Wilfred Owen was a poet who was widely regarded as one of the best poets of the World War one period. Wilfred Owen was born on the 18th of March 1893, at Plas Wilmot, Oswestry, on the English Welsh border; he was the son of Tom and Susan Owen. During the winter of 1897-8 Tom Owen, Wilfreds father was reappointed to Birkenhead, and with that the whole family moved there. Wilfred started school at the Birkenhead Institute on the 11th June 1900, during the middle of a term.
During the winter of 1906-7 Tom Owen was appointed Assistant Superintendent, GW & LNER, Western Region, this again led to another family move to Shrewsbury, where Wilfred started school at Shrewsbury Technical School. In the summer of 1910 Wilfred Owen met Christoble Coleridge, daughter of the poet. This triggered his interest in poetry. In 1911 Wilfred worked as a pupil-teacher at the Wyle Cop School, Shrewsbury whilst preparing for his Matriculation exam. Later that year Wilfred took the exam for London University, which he found out that he had matriculated, but not with honours.
In 1913 Wilfred returned to Shrewsbury due to illness, he took a reading exam and failed. He later went to Bordeaux in France where he taught English at Berlitz School. In 1914 he gave this job up and went to the Pyrenees on the Spanish French border to teach a former pupil. On the 4th August war was declared and later he returned to Bordeaux to tutor once more. In 1915 he considered joining various regiments and eventually enlisted with the Artists Rifles as Cadet Owen. On the 5th March 1915 Wilfred went to Officers School and was commissioned into the Manchester Regiment.
Four days after Christmas at the start of 1916 he was sent to Base camp, in Etaples, France. 1917 was a very busy year for Wilfred; on the very first day of the year he assumed command of Platoon Three, with the Manchesters near the Somme. On the 6th January they were sent to the front line, and from the 9th to the 16th of January they dug holes out in no-mans land. And on returning to the front line on the 20th, the weather took a turn for the worst when severe frost struck, affected many men. On the 15th of March Wilfred Owen was evacuated from the front line due to concussion he experienced after a fall.
He was later returned to the line, but only for twelve days as he was evacuated with Shell Shock and sent to Craiglockhart Hospital just outside Edinburgh. In July Siegfried Sassoon arrived at Craiglockhart, which was a hospital for Generals who had become mentally un-stable or ill, due to the war. Sassoon met Owen here and they developed a friendship, which greatly influenced Owens writing as Sassoon, revised many of his poems. On the 13th of October Wilfred Owen was introduced to Robert Graves. 15 days later Owen was due to appear before the medical board to determine how much longer he would be unfit for military service.
After three weeks he was requested to return to the unit, Platoon Three. Before being returned to the front line in France, Owen also met Arnold Bennett and H. G. Wells in London at an organised event. All the time Owen was gaining knowledge and inspiration from these writers, which helped him develop his immense talent as a poet. One month before Christmas, Owen was returned to the Manchesters 5th for light duties and ten days later he was promoted to Lieutenant. With a new year, 1918 came more meetings and more fighting for the country.
On the 16th of May Wilfred Owen became acquainted with Osbert Sitwell. Another inspirational meeting for him. On the fourth of June Owen was declared fit for general service and in late August he returned to base camp at Staples, France. A key military date for Owen was the 29th September to the 3rd October of that year when Owen instigated an assault on the Beaurevoir-Fonsomme line. For his services and bravery he was awarded a Military Cross. On the 29th October Owen was sent into the Line for the last time, there was preparation underway for an assault on the Oise-Sambre canal, near Ors.
The attack was planned for the 4th of November; in this attack a Sniper based in a building set back from the river killed Wilfred Owen. Wilfred Owens death came exactly one week before the Armistice was signed and the war was over. The three poems which I am going to be comparing and contrasting are all inspired by war. The poems are [It was a Navy Boy], Anthem for Doomed Youth and Dulce et Decorum est. The first poem, [It was a Navy Boy] was written before the other two this is clearly apparent in the style, as it appears to be written by an in-experienced poet.
