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Analysing War Poetry

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    Introduction: Poetry is a way to express opinions and ideas and this can often be more effectively achieved through song. Analysing a poem or song lyrics involves explaining the subject matter, identifying and discussing the impact of using poetic devices and commenting on the mood created. Analysis: The Hero – Siegfried Sassoon ‘The Hero’ by Siegfried Sassoon tells a story of an officer who is sent to inform and console a mother of a fallen soldier, her son. The poem is split into three stanzas, each sharing a diverse viewpoint of what has occurred.

    The first stanza focuses on the mother’s glowing pride as she’s convinced that her brave son is a hero of war, which comforts her a little from the obvious misery portrayed. The last phrase in this stanza supporting this is: ‘She half looked up. ‘We mothers are so proud – of our dead soldiers. ’ Then her face was bowed’. The author has described that this is a common event and many families have suffered a similar fate. The second stanza leads away from the heartfelt beginning with the line ‘He’d told the poor old dear some gallant lies’.

    This causes confusion within the readers’ minds as it becomes evident that there is more depth to the story than the first stanza implied. It also indicates that the Officer may want to not only shield the family but also protect the reputation of the Armed Forces. The metaphor ‘her weak eyes had shone with gentle triumph’ states that the emotional woman’s expression was full of honour and nobility. In the third stanza, the poem concentrates plainly on the Officer and his memories of the lady’s son, Jack. He reflects on how Jack was not actually the brave, glorious soldier as described to his mother.

    Many soldiers hoped to get a ‘Blighty wound’, which was an injury serious enough to require recovery away from the trenches but not to the extent of death or permanent damage. The phrase, ‘Went up at Wicked Corner; how he’d tried – To get sent home, and how, at last, he died’, suggests that, along with many other soldiers, he was desperate to detach himself from his binding and rueful commitment to war, which is commonly seen as cowardly. This poem makes the title seem ironic, because Jack was not a true hero, except in the eyes of his misguided mother.

    The various poetic devices used by the author make the poem effective because it creates imagery, makes the poem more entertaining and reinforces the message. The poem ‘Hero’ by Siegfried Sassoon is an effective representation of war because it underlines the misconception that war prevails, describing the horrors of war – tragedy, loss and human cost. Analysis: Pro Patria by Owen Seaman In comparison to the previous poem, ‘Pro Patria’ by Owen Seaman shares a different view of war. The language used throughout the poem indicates that the author is speaking about patriotism.

    He describes how it is fitting to die for ones country. His deliberate use of vocabulary encourages readers to feel as though, they too, must do what they can for their country. For example, the patriotism is obvious in the line ‘Where Honour calls you, go you must’; that there is a higher honour that calls you to join the war. Using a capital for the word ‘Honour’ in the poem suggests that it is a metaphor for England. It is suggesting that the whole country is calling on individuals to do what is right for their nation.

    This is clearly in sharp contrast to the first poem where a soldier takes his own life because he experienced the horrors of war and could not cope with the realities of being a soldier. This message is not one that the Armed Forces would like to become common knowledge, as it is certainly not patriotic to be a coward in wartime. The most effective poetic device that Owen Seaman uses in his poem is rhyme. The whole poem follows an ABAB rhyming structure, which works really well in capturing and engaging the audience.

    Other poetic devices can be found throughout this rhyming structure that creates a deeper meaning. This poem is a strong representation of war because of the patriotism it demonstrates, but not as authentic as ‘The Hero’ by Siegfried Sassoon. Analysis: War – Edwin Starr Song, like poetry, is an extremely effective way to express opinions and ideas. ‘War’ by Edwin Starr is not only well known because of its catchy melody, but also because of its captivating message. It was written in the late 1960s as an anti-Vietnam war protest song.

    It was and still is a popular song that entertains and inspires large worldwide audiences and for that reason, its message about the pointlessness of war influences millions. To convey his message, Starr used many poetic devices in the lyrics of his song. Repetition is the most obvious poetic device used. The chorus of this song is short and consists of simplistic words, yet is repeated 16 times throughout and carries a blatantly strong message; that there is nothing good about war. Another device used is rhyme.

    The verses do not have a set rhyming structure with the exception of the first verse, which is ABACADAE. The number of syllables in each line also helps the rhyming of the song flow smoothly. Apart from just the literacy aspect of the song, the musical feature of the song is just as important. This includes the instruments used, the vocals and how well it all fits together. The mood that Edwin Starr chose for the song is quite effective, because most war songs tend to be somber. The song is not as effective as either of the previous poems in its representation of war, because it lacks the depth and detail.

    It does, however, contain a message that is constantly reinforced and widely heard and believed. Poster Analysis During times of war, propaganda posters were just as effective as poems and songs, if not more. They were used to convey simple messages. Some communicated information to the families about saving rations, but most were dedicated to the recruitment of soldiers to join the war effort. The poster above was used by the British Army in World War 1. The aim of this poster is to capture attention long enough for the audience to comprehend the full message. ‘Halt! is an order to viewers to stop and read the message. It is a play on words because ‘Halt! Who goes there? ’ is a common command used in the Armed Forces, it is therefore immediately clear that this is a war poster. Patriotism is used to encourage and convince those that are fit and able to join the army, for example using the phrase ‘British Ranks’. It is almost an insult to those who are not at war, because it states ‘help the brave lads’ which suggests that only soldiers battling for their country are brave and deliberately makes those who have not yet joined feel guilty.

    The poster uses an image of an armed soldier and capatalised text to capture its target audience of young men eligible to enlist. The text is quick and easy to read and the use of various fonts and sizes mean its message is conveyed clearly. The image is just as successful in snatching the attention of the audience. The angle that the picture is taken from makes the armed soldier appear heroic and ready for action to defend his country. The predominantly brown colours used indicate the colour of the army uniform and the yellow of sunrise or sunset suggests vigilance and commitment to duty at all hours.

    The white text stands out and is highlighted against the brown background. The above poster is successful in its representation of war because of the language used, the font and size of text, the appropriate selection of a relevant image to support the text and the colours used for effect. Conclusion: Written and visual language communicates information in a variety of formats. Poetry is one way to express thoughts and beliefs but this can also quite easily be achieved through song.

    Whatever the genre, analysis involves explaining the subject matter and identifying then discussing the impact of using poetic devices or figurative language. Commenting on the mood created is also important. The selection of poems, song and poster for this analysis are all effective in their own way as a representation of war. There are always many aspects, emotions and differing opinions involved in any wartime periods and authors express their views using their preferred method.

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