Poetry Comparison and Contrast

Poetry Comparison and Contrast

Poetry on war and battles usually has a distinctively upbeat and lively tone even at moments when men are about to face danger and death - Poetry Comparison and Contrast introduction. Both Wilfred Owen’s “Dulce et Decorum Est” (1917) and Walt Whitman’s “Beat! Beat! Drums!” (1861) capture the sonorous images of high emotions, patriotism and nervous apprehension of soldiers or people who are to engage or are actually engaging in a frenetic clash of arms. However, while “Beat! Beat! Drums!” focuses on the sentiments of the community at the preparation and rallying stage as a prelude to wartime, “Dulce et Decorum Est” depicts war as it actually rages on. As such, the first is marked by fear with hints of pride and optimism whilst the second is heavy with images of pain and death and a general disdain for violence. At any rate, both poems paint a dark picture of war and make admonitions on the negative effects of war on people and communities.

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“Beat! Beat! Drums!” starts out with punctuated lines of warning and fresh call to arms which are at once blaring and relentless (Lines 1-8). A sense of urgency is felt throughout the poem as people are startled by the bang of the drum and the blow of bugles signalling that war is at hand. The noise seeps into every corner of the community: “Through the windows—through doors—burst like ruthless force, into the solemn church” (2-3) and “Over the traffic of cities—over the rumble of wheels in the streets” (9). Alternatively, the poetry is a commentary on how news of war strikes terror into the hearts of the community since everyone is compelled to listen to the march of death, leaving “not the bridegroom quiet—no happiness must he have now with his bride” (5), “nor the peaceful farmer any peace” (6). Likewise, the terrible sounds of the drums and bugle drown out the dissenting voice of children and mothers who now “[they] lie awaiting the hearses” (20).

Similarly, “Dulce et Decorum Est” takes a long hard look at the senselessness and wasteful consequences of war. It starts with a brooding rhythm of reluctance and desperation as the soldiers slouch “bent double, like old beggars under sacks, knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge […] and towards our distant rest began to trudge” (Lines 1-3). It is apparent that the voice is weary and hesitant to take another step towards impending doom. However, the long trudge is broken off suddenly, yet again, by a loud cry of warning that danger is nigh: “Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time” (7-9). No sooner than the warning is heard, a soldier flounders “like a man in fire or lime…” (9) who thereafter fell in the trenches beside the helpless author. The author watches him die slowly through the soldier’s green set eyes—“Dim, through misty panes and thick green light, as under a green see, I saw him drowing” (10-11). In the end, the author once again questions the meaning of war. The poetry ends in the same fashion as “Beat! Beat! Drums!” with a stern criticism against blind patriotism and the terrible lie that is dulce et decorum est pro patria mori (15), or thusly: it is sweet and right to die for your country—when in truth it is never sweet neither ever right.


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