The poems of Owen, Sassoon and Binyon

Sassoon and Owen both hate the war, and they use their poems to reflect this. While Sassoon’s hate is personal as it is mostly directed towards the Officers of World War I. Binyon, however, validates the death and destruction of the war with counter balancing praise, remembrance and thanksgiving. During WWI Sassoon trained men, many of whom probably didn’t make it to the end of the war, as the survival rate for ordinary soldiers was very low, only a couple of weeks, but in contrast the survival rate of Officers was higher, probably because they didn’t take the same risks as the soldiers.

Sassoon couldn’t stand that, and wrote these poems to bring to light the cowardice of the Officers. In doing so he got himself into trouble, as it would have been very damaging for the war effort if anyone were to read these poems. He did end up in hospital where he met Wilfred Owen. They became friends and Sassoon encouraged Owen to write his poetry against the war changing his idealistic and romantic style. Although Sassoon survived the war it must have been upsetting to hear of his friend, Owens’s, death, and the fact that he survived the war while so many perished under his training must have seemed a bitter blow.

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Owen was a tender, sensitive poet before he met Sassoon, and he was an Officer. However he was sent to a hospital suffering from shell shock, where he met Sassoon, and changed his style. Unlike Sassoon he didn’t have any hatred for the Officers of the war, but most of his poems are about his personal memories from the war, all the deaths he witnessed in the many varieties of ways. Sassoon uses his poem ‘Base Details’ to criticize the Officers. Sassoon’s poem ‘Base Details’ is an unusual poem in that it is a description of the Officers that Sassoon hated so much from the point of view of an Officer.

Even that makes it seem like the Officers had no strength of character, courage or valour as if they cannot do anything themselves but rely on others, and in this case Sassoon. Sassoon shows us what they are to him, what he thinks the criteria for an Officer is. Basically a group of cowardly, weak, gutless and may I add ugly men, who do not fight the plans they work out, do not care about their men and are completely insincere. “If I were fierce, and bald, and short of breath” ” . . . speed glum heroes up the line to death” “You’d see me with my puffy petulant face, Guzzling and gulping in the best hotel” . . . “‘Poor young chap,’ I’d say – ‘I used to know his father well; Yes we’ve lost heavily in this last scrap. ‘” In this poem the Officer doesn’t even realise that he is such a detestable man, and his unawareness adds to his grotesqueness. Even the “Base” part of the title suggests three separate meanings: the army term, the bottom of something and the dirty details of something. In this poem Sassoon uses all three, but the non-obvious dirty detail one mostly. He is giving the ‘dirt’ on the army, what is at the core, ” the men who run the show are spineless”, what the army would try to cover up.

They are miles away living in luxury when they are supposed to be out in the field giving orders, taking risks. For Sassoon, an Officer’s job is to “speed glum heroes up the line to death”, These Officers must obviously buy their way into the army as they are ‘short of breath’ and so unfit, bad-tempered, and don’t take part in the fighting, they get others to do their dirty work. They can’t have risen above the ordinary soldiers; they do not deserve to be in the army. They are ‘scarlet majors’, red in the face like the stereotypical bald, short-tempered, fierce, short of breath men.

They are unacceptable, as a scarlet woman is, hid away from the public and from the army as they sit in their base all day devising new attack plans and drinking in comfort, “Guzzling and gulping in the best hotel”, while the men whose lives are in their hands are sleeping in filthy trenches knee-deep in mud, or crawling back from no man’s land fatally wounded having to sit in agony slowly dying, or watching life long friends dying from gangrene or worse. The Officers inflict that pain, suffering and torture on the men under them.

Sassoon finds them hypocrites, they are the men that say they run the army, trying to win the war effort for England, but what point does it have if there is so much pain and suffering that it is irreversible and therefore they end up crippling England even more than ever. They give the orders while tucked away from the battlefield in no immediate danger, when they should be out there taking the same risks as their soldiers, following the orders that they make up. They are the ones who try to cover up Sassoon’s poem, hiding the truth, because they know it is the truth.

