Comparing Dulce et decorum est and the charge of the light Brigade

Topics: Crimean War, Charge of the Light Brigade, Poetry Pages: 6 (1228 words) Published: May 29, 2004
Although both 'Dulce et Decorum Est´ and 'The Charge of the Light Brigade´ are about battle and the of soldiers, they portray the experience of war in different ways.

Tennyson´s poem celebrates the glory of war, despite the fact that, because of an error of judgement ('Someone had blundered´), six hundred soldiers were sent to their .

Owen´s poem, on the other hand, might almost have been written as a challenge to Tennyson´s rousing and jingoistic sentiments. He presents the horror of senseless in the trenches and shows us how the famous line from the Roman poet Horace, 'it is sweet and becoming to die for your country´, is a lie.

We are told that Tennyson wrote 'Light Brigade´ in a few minutes after reading the description in The Times of the Battle of Balaclava in 1854. He was a civilian poet, as opposed to a soldier poet like Owen. His poem 'Light Brigade´ increased the morale of the British soldiers fighting in the Crimean War and of the people at home, but Tennyson had not been an eyewitness to the battle he describes.

Wilfred Owen wrote 'Dulce´ towards the end of the First World War. He was killed in action a week before the war ended in 1918. He wanted to end the glorification of war. Owen was against the propaganda and lies that were being told at the time. He had first-hand experience of war and wanted to tell people back at home the truth. Owen was an officer and often had to send men to their s and 'Dulce´ gives a personal account of what the war was like. Many patriotic poems had been written at the time. Owen knew that they lied.

Tennyson´s poem is a celebration of the bravery of the six hundred British troops who went into battle against all odds, even though they knew that they would be killed. The poem starts in the middle of the action. 'Light Brigade´ is written in dactylic feet (one stressed syllable followed by two unstressed syllables) and this gives a sense of the excitement of the galloping horses in the cavalry charge:

'Half a league, half a league

Half a league onward´

Tennyson creates a vivid impression of the bravery of the soldiers with many 'verbs of action:

'Flash'd all their sabres bare,

Flash'd as they turn'd in air,

Sabring the gunners there´

The heroic command in stanza 1, which is repeated for effect in stanza 2, sweeps the reader along without time to question the futility of the gesture:

'Forward, the Light Brigade!

'Charge for the guns!´

He uses noble sounding euphemisms like 'the valley of ´, 'the jaws of ´, 'the mouth of Hell to describe the fate that awaits these men. He does not convey the gory reality of the slaughter.

Tennyson creates a feeling of exhilaration, of the nobility of warfare with his use of poetic devices, such as rhetorical repetition:

'Cannon to right of them,

Cannon to left of them,

Cannon in front of them´,

and alliteration:

'Stormed at with shot and shell,

While horse and hero fell´

Tennyson celebrates the ideal of unquestioning obedience of the soldiers in the face of :

'Their's not to make reply,

Their's not to reason why,

Their's but to do and die´

In the final stanza Tennyson creates a sense of the immortality of the soldiers´ bravery with a rhetorical question and commands:

'When can their glory fade?

O the wild charge they made! ...

Honor the charge they made,

Honor the Light Brigade,

Noble six hundred!´

The repetition of 'the six hundred´ at the end of each stanza reminds the reader of the enormous loss of life, but at the end of the poem they have become the 'Noble six hundred´ and are celebrated as heroes.

Wilfred Owen in his poem is asking us to question all the certainties that Tennyson is celebrating. The theme of 'Dulce´ is that war and dying for one´s country are not at all not glorious. This message is echoed throughout the poem from the first stanza to the last line. In the opening stanza you get a very different image of the soldiers from what...
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