The poem is a about Navy Boy, and a man, (who in this poem is Wilfred himself). It describes a train journey in which the Navy Boy and the Man converse. We hear about the last year of the boys life in some detail. We learn that he has been away for ten months, on a boat carrying cargo. The cargo is Nitre and the boy with his ship had been to Hong-Kong. The boy tells the man of how there was no shore-leave out there, sir, for the crew. This implies that after a five month trip to Hong-Kong the Navy Boy had not been allowed to put his feet on dry land, they had just turned and made there way through the seas, home.
After such an ordeal on board a ship for a young boy we would expect him to be thin, colourless in his face and tired, yet from Wilfreds description of the boy he is none of these, So prim, so trim, His look was noble as a good ships prow, All of him was clean as pure east wind. These descriptions of the boy make it clear that he is fit, strong, clean and very healthy. Towards the end of the poem, in the last three stanzas, Owen uncovers, in the boy, a part of him, which is slightly uncomfortable. Those pounds I said youll put some twenty by?
All for my mother sir, and turned his head. From this we understand that at the boys home there are financial problems of some sort, which the boy appears to be embarrassed about, thus turning his head away to stop any further discussion about it. The poems title is put in brackets because when Owen wrote the poem he had not specified the title, and when he died the title was produced by other means. This explains the brackets. The second poem, Anthem for Doomed Youth, was written later when it was obvious that Owens experiences had influenced his style of writing.
He wrote the poem after his meeting with Sassoon, and by reading it, it is apparent that there is much changed from the earlier work, (It Was A Navy Boy). Owen wrote Anthem for Doomed Youth at Craiglockhart, where he was sent after being removed from the Front Line, due to shellshock. The poem is written from passed experience and his growing knowledge of the atrocities of war. The content of the poem describes the younger soldiers, mainly boys who are marching to the front line where they will most probably meet their death.
The poem is written for these young boys, hence the title, and the for youth is the key point, which backs this up. The poem describes how awful it is at the Front Line, the sights and the sounds, the shrill, demented choir of wailing shells, and The stuttering rifles, both images of the war. These descriptions are found in the first verse and they help to paint the picture, of what horror and devastation awaits the boys on arrival in the front line. Stanza one explains how war is hell on earth and many deaths often are dealt with unemotionally, there being no time for such weakness.
Any deaths occurring are dealt with in such a way that little respect is shown to the victim because the frequency of death becomes commonplace and therefore matter of fact. Stanza two goes into more detail about the expected, normal reactions to the frequent deaths. There are many funeral related terms in this stanza some of which are, when seen in the light of death, candles, flowers, both of which are present at any organised funeral, and the final line, And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds symbolises an image of respect.
When people were killed at war, or died for any other reason, the families of the dead would draw down their blinds and shut their curtains as a mark of respect enabling them to mourn in private and also let other people know that there had been a death in the family. However, none of these marks of respect were possible in war, as death was so frequent. The third poem is in my view the best out of the three. It is one of Owens most famous poems, named Dulce et Decorum Est. The poem is written in such a way that it is extremely anti-war showing the true pointlessness of war. The poem begins by describing the mens appearance.
Bent double, like old beggars under sacks, knock-kneed, coughing like hags. This paints a picture for us immediately of how the men look and what state of health they are in, battered skeletons in uniforms no longer recognisable as such, worn and defeated. In the following lines we are told how the men appear to have lost their senses. Men marched asleep, shows they were moving mechanically like robots with no thought or enthusiasm All went lame all blind; drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots of tired, outstripped Five Nines that dropped behind. All of these quotes displaying the true meaningless effect of war and what it does to men.
Showing that death is now commonplace and ignored completely. The poem was written from first hand experience as Owen had spent a long time on the Front Line, and had experienced all he described. The second stanza in the poem, describes what could be either an experience or a nightmare of Owens. It is about a gas attack where the men are battling with their gas masks to save themselves from the poisoness substance and the horror of one soldiers inability to fit the mask before the gas envelopes him and as the soldier looses his battle for life the thick green light, as under a green sea drowns him.