Hypocrites, all of them. They talk about the war so casually, “that last scrap”. How dare they. If they only knew, if they only guessed, if they only did something about it then they might know something and how to actually help the war effort. No it wasn’t a scrap it was a huge, whopping great battle where thousands of men who all had led lives and who all had had families and who all had had the daring to believe in something bigger than them and fight for it with their lives; King, country, God. The Iambic pentameters show that this is made using good old English style.

Perhaps Sassoon is making a mockery of the English for having being proud of this war, or of the army. These ‘men’ are not leaders in the army; they ‘toddle’, which describes them as fat and childish, useless and wasted from drink. They are a joke, they are the mockery. Their ‘puffy petulant’ faces, ‘Guzzling and gulping’ they are making a meal out of the soldiers, and they alliteration helps to emphasise it. The first line is punctuated with too many commas, giving the effect of someone out of breath, as indeed Sassoon’s Officer would be, and is described as.

The image of war, the production of war ‘line to death’; that’s what it turned out to be. The last sentence and the contrast between the rhyming couplet, the only rhyming couplet making it stand out all the more: ‘dead’ and ‘bed’. The last statement: short staccato, almost all single syllable and the all-important hyphen showing the major difference between the Officers and the soldiers, creating the division line between them. ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ is one of Owen’s early works, and serves as example to the immediate impact Sassoon had on his poetry, it was addressed to Jessie Pope, one of the people then that still supported the war.

It is a poem attacking on the consciences of those that still supported the war. Owen’s poem ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ shows us a glimpse of a routine march. The soldiers are weary and it is most probable that they have been relieved from the front and are making their way back to a camp some miles away. ” . . . haunting fares we turned our backs And towards our distant rest began to trudge” Their weariness is soon forgotten as there is a gas attack. One man doesn’t manage to fit his helmet on time, and Owen watches as that man slowly and painfully loses his life by breathing in the gas.

This horrific experience is etched on to Owen’s brain and he rebukes those that support the war and tell “The old Lie: Dulce et Decorum Est/ Pro patria mori. “: it is a sweet and proper thing to die for ones country. Owen uses it ironically. The first stanza introduces the reader to the extreme condition of the soldiers as they marched, and thus what life at war and in the trenches did to the men. Is this our brave lads at war? , as so many thought like. “Bent double, like old beggars under sacks, Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge” “Men marched asleep.

Many had lost their boots But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame, all blind;” The misery of the men indicates the intensity of Owen’s feelings, “All went lame, all blind”, these men were not actually lame and blind but these strength of words stress the condition of the men and the power of Owen’s feelings. The second, shorter stanza deals with the gas attack. It is unexpected and the second exclamation of gas is in capital letters, as if the first time the tiredness affects the ability of the soldiers to act quickly, or that fact that there is gas has only just sunk in.

An ecstasy of fumbling” the excitement, fear and fatigue all rolled into one as the men hurry to cover their faces with their gas masks. He had thought that all his men had made it in time, but one man, only one didn’t. As Owen describes the man surrounded by the gas it is with sad detachment “And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime . . . Dim through the misty panes and thick green light, As under a green sea, I saw him drowning. Then the next short, isolated stanza tells of Owen’s personal reaction to this: “In all my dreams, before my helpless sight, He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning. ”

In many of Owen’s poem’s he tries to convey the helplessness of war “before my helpless sight”, as does Sassoon. Owen will never forget things like that. In the forth stanza Owen addresses the reader and asks them whether they have experienced this, whether they could know what it is like, do they know the feeling? Owen feel very bitter, about how some people praised the war, about how some people dismiss the war as nothing, even about how some people will never have to see what he has seen. He knows what the war is and he is disgusted, he even describes the devil as sick of it, “like a devil’s sick of sin”.

