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    Poetry Comparision – Coming Home Essay

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    I have been studying two poems – Coming Home by Curtis Bennet and The Man He Killed by Thomas Hardy. The theme of both poems is war and death. The most obvious example of this is in The Man He Killed: ‘quaint and curious war is’. However in Coming Home the theme is not directly referred to. Instead phrases such as ‘final military formation’ and ‘who sent them to fight’ are used. My first impression is that Coming Home is more sensitive than The Man He Killed because I believe that the poet is trying to give a shred of dignity to the ‘dead young boys and girls’ who needlessly perished by not mentioning the way in which they were killed. On the other hand, The Man He Killed is more abrasive which is particularly illustrated when you hear the rhyming as it makes the poem seem immature and vulgar.

    The Man He Killed is written in complete contrast to Coming Home, not only because of the tone but also because of the person who would tell you the poem. The Man He Killed is written from the point of view of somebody who has been to war and experienced the feeling of killing a man. However, Coming Home seems to be written by an observer of war, someone who watches it happen but can not do anything to prevent the losses. This characterisation is ironic as Thomas Hardy, from what we know, didn’t go to war. On the other hand Curtis Bennet is a war veteran and is aware of the horrors of war. I think that it is for this reason that, although Coming Home is written by an onlooker, it has more provocative language and forces the reader to consider the deeper implications of war.

    This continues to show throughout the poem as the poet’s thoughts become more apparent. The emotions are very clear, especially when he says ‘the politicians who killed them’ which is bitter and shows contempt for the people who created this war. Also he speaks abut the families of the ‘young boys and girls’ which can create an image of regret and blinding pain for losing a child. This can be linked with the ‘gray steel womb’ to create a feeling of innocence as they were only babies in the poet’s eyes. The word ‘womb’ suggests that they were torn away from their mothers because the womb is supposed to be a safe haven for a child and the fact that they are no longer alive suggests that they should have been protected for a little while longer.

    ‘Steel’ could represent the families trying to block out the pain; they’re attempting to distance themselves from being human and become unresponsive and hard like metal. This is a slight similarity to the man he killed in The Man He Killed – he has no feeling and no identity. At the same time, it’s a contrast because we regret the deaths of the ‘youthful’ people yet we hardly spare a second thought for the soldier that was killed by Thomas Hardy.

    The themes of the poems vary vastly. In Coming Home, there are several different tones which change as the poem progresses: ‘drape and caress the dull pewter boxes’ could be spoken in a hopeless tone as the flags are trying to comfort the pewter boxes which encase the ‘broken ashen remains’ but it is too late and the comfort that they needed when they were alive wasn’t there. This then becomes bitter and contemptuous when he lays the blame on ‘the politicians who killed them’.

    The final tone of the poem is peace when ‘so quietly they lie, so well they sleep’. I think that Bennet was conveying his own emotions of fighting in a war into the tone of the poem, meaning that the changes of tone tell the story of the soldier’s emotions as they went to war: they felt hopeless when they discovered they were called up, angry as they were fighting and their final emotion was peace when they died. The tone of The Man He Killed is an utter contrast. They are very childish tones to begin with.

    The first two stanzas come across as sarcastic and immature, especially in the lines ‘staring face to face … killed him in his place’. The fact that he could someone in the eye as the killed them could represent tat he’s unable to recognise the moral right and wrong. On the other hand, it could be intended to mean that he was mature enough to offer his enemy some dignity in death which would change the meaning of the poem completely. However the use of rhyming makes war sound like a game, so I think that Thomas Hardy intended the tone to be the former. There are similarities in the tone of the poems: they have a reference to children and their emotions.

    As the poem continues I think that the tone becomes uncertain and slightly ashamed like the poet is growing up and realising his mistakes. This is shown by ‘because -‘ as the ‘-‘ could represent that he has been thinking about the murder and ‘because’ shows that he needs clarification that it was alright to commit such an act. The line ‘no other reason why’ changed my opinion of the poem as it is as though he stopped to justify his actions. I think that the poet is recognising that his action were wrong. The language of Coming Home is more descriptive and thought provoking as is demonstrated by ‘broken, ashen, hallowed remains’. On the opposite end of the spectrum is the simple, colloquial language that Thomas Hardy has opted to use, but which is equally effective in getting his message across.

    The title Coming Home could signify relief, happiness. However by writing the first line as ‘gray, steel womb of cargo space’, it is almost an oxymoron. I think of families being reunited when I hear Coming Home is associated with war so the first line is a shock as ‘grey’ and ‘steel’ make the reunion thought seem very impersonal and without colour and happiness. Also, ‘cargo’ represents that it is not people that are returning but things, objects. I believe that Curtis Bennet intended the first line to be a pre-empt to the disturbingly thought-provoking language in the remainder of the poem. It could also represent the expectations of the soldier’s families who’re looking forward to them returning and then the indescribable shock of learning that they’ll only be returning for their funeral. Bennett capitalises on the fact that there always seems to be conflict in the world.

    ‘Final military formation’ and ‘in rank and file’ can both suggest hat the same thing – even in death, the war is ever present. I think that by using the word ‘final’ with ‘formation’ Bennet is trying to say that once they are involved in war there’s no escape and it’s as if the deaths of the soldiers wasn’t enough to satisfy the hunger of war and so it is keeping them tied to it forever. Bennett also uses enjambment: ‘whine and close tight … Sealing the precious cargo inside.’ By the use of this Bennet could be suggesting that, although there are gaps and brief interludes, it continues indefinitely.

    Hardy also uses this technique although it is not as effective because there are no other references to continuous war in the poem. Instead it contributes to the colloquial, narrative feel of The Man He Killed. All of these phrases can be pulled together to suggest that war is an endless reoccurrence which won’t be stopped. It injects hopelessness into you as it means that people will continue to die. I think that it is the simplest phrases that have the most effect: ‘once again’ is incredibly simple but, in this context, incredibly effective as it implies that the plane has made this journey carrying home soldiers more than once.

    This essay was written by a fellow student. You may use it as a guide or sample for writing your own paper, but remember to cite it correctly. Don’t submit it as your own as it will be considered plagiarism.

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    Poetry Comparision – Coming Home Essay. (2017, Nov 14). Retrieved from https://artscolumbia.org/poetry-comparision-coming-home-27242/

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