Text Response: War Poetry Dulce et Decorum est by Wilfred Owen and Homecoming by Bruce Dawe are about the disaster of war, yet they speak of different wars with different mindsets of the soldiers. In the following essay I discuss the history behind the poems, the poetic devices that Owen and Dawe used. Each poem addresses their own truths about war. The first poem is from WW1 where ignorance was common, so common that boys of only 17 years were signing up for “the adventure of a life time”“.
The “adventure” turned out to be later known as the Great War, which shook families for generations, and its dark tendrils still reaching out today. The battles were bigger, the death counts were unnecessarily high; and the artillery was bigger and better than anything that generation has ever seen. However, in the second poem, things were different; it was set in the Vietnam War. The Vietnam War was 37 years after WW1 but the population still held onto the fear that it brought as the survivors, if you can even call them that, were still alive and so were their horrors.
The government tried conscriptions, which backfired on them greatly. Protests started and the people were standing up against the war. The battles may have been fought by soldiers, but the war was played by politicians. This war showed that it didn’t bring disgrace to your family if you didn’t fight, but rather showed your ability to keep up what the politicians were spouting; and in some cases if you went to war people would disrespect you for that choice. The history behind these two poems are overwhelmed with war and all its horrors.
There are numerous poetic devices used in Dulce et Decorum est and Homecoming, that were all used effectively to ingrain the poet’s message into audience. Dawe uses a lot of repetition especially the words ‘they’re’,’ing’ words and ‘them’ (in stanza 1, lines 1-6). This helps with the pace of the poem and makes the poem flows a lot better. Both the poems use imagery throughout, especially Homecoming. When Dawe says ‘the steaming chow mein’ (Line 11) that can be related back to the weather and conditions of Vietnam at that time. Dawe also uses imagery, in the example ‘they’re zipping them up in green plastic bags’ (stanza 1, line 4).
This gives the audience the ability to picture the horror of the green plastic bags the bodies of the young Australians were taking residence in. Dulce et Decorum est included, imagery, which is present throughout the whole poem and is used to its full effect. In stanza 2, lines 11-15, Owen has used imagery to convey that someone didn’t manage to fit the gas mask in time. Instead of the ‘drunk with fatigue’ (stanza 1, line 7) that was mentioned to place the picture of a staggering man into the minds of the audience, a different sort of drunk is instilled.
Where the man is ‘stumbling, and flound’ring’ (stanza 2, lines 11-12) this indicates a more lively drunk, or as the poem indicates, a man on fire; which is exactly what the poisonous gas is like. Drowning in fire, drowning in the gaze of your comrades. Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light, As under a green sea, I saw him drowning. (Stanza 2, lines 13-14) this is another powerful display of imagery. The green sea represents the gas that the man would have been consumed by, that had him drowning in.
He would have been struggling to breathe because of either the chlorine or phosgene gas, which produces the symptoms of someone drowning; i. e. choking, making guttural sounds. These techniques helps the reader to really visual what’s happening in the poem. Also the green sea portrays the view through the gas masks. These gas masks which have green eye lens, which means the man was suffering through dying in gaze of his comrades, as they looked upon him through green lens; he drwoned in the green of their masks.
Both poems speak of the message that war is terrible and a waste of good, young men. they’re bring them home, now, too late, too early (stanza 1, line 25), this shows Dawe’s meaning of the waste of war because the soldiers are being brought home too late, since they were tragically killed in the battles they valiantly fought for. Also they were robbed of their lives, their lives to come, as many of the soldiers were fresh faced individuals who didn’t deserve to die. In Dulce et Decorum est Owen displays his hatred of war by stating ‘my friend, you would not tell with such high zest to children ardent for some desperate glory, the old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est’ (stanza 5, lines 25-28).
This means you wouldn’t tell children with such enthusiasm that it is sweet and right to die for your country, cause you wouldn’t wish the horrors of war on to anyone; let alone children. Wilfred Owen died on the 4th of November 1918, never knowing how moving his poem would become. Fortunately, Bruce Dawe was able to witness his poem had. They both used poetic devices expertly, but with two very different anticipated outcomes from the use of them.