The third stanza is one we must take notice of. In some versions of the poem it is linked with the second stanza, but in this version it is separate. Having it separate really emphasises the image of a terrified man, for whom there is no help. The mention of dreams shows us that Owen possibly has nightmares about this image. The final stanza of this poem is one that concludes Owens personal view on war. He is sharing with us what he has seen, and is trying to convey the message that it is truly awful. In the first line of the stanza Owen says, If in some smothering dreams you too implying, see the horrors I have seen.
He describes, the wagon on which the dead are flung and the blood that comes gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs, The final section of the stanza refers to the younger generation whose fathers and grandfathers had fought in the war. When these children ask for some old war stories then they must not be glorified thus hiding the true horror of war, purely to satisfy their need for some desperate glory. They must be told with truth and the understanding that there can be no glory in war, only immeasurable pain and loss. The three poems mentioned, have aspects to them, which are very similar throughout.
The first, and most glaringly obvious is the theme of the poems. All three, [It was a Navy Boy], Anthem for Doomed Youth and Dulce et Decorum Est, all have a war related theme and story. This may have a lot to do with the fact that they were all written during the time of the First World War and with first hand experience of it. The first poem starts with a relatively good attitude towards war and describes the navy boy who has been out serving his country and has returned home with twenty-five pounds and looking very fit, strong and healthy.
The second poem has a much more negative attitude as it describes death and what young fresh faced boys face on arrival at the front line, none of which is positive or good. The third poem however has a completely anti-war view and describes a lot of the horrible and gruesome things which happen when at war. As the war progressed the soldiers began to have a dull acceptance of the horror of events around them, no longer shocked by the cruel death of their friends and comrades. Owen was no different and as his poems progressed his own experiences of the war showed in his writing, becoming more and more negative towards it.
The only real other similarity, which is present through all three poems, is the time at which they were written. All of these poems were war-time poems and Owen used the war as his inspiration for all three. This point is linked to the previous point of comparison. There are also comparisons between the poems which are present in two but not in the third. The earliest poem [It was a Navy Boy], appears to written in the way of an inexperienced poet. It has nine stanzas all of equal length and with a regular rhyme scheme. There is no variation in length or pace throughout the poem.
The language used is fairly basic. Phrases such as I shared my cigarettes and books with him and as under currents where the waters smile both dont have the depth and feeling found in his later poems. (These kinds of phrases are found in later poems for example, Anthem for Doomed Youth, Monstrous anger and rifles rapid rattle. Monstrous really describes the scale of the subject, and clever ways of emphasising points by the use of alliteration in the second quote) None of these types of language tricks and touches are present in the first poem and we can only put this down to lack of experience in poetry.
The second and third poems both have variation and clever language tricks which make the difference between the good and the not so good poems. Things such as, Mood change, Pace change and a variation in stanza length with a very irregular rhyme scheme make this all-important difference. I have already taken examples of this from Anthem for Doomed youth, but from Dulce et decorum est there are many deeply descriptive words which have had long thought on their selection, words like Knock-Kneed, Coughing like Hags and Blood-shod to mention a few. Pace change is mainly apparent at the start of the second stanza with the opening words being Gas!
Gas! which immediately draw your attention to the change of pace. This pace is maintained with the use of words like ecstasy and fitting the clumsy helmets just in time which show the relevance of time, which as a consequence causes the distinct pace change. The point that is being made is that the first poem is not as well prepared and thought about and just follows a pre-planned structure. The second and third are much more creative and effective due to their irregularity. [It was a Navy Boy] was written round about the time that Owen made the decision to sign up for the army.
It does not have any horrible death images throughout the poem. The other two however are full of these sorts of images. These two poems are similar in this way. The anti-war attitude which is created, is done by the use of evil and death related vocabulary in anthem for doomed youth such as Doomed in the title, Die as cattle, which develops the idea of slaughtering each other at war. The shrill demented choirs of wailing shells is a very detailed image which describes the noise made by the shells flying overhead of which any could be coming straight for where you are sitting or standing or in fact sleeping.
This poem is a sonnet with eight lines in the first stanza and six in the second stanza. The first is the question and the second is the answer. In Dulce et Decorum Est the almost disturbing vocabulary and imagery formed is apparent in phrases such as Haunting Flares, Blood-Shod, White eyes writhing and like a devils sick of sin. These phrases all portray death and fear at its most terrifying, setting a scene that is not present in the first poem where there is innocence and lack of understanding of what war really was like. Out of the three poems the second and third are the most similar.
