar in length.

    The last stanza is the shortest because the poet is telling his own point of view. The poem has a first syllable which has more of a stress than the next two this is called a dactylic rhythm. Each stanza varies in length, which gives it irregularity. This poem also uses enjambment. ‘The Charge Of The Light Brigade’ uses fewer caesuras. This shows that the cavalry are really focused and not having any doubts about what they have been ordered to do but instead following the orders. ‘The Charge Of The Light Brigade’ has an uneven rhyme scheme. Only a few lines rhyme with each other and it is not constant throughout the poem.

    A good example of this is ‘Half a league, half a league. ‘ The first word has more stress and emphasis on it and you put less on the next two words. So in this case ‘half’ has a strong emphasis and ‘a league’ does not have as much. The dactylic rhythm mimics the galloping action of the horses. There are two very different attitudes expressed by each of the poets, one showing futile and disgust at the very thought of a war and the other showing delight and celebrations and the implying that someone that dies for their country is a very honourable and you will not be forgotten easily.

    The attitude expressed by Hardy is very clear and simple. War is very futile and there should not be loss of death for foolish things. ‘Yes; quaint and curious war is! ‘ This shows how Hardy thinks about war and when he says this line he is really addressing the reader. When he says ‘curious’ he is being sarcastic to reveal his belief that war is ridiculous and futile. The theme in ‘The Charge Of The Light Bridge’ is pride. In this poem Tennyson tells the reader to be proud, and even though there was a complete military blunder Tennyson still makes armed forces.

    Tennyson mixes’ powerful actions with powerful imagery; he uses the words ‘Volley’d,’ ‘thunder’d,’ ‘plung’d,’ ‘reel’d,’ and ‘storm’d. ‘ This gives powerful images and violent verbs are used in our final stanza having getting the reader’s emotions. The reader becomes involved in the poem in the final stanza, as we are addressed directly: ‘Honour the charge they made’. The first theme in ‘The Man He Killed’ is war but the other one is brotherhood. After reflecting about the actions on the battlefield the speaker must deal with the nature of warfare.

    After settling his argument on why he killed the man, the stanza ends with the word ‘although’, indicating that there is more to be considered. He goes on in the next stanza to imagine how he and his victim are alike. But, perhaps because he is a simple countryman, and even though he realizes the man he killed was as human as himself, he cannot see the logical implications. The futility of this response is evident by the effort the speaker must make to reassure himself that he was justified in killing the enemy solider.

    Although he is relieved to find an explanation that seems to settle moral dilemma, doubts continues to trouble him: ‘Just so-my foe of course he was; That’s clear enough; although’. I prefer the poem ‘The Charge of The Light Bridge’ because the point, which the poem is about that is exactly what I think about war. I believe that soldiers dying in a War should be honour and should never be forgotten. On the other hand we should also feel sorry for the loss of lives in a war. But that’s how the thinks work.

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    The Controversial Topic of War in Poetry. (2017, Oct 28). Retrieved from

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