John Scott and Wilfred Owen

What we have just witnessed, due war in Iraq, is that war is devastating, horrific and most of all timeless. The people involved and soldiers fighting at the battle scene can only ever witness the cruel reality of war, but they can tell you that it never changes. As we have gathered from recent documentaries exposing what really happened in Iraq, we can never truly trust everything the media tells us. It has always been this way. Media has for centuries and still clouds our judgment with propaganda and we can never really understand how horrific war is.

The world will never know how many Iraqis died in the war to oust Saddam Hussein, in part because the United States adamantly refuses to estimate the number of people it kills in combat and because gathering accurate numbers is all but impossible after the Iraqi government’s chaotic collapse. And in part because these murders were barely ever reported in the news, even though every American and English death was broadcasted and printed. This information is relevant even to over a hundred years ago, as the truth was not exposed then either.

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All we will ever see is the sugar coated glorious image of war, which has been created and moulded over hundreds of years by propaganda. In many wars This concealment of the truth began the writing of some of the most influential war poets. Soldiers who had once been proud and joyous in believing that they were dong a brave and honourable job now contained bitterness and anger. They wrote anti-war poems, which were not allowed to be published for years after they were written, expressing their emotions and telling the true story of war. One of these poets was called John Scott.

He was born in Amwell in 1730 and died in 1783. He was of the Quaker religion and was a pacifist. He was completely against propaganda poets. He also wrote one of the most famous anti-war poems ever written, ‘The Drum’ during the civil war. We immediately know what Scott’s feelings about war are- he hates it. ‘I hate that drums discordant sound’. He uses and alliteration, ‘drums discordant’, this is effective as it adds a beat to the poem. Even the rhythm of the poem is drum-like, as seen in the repetition of the word ’round’. This has a hypnotic effect, just like the drum was to new recruits.

Scott is bitter about the drum and criticises its ability to hypnotise young men, as seen in the phrase,’ To thoughtless youth it pleasure yields. ‘ The poet is saying that the drum almost takes advantage of the young men. The next two lines, ‘To sell their liberty for charms, of tawdry lace, and glittering arms. ‘ are suggesting that was takes your freedom for something material and worthless, the uniform and the weapons. The poet’s thoughts here are that what may seem exciting and a chance to be a hero, is really taking your freedom and life.

Scott uses the words ‘tawdry’, ‘charms’, and ‘glittering’ to create an image of honour and glamour, the opposite of what war really is. Scott feels that the ambition to have these worthless positions is driving young men to fight in the war rather than the want to protect and die for their country. ‘When Ambition’s voice commands’. This contrasts with another poem by a poet named Wilfred Owen who said, he believed that young recruits join because they are led to believe the lie, ‘Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori’, sweet and grand to die for ones country.

Scott repeats,’ I hate that drum’s discordant sound, Parading round, and round, and round’. This use of repetition shows just how much he detests war. He goes on to show this by describing his vision of war,’ ravag’d plains’, ‘mangled limbs’, and ‘widows’ tears’, though he never fought himself. This imagery is used to describe war to people who can’t see past propaganda. In the final two lines he sums up just how heartbreaking the aftermath of war is by telling us that war is just misery, ‘all that Misery’s hand bestows’, and it causes such disasters and tragedies that it is enough to ‘fill the catalogue of human woes. Another One of these poets, who I mentioned earlier, was a man named Wilfred Owen. He was born on March 18, 1893. He was teaching on the Continent until he visited a hospital for the wounded and then decided, in September 1915, to return to England and enlist in the army. Owen was injured in March 1917 and sent home; he was fit for duty in August 1918, and returned to the front. November 4, just seven days before the Armistice, he was caught in a German machine gun attack and killed. He was twenty-five when he died, but is still known as the writer of one the most powerful war poems ever written; Dulce Et Decorum Est.

The first stanza of ‘Dulce Et Decorum Est’ is very quiet. He showed this by using words such as ‘deaf’ and describing ‘gas-shells dropping softly behind’. Owen wrote this stanza using the words ‘we’ and ‘our’, showing that Owen was involved in the war and this incident. We see that the soldier’s main aim is to get to safety, and not to defend their country, as they are numb with the experience of the war. We see that they are ‘marching asleep’, so they are vulnerable to attacks, and are not ready to defend themselves, as they are ‘drunk with fatigue’.