This is because Owen has first hand experience of war when he wrote them whereas, just an idealistic view of how glorious war could be when writing (It was a Navy Boy). Poem one although being of a similar theme has little in common with the other two. The huge similarity between two and three could also be explained by the fact that they were written within ten months of each other whereas [It was a Navy Boy] was written two years earlier before the onset of Owens own war experiences. Other differences I have noticed in the writing of the poems are that [It was a Navy Boy] is written in the I form.
This shows straight away that the poet is an important part of the poem, having a slightly glamorous role, being referred to as sir. The boy also is seen as a glamorous character, having Strong silken limbs and a head golden like the oranges that catch their brightness from the Las Palmas sun A very different description to the old beggars under sacks, knock-kneed, coughing like hags In Dulce et Decorum Est The poem contains a lot of dialogue, which shows a meeting between the poet and the Navy Boy. Through the poem there is enough information for us to follow the conversation between the two characters that feature.
Towards the end in the penultimate stanza we gain some valuable information about the poet, he has been cleansed of his cowardice whilst having his conversation, and he gained courage from this to enlist himself, for the onslaught of war. In the two other poems there is no dialogue and with the exception of the description of the soldier who was gassed there are no other characters throughout the poems. Another difference between the three poems is the structure and the way they are written. The first poem has its stanzas written in a pattern form with a regular structure, which repeats itself nine times.
Each section contains four lines. This makes the poem a little tedious and repetitive, which could lead the reader to lose interest rather quickly. This could also happen due to the lack of variation in pace or creative vocabulary to paint really clear pictures in the readers head. The second poem, Anthem for Doomed Youth, is written in two stanzas of differing length. The first contains eight lines, and the second only six. This is very similar to the sonnets as they were written in a very similar form. The rhyme scheme also is more varied than the first poem with its repetitive scheme.
This helps the reader to hold interest as there is less repetitiveness altogether. The vocabulary is also much more descriptive and words used to provide vivid impact upon the reader. Dulce et Decorum Est, is, I believe, the most interesting and exciting poem of the three. It is written in four stanzas. (The poem in some publications is shown to have only three as the third stanza is tacked on the end of the second making it all one. ) In the edition I am analysing there are four stanzas. This is believed by most to be the better way of presenting it. The first stanza contains seven lines.
They are all roughly of equal length, with no lines of only a few words and none spreading across the page. This equal line method is apparent throughout the poem, in all four stanzas. Stanza two has slightly fewer lines with six (or eight depending on the edition), this is an important section of the poem as it describes briefly but graphically the gas attack, which killed one of the men. The third stanza has only two lines, In all my dreams, before my helpless sight, / He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning. These two lines are of great importance and create great impact in the poem.
The final stanza is the longest of the four (three) it contains twelve lines and concludes and wraps up the whole poem. The final two lines, The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est, / Pro patria mori, meaning it is good and sweet to die for your country really sum up the poem and in fact Owens very negative view on war. The three poems which I have compared and contrasted, fall into two groups, pro-war and Anti-war. The first poem [It was a navy boy] is a very pro war poem. It was perhaps inspired by Owens decision to join the army and was aimed at others who he hoped would follow him.
The second and third poems of which I have referred, Anthem for doomed youth and Dulce et Decorum est, are both anti war, the latest being more against war. These were inspired by Owens changed view on war as he had witnessed the awful sights and sounds of front line combat. It is almost as if he needs to emphasis that the innocence he portrayed in the first poem was a mistaken and bore no resemblance to the true reality of the horror of death in war. The poem I personally preferred was the most recently composed, Dulce et decorum Est.
When Owen wrote this he was more experienced and had a clear view on what he was writing. The other two for me, particularly [It was a navy boy] was too long and overly repetitive, although some of the imagery created from the words used in Anthem for doomed youth was very impressive. When Owen died at a young age, his friend Siegfried Sassoon was responsible for publishing his work. He may have made some minor alterations to them, yet the large majority of the work was without doubt that of one of the greatest World War One poets that ever lived.