By means of Analysis of Tone, Style and Theme, illustrate a range of attitudes to war in 20th Century Poetry

I have decided to write my War Poetry Coursework on the two poems that I thought to be the best, because I think that they give the most powerful comments and experiences on war. The poems I have chosen to write about are ‘Futility’ and ‘They’. ‘Futility’ was written by an unknown person who has fought in the First World War. In this poem, the poet is looking towards the suns power and what it has done in the world and how one man has relied on it for so long. Futility has two verses; each verse has seven lines containing a quadrien made up of two cuplets and a triplet at the end of the verse.

This poem is not a sonnet. The meaning of the title Futility is meaningless or pointless, this may refer to the war, as so many people died, nearly one soldier every four seconds and for almost no reason at all. In the fourth line of the poem we are told that the war is in France and that the poem is set in the trenches. The poem is about a soldier who has died in the trenches during the war, we are told this in line six, this is indicated in lines five and six and we are led to believe that he has frozen to death during the night.

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In the first line of the poem it says ‘Move him into the sun,’ we assume it is someone with authority that gives this order, he wants the man moved into the suns heat as it might bring him around. We are lead to believe that it might be a farmer that has died as it says of how he is looking forward to going to do work on his farm, and the poem also says about his life is still ahead of him when he says ‘fields unsown,’ is also a metaphor. In line five it says until, this indicates that the sun as woke him up every morning until now. In the poem it mentions the snow a lot, this is a metaphor for winter frost or even death.

In line seven it says ‘The kind old sun will know’ is a personification as it is spoken of though a friend of man. In The second verse the poet talks more about sun and what it does. The first thing the sun does is bring up seeds ever spring without fail, once millions of years ago it created life on earth, it refers to this in line twelve, this is an allusion, it is a reference to5the bible, Genesis CH 2 verse 7 is an example of an allusion. Also in line twelve the poet also asks a rhetorical question ‘ Was it for this the clay grew tall,’ the meaning of this is that was man created only to die.

In line thirteen the poet also says what as the point in the creation of life on earth if it ends in death. I feel that this poem is very depressing in that the poet asks so many questions about how life can end. I will now look at the second poem I have chosen ‘They’, it was written by an unknown person who has fought in the First World War. This poem is about a Bishop who tells the soldier who go out to war that when they come back they will not be the same. They has two verses, the first verse is spoken by the Bishop and the second verse is mostly spoken by the soldiers.

The Bishops words are full of noble thoughts. The poem is structured into two verses. The second verse contains a comment on the content of the first verse. The soldiers are commenting about what the Bishop said. In the first verse the first words the Bishop said was untruthful as he says things will have changed for the better for the soldiers, the Bishop is implying that they will have changed mentally and spiritually as they will have fought against the anti-christ, (the German soldiers), and they will come back noble and honourable.

They will have faced death and that it will be a challenge for them to overcome. Death is an example of a personification in the poem. The Bishop could be saying this as it is before the war has begun and is giving the soldiers a pep talk, to get them synced up and give them a bit of encouragement. It could also be that the soldiers are at the front and trying to give them encouragement. The soldiers reply to what the Bishop says by saying ‘We’re none of us the same!

‘For George lost both his legs; and Bills stone blind; Poor Jim’s shot through the lungs and like to die; And Bert ‘s gone syphilitic:’ and they also say not one person hasn’t seen a difference, the soldiers are implying that they did not expect this kind of change to there lives, they though it would be spiritually or something like that. The Bishop replies that ‘The ways of God are strange,’ this is a general statement that does not address the problem but contains universal truth. The Bishops words are truer than he realised, but there truth is not what he meant at all.