Essay – Wilfred Owen
Wilfred Owen said, “above all I am not interested in poetry. My subject is war and the pity of war”. To what degree is this true of two poems you have studied? Wilfred Owen was a British poet who fought in World War I. His poems are clearly, as he stated, about “war and the pity of war”, but he has used brilliant and skilful poetry to communicate the real experiences and impacts of war. We see evidence of this in ‘Dulce Et Decorum Est’ and also ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’. Pity is the feeling of sorrow and compassion for those suffering, the feeling responders experience through Owen’s poems. In ‘Dulce Et Decorum Est’, Owen expresses the dehumanisation of men at war and the haunting memories and nightmares they cannot escape. ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’ draws upon peoples’ emotions though death, mourning and grief. Although different, the two poems both make responders feel compassion and pity for the men suffering at war. ‘Dulce Et Decorum Est’ describes the horrifying experiences of World War I with violent and haunting imagery, focusing on the horrifying death from gas warfare. The title means “It is sweet and meet”, and Owen ends the poem with the full saying “Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori”, meaning ‘it is sweet and meet to die for one’s country. Sweet and decorous.’ The title and ending is highly ironic as Owen proves the antithesis. He is opposing and mocking this idea that it is honourable and glorious to die for your country. The poem was originally directed at Jessie Pope, who he refers to as “my friend”, who glorified war and encouraged men to enlist. Owen passionately opposed her views as he personally experienced the contrary of glorification and ‘sweetness’ of dying for one’s country as he communicates through ‘Dulce Et Decorum Est’. Owen describes the disturbing condition of the soldiers, using similes to show their loss of youthfulness in a way readers will understand “like old beggars under sacks…coughing like hags”. As...
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