Compare and contrast Spring Offensive and Into Battle

In the poem, Into Battle, Grenfell describes the earth as ‘naked’. This would suggest that the world is free, perhaps from danger. It would seem that the world is unharmed and natural. This is a great contrast, as in fact, the world is not free from danger but being destroyed by bombs, due to the war. The word ‘naked’ also links to vulnerability, which is something that the world suffers from, due to the actions of mankind. Grenfell writes that ‘life is colour’, which portrays an image of love, optimism and happiness. The war, however is not like this at all.

It is dull, pessimistic and full of hatred. In reality, the war lacks colour, being surrounded only by the brown earth, black shells and the grey smoke. Grenfell then goes on to describe life as ‘warmth’, suggesting comfort. It also suggests motherly love, which is something that the soldiers are not receiving any longer in the war. The soldiers are experiencing coldness, as death and horrific events surround them, which is the opposite to Grenfells perceptions of life. The woodland trees are described as ‘each one a friend’. This tells us that nature is kind and helpful, offering protection.

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Grenfell has portrayed all of the trees as friends, no matter how different they are to each other. This is a great contrast, as humans are not acting as friends, but as enemies due to the war, even though they are still the same species. This idea is used again, when a blackbird and kestrel call each other ‘Brother’. This suggests companionship, kindness and support. Although they are different in some ways, they are both the same, so they show respect for each other, unlike humans, who are not acting as brothers. Grenfell uses the word ‘joy’ to describe the battle.

This makes the war seem like something that is fun. It portrays the war as if it is just a fun game and not life threatening. This is quite a boisterous and child-like view, which you would expect from someone who is ignorant and inexperienced of the war, not from some one who has fought. An experienced soldier would know that the war can kill and is full of many solemn days. Grenfell finishes the poem with ‘Night shall fold him in soft wings’. The word ‘fold’ is a very careful, caring and deliberate action, whilst the word soft gives gentle images. Doves have wings and are linked to peace.

This quotation suggests that the soldiers are safe and at peace, during the night. It links to death, as once dead, you are no longer in any danger. Swans keep cygnets in their wings, suggesting protection and new life. In Spring Offensive, Owen begins the poem with the soldiers at a ‘last hill’. This shows that the soldiers are exhausted and cannot take any more. It also suggests that they may be about to come to the end of their lives, and the hill will be the last one that they ever walk over. He then portrays the soldiers exhaustion, when ‘their feet had come to the end of the world’.

This shows how horrific the war is and to what extent that they are tired, as their feet are so worn out. The world does not really have an end, physically, but has been used here psychologically to show that not only the soldiers’ bodies are worn out, but their minds are too. Owen describes the spring as ‘murmurous with wasp and midge’. These are both seen as unwanted pests. They are both noisy insects that get in the way of every day chores and don’t seem to go away. This is a comparison to the war, which is also unwanted and noisy, and never seems to end.

Owen then tells us that the ‘summer oozed into their veins’. This is an incredibly slow movement, suggesting that the summer surrounds us unavoidably and smothers us. The summer is usually seen as a good season, but here, it is portrayed in a way that would suggest it is not wanted. The sky has a ‘mysterious glass’, which reminds us that we are unaware of what is above us. The sky is watching over us and can see all that is happening. It links to God and seems to question faith, as he is supposed to help people, but in this case, he is not, as there is a war taking place.

Owen uses brambles to show nature acting as families of the soldiers at war, who do not want them to go, when they ‘clung to them like sorrowing arms’. These could also be the arms of the wounded soldiers, pleading for help from the soldiers who have not been injured. The soldiers are ‘Exposed’ to danger and bombs in the war, suggesting that everything is in sight and nothing can be hidden. It proves that nature, no matter how good it is, cannot protect us from death. Entering the war is written as though you are about to ‘enter hell’.

The war is a terrible thing, where many awful crimes are committed by millions of people, such as killing. This act would usually send you to hell, but the soldiers have no choice but to murder people. Hell links to fire, which would be common in a war, due to the bombs. Owen shows that one must have ‘superhuman inhumanities’ to survive in the war. Soldiers need to be better than normal at something if they have any chance of survival. In this case they need to be able to kill successfully to enable that they are not killed themselves. Owen shows how it is almost impossible to survive the battlefield, through this quotation.

He also describes the war as being full of ‘immemorial shames’, suggesting that the war is full of unforgivable things that you have to do. In conclusion, it is evident that Grenfell has used spring to portray the war as a heroic and enjoyable event. He does not show the realities of the battlefield, as Owen does. Spring Offensive is very different, as spring has been used to show the extent of the horrors that take place. It shows that the war is not glorious or adorable, like Grenfell views it to be. In my view, I prefer Spring Offensive as I feel that it portrays the war realistically, without avoiding detail.