"Disabled" / "Refugee Blues":
A Poem Comparison Essay
The subject of war and the loss of human life has had a deep influence on poetry of the first half of the 20th century. Many poets from around the world had felt the direct impact of earth-shattering wars and went on to express their opinions through their works. It was during wartime eras that the poems "Disabled" and "Refugee Blues" were written by Wilfred Owen and W.H. Auden respectively. Both of the given war poems are considered to be some of the most significant pieces of poetry of their time and the fact that they were written during times of worldwide conflict explains their brutal honesty, grim atmospheres and the poets' desire to convey both shock and sadness through their interpreted image of war. "Disabled" was written by Wilfred Owen when he was in England to recover from war trauma. The title gives a glimpse of what the poem is about - a lonely soldier forced to be amputated. Although it is only a single piece of his string of anti-war poems, "Disabled" is arguably one of his most effective and significant works. The context of the poem takes place in Britain during its involvement in the Great War and tells a story of a disabled (hence the title) soldier who resides in a hospital. To shock the readers, Owen reveals that the soldier is actually a young adolescent, aged 17-19, who returning from the Western Front, was forced to have his limbs amputated. In contrast, "Refugee Blues" is a poetical work of W.H. Auden in 1939 - the year World War Two broke out. The name of the title is a reference to an old musical genre - blues. They were originally sang by early African slaves on American soil. The songs of the particular genre were mostly about sadness and depression. This, combined with the term 'refugee', create an interesting title, that is useful to identify what type of person is the protagonist and why the structure of the poem is reminiscent of a (blues) song. Although compared to "Disabled" it is slightly less heavy in terms of tone and atmosphere, the second (or third) reading of the poem should convince most readers that the horrors of war are actually very prominent and are shown through the terrified eyes of an innocent citizen. The story within tells about a German Jew and his wife, both taking numerous attempts to escape their homeland in hopes for salvation as their life becomes that of downward spiral following the rise of the fascist regime. Although the poets Wilfred Owen and W.H. Auden express their attitudes differently, it can be considered that both voice their opinion on the same side of the arguement. As said above, both "Disabled" and "Refugee Blues" share anti-war ideals, however they refer to different issues. This is most probably because, the two poems were written during different political eras, the Great War and the Second World War. "Disabled", written in 1917, addresses the brutality experienced by British soldiers on the Western Front and how the youth was fooled into volunteering by the older members of the nation's upper class who did nothing but scrutinized them, living in their safe, comfortable English homes while their sons died in the name of "patriotism". Nonetheless, Owen's poetry expands on that point to show that it is not only old men who do the trickery, but it is also ordinary people who encourage and ultimately, let down the soldiers. An example of that would be "Aye, that was it, to please the giddy jilts". This only us what led the disabled trooper to his tragedy, but to make his existence in this world even more depressing and sad, Owen goes on with "How cold and late it is! Why don't they come?" The readers are shown that after the war ends, whether the soldier is dead or alive, there won't be much good left to him, as their somewhat ignorant society decides to abandon the men who put their lives on stake for their flag. Perhaps this serves to state that true patriotism is...
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