'There was a simple soldier boy who grinned at life...and whistled early with the lark'
'lark' ~ a spring bird, spring connotes youth
'simple' ~ implies innocence
the fact he rose with the lark 'early' presents enthusiasm and also touches on the caricature of the typical ww1 soldier ~ a young man from the country, hoping to find adventure and to see the world - explicitly presented in pieces like A.E Housman's ' Oh, my lad, stay home and plough'
he boy is described as 'cowed and glum' - a contrast to his previous 'grin' season described as 'winter' ~ fortifies his 'glum' depression, in contrast to the positive connotations of the 'lark' Due to the contrast, stanza 1 could be seen as a representation of common views at home, earlier in the war , war being seen as a 'testament of youth' , a 'game', or 'show' and stanza 2 - as representing war's true realities The piece is written in the form of an Iambic tetrameter ~ the same meter as nursery rhymes ~ this makes the tone of the piece sound positive and jubilant. This tone juxtaposes with the theme 'suicide' and the content of stanza 2 - so it becomes clear that Sassoon is being ironic and attacking the earlier views of the war - held by 'smug faced crowds at home' The tone created by the tetrameter, reveals an ironic subtext within the 1st stanza, which initially seemed very positive : 'simple' - could be interpreted as indicating stupidity
'grinned' - arrogant...cocky....mind my french :-)
These are clear criticisms of earlier perspectives of the war. In criticising positive views of the war, Sassoon joins the ranks of :
Owen - who famously directs Dulce et decorum est at Jessie pope A.E Mackintosh - who may also be seen as attacking pope, inverting her use of 'Laddie' ( as seen int he call) e.g he writes ' Lads. You're wanted. Come and die. Vera Brittain - in 'testament of youth' makes a point of placing 'show' in inverted commas - she does this so much that it feels as if...
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