Poetry can evoke a wide spectrum of emotions ranging from sadness to exultation through the poet's manipulation of the 5 primal senses; sight, sound, taste, smell and touch. This essay shall explore the emotive language used by Great War poets in order to evoke the senses in the reader, so that the more abstract issues in war can become tangible in those who are lucky enough to have never experienced battle.
"All forms of imaginative literature, including drama and film, follow the same principle, which can be summed up in the slogan, "Show, don't tell."" This quote definitely also applies to poetry, for it is often said that to directly tell the reader the tone or the imagery in poetry is heavy-handed. Wilfred Owen, in his poem "Dulce Et Decorum Est", uses imagery to brutal effect. "Bent double like old beggars under sacks" this simile brings to mind the poor, crippled, dirty beggar that has been through hardship after hardship. "Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light, as under a green sea, I saw him drowning" This image of a man drowning under the horrific mustard gas employed in World War One is a powerful one, and makes the reader, who likely doesn't know of mustard gas, understand the horror Owen went through.
Siegfried Sassoon also used the Great War's terrible imagery in his poetry. In his poem "Prelude: The Troops" he uses short, simple descriptive words spread throughout a stanza to constantly reinforce the drudgery of the image he is trying to instill in the reader. "Shapeless gloom" "drizzling daybreak" "stamp their sodden boots" "dulled, sunken" these. Dispersed throughout a stanza, these words are certainly effective while not being obvious. Sight is the most useful and oft-manipulated sense that poetry uses to construct mental and tangible images that "speak" to the reader from abstract ideas, situations or feelings.
Sound is often referred to as the secondary sense, after sight, though it has just as much power and influence...
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