Owen wants to know that if we could see what he has seen, would we still sing the same tune, would we commend the war instead of condemning it as he does? “If on some smothering dreams you too could pace Behind the wagon that we flung him in, And watch the white eyes writhing in his face” “If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs . . . My friend, you would not tell with such high zest . . . The old Lie: Dulce et Decorum est Pro patria mori” The rhythm throughout the poem at first is slow and tired, but at the second stanza it immediately quickens.

Also the rhythm prevents the rhyming quatrains from working, parallel to the war and how messed up it was. The sounds and sights that Owen experiences are illustrated by many things such as the alliteration of “knock-kneed”, and the setting made by the “haunting flares” in the background. In the third stanza the adjectives overwhelm and come thick and fast, more and more describing what Owen saw, as if he couldn’t think of enough vile words to describe it with – “obscene”, “hanging”, “froth-corrupted” and “vile, incurable”.

Owen will never forget, men like this die all the time, one soldier doesn’t matter, but Owen will never forget. Maybe that is more of a memorial than Binyon’s poem, as it tells it like it is. Binyon’s poem ‘For the Fallen (September 1914) was written early on in the war and is a valedictory poem. Written when most people thought that the war would be finished before Christmas. So this poem tells a completely different story to Sassoon’s and Owen’s. Binyon had not been at the front, and didn’t have much of an idea of what it was like, but the general feeling was that this war was necessary.

The poem opens with a mood that is one of sadness, a memory of those who had died already. The idea that they had died for England, and it had been worth it “With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children England mourns for her dead across the sea. Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit, Fallen in the cause of the free” For Binyon it is worth dying for country, because their reason was just and they will not be forgotten as they are like children of England. All these positive images of motherly love and memory, for Binyon at least, counter balance the death and destruction.

He tries to honour the dead with his words, and offer them comfort which he cannot claim to give because they are dead now. He talks about how they went to battle, how they made us proud “They went with songs to the battle, they were young, . . . They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted. They fell with their faces to the foe. ” Then his poem says that they will be remembered as they were, and the mood changes to nostalgia. Those who died are remembered as straight, tall and true to their country.

Because they are dead now that is how they are remembered, age will not change them, and they will always be remembered. They are above all the worldly things, they are in heaven for Binyon, and nothing can hurt them. Then he compares them to the stars, as they remain unchanged so do those men, as they remain in the sky so do the men and as they remain shining their own light so will those men; always remembered. “As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust, Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain, As the stars that are starry in the time of out darkness,

To the end, to the end, they remain” Alliteration in the first stanza of ‘ff’ highlights certain important words in the poem such as “free”: so that we remember why these men died, and in the third stanza the alliteration matches with “fell with their faces to the foe” reminding of their honourable death. This is what’s most important to Binyon, and why we must remember them. Binyon wrote this poem so that people would read it and remember so it has achieved that desired effect, but I think that it is not very poetic and only made me serve to dislike those who praised the war more.

I much prefer Owen’s ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’, I think that it is a powerful and moving poem, and it’s true, and that it a scary thought. I think that Sassoon’s and Owen’s poems both have more substance than Binyon’s. Binyon is too simple and clichi?? , too optimistic and too nai?? ve Binyon’s attitude was one of praise and remembrance for those who died, while both Owen and Sassoon disagree with the war in general. They both see that war as a squander of lives. But it is different for them because they experienced terrible things while Binyon has never been at the front at this point at this early stage in the war.

Sassoon and Owen feel that they cannot forget the things they have seen and refuse to not be heard. By writing their poems they have created a voice, and one which was widely agreed with near the end of the war. They feel bitter while Binyon feels quite prepared to accept the war and honour the dead along the way. I think that Owen and Sassoon realise their feelings and analyse their feelings inside their poems, going through their most horrific memories, and sharing them with us is special. However I don’t think Binyon has felt the pain the war brought with it, he just rhymes off what it is supposed to be about, what he thinks it is about.