The United Kingdom was one of the Allied Powers during World war one. The Allied Powers were at war with the central powers, consisting of countries like Germany and Austria Hungary. Due to the treaty with Belgium to protect their neutrality, they got to war because Germany had invaded Belgium. After that, the UK joined the Allied powers.
In this essay, three war poems made by English soldiers during World War one will be analyzed in terms of their purpose and how the enemy is portrayed. Also, differences between poems made earlier during the war, and poems that were made later will be pointed out. Finally, there will be a discussion on why the British government has decided to digitalize these poems, and why they were in the papers during World War one.
''In Flanders Fields was written in 1915, by John McCrae. It is one of the most famous poems written during the first World war. It is a poem written to remember the English soldiers who died during the war who sacrificed themselves for the sake of their country. The poet tells his audience to keep on fighting and to keep hope in a good ending. The poppies in this poem symbolize the death of many British soldiers who died to protect their country. In the poem, the sentence '' The torch; be yours to hold it high'' shows the audience that one has to fight for his freedom and what he loves.
The enemy in this poem is portrayed as the cause of the death of many English soldiers. The English soldiers are encouraged to fight for their country and to defeat the enemy. This poem was therefore published in English papers as a means of propaganda.
''Dulce et Decorum est' was written by Wilfred Owen in 1917. The poem describes a gas attack, and because of this attack, the terrible death of one of the soldiers. Owen portrays this attack in a pure and realistic way, not avoiding to talk about details. The audience is made aware of the cruelty of this attack, and the terrible impact of the first world war on the British soldiers.
The last sentence, ''Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori' means that it is sweet and right to die for your country. The poet talks about this being a lie, and he is therefore very critical about the English government, who, through the use of propaganda and through the introduction of conscription, manages to make a large army to fight against the central powers.
The poet clearly sees the Central Powers negatively, as they are the cause of the gas attacks and therefore the death of the soldier, but this poem rather focuses on criticizing the English government for bringing the soldiers into these kinds of situations they surely didn't want to be in.
''Counter- Attack, by Siegfried Sassoon, was written in 1918. The poem reveals the shocking violence and pointlessness of the war. The pointlessness is revealed through the loss of the English army: ''The counter attack had failed'. Only many soldiers had suffered. The poet therefore criticizes the nature of war in general, instead of just criticizing the enemy or, as Wilfred Owen does, the English government. He does this also by portraying the cruelness and violence of the attack in a detailed way, and, as said before, by pointing out the pointlessness of it.
The enemy in this poem is not portrayed as the only cause of the death of the soldier, as in Owen's poem. In this poem, the war in general is criticized. Although the poet is on the side of the Allied Powers, he does not choose a side in his poem, only portraying the horrific scenes in the first world war.
''Back', by Wilfrid Gibson, was written in the late 1918's. It is a personal poem, which shows the poet's regret about the things he did during the war. Although the poem is personal, many soldiers are likely to relate to this poem because killing is not something they would have normally done, and after a war they regret their deeds. By writing this poem, the poet wants his audience to notice that soldiers are not simply murderers, they are not wanting to kill and it is only for their country's sake that they do.
In this poem, the enemy is also portrayed neutrally. The enemy army just as well consisted of man, and the speaker wouldn't have if it was not obliged to do so. Again, the war on itself is criticized, and not the enemy side.
Clearly, the fist poem encourages Englishman to join the army and to carry on with the work of the soldiers that had died in Flanders fields to protect their country. This poem was written in the first stages of the war. The poems from Owen and Sassoon were written in a later stage, and they openly criticize the terrifying events that happened during the war. The last poem also criticizes the war, but from a personal point of view. So clearly, as the war was progressing, soldiers began to be despondent and depressed about it, certainly being less hopeful about a (personally) satisfying ending. The English government has decided to digitalize all these poems in order to remember the soldiers that died in the First World War and these Poems are of great importance to the English history. Thus, it is absolutely crucial that these poems are preserved and shown to a broad public.
There are different reasons for English papers between 1914 and 1918 to publish these war poems. ''In Flanders Fields' is there to be published as a means of propaganda to encourage soldiers to fight for their country, while Owen is critical about the English government, so his poem would be published in opposing papers. Also the last two poems would be published in papers who want to convince their readers of the pointlessness and the cruelty of the war. The last poem is especially meant to for the audience to notice that soldiers only murder for their country's sake, and that they can often be heavily traumatized by those murders they didn't really want to commit.
Feniks Havo/Vwo Bovenbouw, 2e fase, 2e editie
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