The Charge of Light Brigade and Duke ET Decorum Est
The two poems The Charge of Light Brigade and Duke ET Decorum Est. are about different battles and soldiers dying. These two poems depict the war experience with two very different perspectives. The Charge of Light Brigade tells us the story of victory in war even though because of a slight judgment error from someone’s blunder caused nearly six hundred soldiers to their demise. Where as the Duke ET Decorum Est. may have been written as a challenge to the devoted battle views as presented by Tennyson. Wilfred Owen presents the death of soldiers in trenches and terms the famous phrase that to die for your country is bravery and is very sweet as a lie.
Tennyson’s The Charge of Light Brigade was written after he read the detailed description of the Battle of Balaclava. As compared to Owen who was a solider poet, Tennyson was a civilian poet. The poem that he wrote increased the confidence of the English soldiers who were in battle in the Crimean War. With the help of this poem he also increased the confidence of the people whose loved ones were at war.
Duke ET Decorum Est. was written by Wilfred Owen at the end of World War 1. Owen was killed one week before the First World War ended. He was simply against the lies and misinformation that were being told to praise the war. He had the experience of the war and what happens in the trenches. He wanted to unfold the truth to all the people back home. Wilfred Owen was an officer in the army and he often performed the duty of sending his men to their deaths. There were many poems written about the war which seemed very patriotic but Owen knew it was all a lie.
The Charge of Light Brigade
The poem written by Tennyson observes the bravery of the six hundred British soldiers who were in war even though they knew that death is right in front of their eyes. The poem starts when the action has already started. The charge of light brigade is written in frazzled syllable where one frazzled syllable is followed by 2 unstressed syllables. This gives us a sagacity of horses charging in the battle ground. Tennyson helps to construct a glowing intuition of the courage 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´ (Alfred, Lord Tennyson, 1854)
In stanza 1, this heroic command which is again repeated in the second stanza tends to sweep the person who is reading along without giving anytime to question vainness of the gesticulation. He uses dignified sounding phrases like the jaws of death, the mouth to hell, and the valley of death to portray the destiny awaiting those men. Tennyson does not express the violent truth of the massacre.
Tennyson forms a sensation of excitement, of the dignity of warfare with his use of graceful devices, such as metaphoric replication:
‘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´ (Alfred, Lord Tennyson, 1854)
The writer shows us the principles of the soldiers and their undeniable conformity for following orders even when they are facing certain death:
‘Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die´ (Alfred, Lord Tennyson, 1854)
In the last stanza, he creates a sense of immortality for the solders in the minds of the readers with a metaphorical inquiry
‘When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!¦
Honour the charge they made,
Honour the Light Brigade,
Noble six hundred!´ (Alfred, Lord Tennyson, 1854)
The recurrence of six hundred at the end of the poem reminds the reader of the massive loss of live. At the end of the poem the six hundred soldiers are not heroes for their country and are known as the Noble six hundred.
Comparing this poem to Wilfred Owen poem, Owen is informing us to be pessimistic and to ignore all the standards that have been shown in Tennyson’s poem. The basic idea of Duke ET Decorum Est. is that war and dying for your county is not heroic or even glorious. This message is repeated in the poem from the first line to the last stanza.
Duke ET Decorum Est
In the start of the poem the reader tends to find a very unusual picture of the soldiers from what one might anticipate from the poems title. The poem’s title makes the reader think that soldiers are fighting, marching, smart and proud but what Owen shows in his poem is his personal experiences in war. There is nothing passionate about the soldiers’ which Owen shows us. They are
‘Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge´
‘Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod.´ (Wilfred Owen, 1917)
These men are not marching and if they are it is probably a death march. The soldiers are so tired that they now look like beggars or old women sliding and hobbling in the mud. This picture is totally the opposite of Tennyson six hundred noble soldiers. The image the Owen shows does not show glory at all and the first line tends to shock readers who thought that in the First World War their soldiers charged without any fear. He tends to catch the entire scene perfectly. The beginning line is somewhat slow and motionless. He mentions “We” when he is talking about the action taken by the soldiers which reminds us that he was a part of that war. In comparison to the first stanza, the second stanza is lively and hysterical. The shows the excruciating dreariness the men had to put up and all of a sudden they got killed.
‘GAS! Gas! Quick, boys!- An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time´ (Wilfred Owen, 1917)
At first the reader thinks that everyone has their gas masks on but than all of a sudden we realize that someone is without his. He is slowly plunging to his death and Owen being his senior cannot save him. This is in no way can be termed as a glorious death. By using such vibrant descriptions Owen gives us a feeling of abhorrence and dismay which he wants us to feel when looking at a solider dying of poisoned gas right in front of our eyes.
‘In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.´ (Wilfred Owen, 1917)
This stanza shows that the soldier is not only suffering but he is in awful pain. The reader can picture the life of the solider slowing glistening away. In his poem death is gaudily presented as contrary of Tennyson glory.
the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin´ (Wilfred Owen, 1917)
Owen is trying to show us the hideous scenes that can be seen in a war like blood coming out from the mouth after a soldier has ruptured his lungs. During a soldiers death, this poem shows as if you are there seeing all of this. Owen gives us a full picture of what war would be like: he mentions that he saw a person drowning in comparison the six hundred of Tennyson. Owen wants the reader to visualize as if he is actually there standing in war so that the reader could get an idea of what exactly war is like. This poem written by Owen tells us the experience of the carnage in war and in his final lines he mentions that if you knew what the war is actually like you will not be celebrating anything.
After Owen death, in the introduction of his poems which were published later, he always mentioned that a poet can give caution that is why all poets should be telling the truth. This is the reason that he condemns all that who thinks of war as a way to glory themselves and that is why I think Owen’s poem Duke ET Decorum Est is the more influential of the two poems and also since it gives you the insight and reality of what war is actually like.