Punctuation is constantly used to make the stanza seem longer, and to extend the pauses between the lines. This is used to show how long it takes the men to get back to safety, and how fatigued the soldiers are. The second stanza is quite different to the first, as it is full of action. We see the use of small words, monosyllables, to make the stanza seem quicker. This effect is used to communicate the quickness of what’s going on, and how the pace has changed dramatically from the first stanza. We are dropped immediately into action with the soldiers, in the middle of the action. ‘Gas! GAS! Quick, boys! the use of direct speech suggests the strong pulse of the action. The dash linking the two short phrases together creates a pause, signifying the soldiers frantically getting their gasmasks on. ‘Clumsy helmets’ is a transferred epithet as the helmets are not really ‘clumsy’ but the soldiers try to fit the heavy helmets clumsily amidst the chaos. The word ‘ecstasy’, which is usually a word used when a person is happy, describes their sudden madness and desperation as they fight for their lives and prepare for the gas attack. The use of ‘ecstasy’ and ‘fumbling’ is also a very effective way of showing of how dormant their life was.

Wilfred Owen uses a lot graphic vocabulary in ‘Dulce Et Decorum Est’. He wrote, ‘Floundering like a man in fire or lime,’ and ‘he plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning. ‘ to describe the suffering of a fellow soldier. After this he describes the rest of the gruesome death in detail, and uses metaphors, ‘under a green sea, I saw him drowning’. He uses vivid imagery to give us a true picture of decay, rotting and illness. He also incorporates militaristic vocabulary, including words such as ‘flares’, ‘gas shells’ to reflect what he’s portraying and to add more to the depth of the poem.

In the third stanza Owen says, ‘smothering dreams’, this shows that Owen thought war was so terrible that he could hardly believe it was real. He also uses vivid imagery, ‘gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs’ and ‘Bitter as the cud’ to describe how disgusting a death this was. He also uses irony in one of the final lines, ‘My friend, you would not tell with such high zest, to children ardent for some desperate glory’. Sarcastically Owen calls the pro-war poet Jessie Pope ‘my friend’. Referred to, as a friend will not offend the pro-war poet yet it shows their responsibility to tell the truth and their unfavourable effect on the youth.

The word ‘Children’ applies to the young soldiers enrolling to fight in the war to show their respect to authority and to their country. ‘Desperate glory’ implies the vulnerability of the youth and their enthusiasm for the war. Previous passages show in graphic detail the truth about glory and the bitterness faced by the youth. These two lines alone express Owens’s incredibly bitter emotions towards the war and show that suffering could have been lessened if the ignorance of pro-war poets, such as Jessie Pope, was less cruel.

Pope was one of the more popular, jingoistic, pro-war, propaganda poets and wrote the poem ‘The Call’. This poem is a fine example of typical poems written around this time to manipulate young men. In this poem she uses rhetorical questions, ‘Who’s for the trench? Are you, my laddie? ‘ to encourage readers and make the poem seen more upbeat and casual, although at the end of each stanza she asks a question which implies that a man is a coward and disloyal to his country if he does not enrol.

This use of manipulation resulted in many reluctant men going off, leaving their families and homes, to fight in a war that many of them didn’t even believe in. The sight of some of these mindless poems led to other poets writing about other ways in which the government encouraged men. I think that Wilfred Owen’s account of portrayal of war in ‘Dulce Et Decorum Est’ is more effective in exposing the reality of war, as he himself played a role in it. He was able to tell us first hand about the death of one of his fellow soldiers.

Although I do feel that Scott’s poem was effective as it criticized the government’s lies in propaganda. He also showed that war is not about ‘charms’,’tawdry lace’ and ‘glittering arms’, but more about suffering, pain and death. As we can see both these poems have a clear image of war, and the effects of war, even though they were writing over a hundred years apart. This is evidence that even today, especially in places like America and England, concerning the war on Iraq, we are manipulated by propaganda. And many people do still believe the old lie; Dulce et decorum est Pro patria mori.