Compare the Ways in Which War Is Presented in at Least Three of the Pre-1914 War Poems You Have Studied.

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Wars pre-1914 were very different to WW1. Wars such as the Boer War and the Crimean War were fought by soldiers using mainly sabres and muskets. These wars had little in the way of powerful weaponry such as heavy weight machine guns. WW1 also saw the beginning of trench warfare, tanks, planes and gases.

Almost all of the poetry written during WW1 was written while the soldiers were on the front lines. Pre-1914 poetry however, was written by poets back in England. Education really developed during the Victorian times and poets were able to read about the wars going on in other countries. New newspapers and magazines were published, inspiring writers and poets to write about the battles. Even though this was a positive thing, the poets of pre-1914 never had the first hand experience that WW1 poets had.

The wars occurred because Britain wanted to build up its empire. The Crimean War arose because Britain and France were afraid of Russia’s power over the collapsing Turkish Empire. The allies landed in the Crimea and war broke out. A number of battles took place in various areas of South Africa against Boer settlers. The Boer War was mainly about the gold and diamond deposits. British troops claimed the land of the Orange Free State and Transvaal in 1900, but the Boers fought back. Britain won eventually, after burning farms and moving women and children into ‘concentration camps’.

The poem The Charge of the Light Brigade was written by Alfred Tennyson. He was Poet Laureate at the time of the Crimean War, which took place from 1854 to 1856, between the Allies and Russia. Tennyson based his poem on a newspaper article in The Times. The article briefly explained the events that occurred during the Charge of the Light Brigade. The Charge is a well known example of the bravery and foolishness of war. Tennyson presents war in a noble, devoted way.  

The first lines of The Charge of the Light Brigade are written in dactylic dimeter. Tennyson uses this technique in the first two lines. “Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward” It sounds like the galloping of horses. It is an effective way of portraying the image of the horsemen riding into battle, creating the relentlessness of the charge. The notion that the horsemen are in danger is quickly introduced by “valley of Death”. The word ‘Death’ is personified, giving the idea that death is a figure that looms over the valley. This phrase is repeated three times in the poem, showing that death is inevitable.

In verse two the rhetorical question is put forward by Tennyson “Was there a man dismayed?”. The next line reveals a mistake had been made “Some one had blundered”. In spite of this fact, the soldiers bravery is highlighted by the lines “Their’s not to make reply, Their’s not to reason why, Their’s but to do and die”, as all six hundred men courageously rode forward.

The first few lines in verse three “Cannon”, and “Volleyed and thundered” are examples of onomatopoeia. The words are imitating the cannon fire, when they pull back and then the ball explodes out. You can also visualize the horsemen being surrounded by the cannons, and how brave they are to ride into the “jaws of Death”. The personification of death makes it even more terrifying.  

The cavalry is slightly glamorized as their sabres are said to have ‘flashed’, making you think they’re new and shining. Tennyson then goes on to explain the smoke, showing his possible naivety about the war, because if the air was smoky the sabres couldn’t possibly have ‘flashed’. This line is also very similar to “And the regiment blind with dust and smoke” from Vitai Lampada, There is a loose rhyming scheme throughout the poem. This creates a random effect which could be interpreted as the random stabbing of the sabres. At the end of verse four “Then they rode back but not, Not the six hundred” the repetition of ‘not’ emphasizes the loss of men.

The Charge of the Light Brigade is split into six verses, each...
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