Recruiting and Joining the Colours

Both ‘Recruiting’ (by Mackintosh) and ‘Joining the Colours’ (by Hinkson) are poems describing the effect of propaganda in WWI and the attitude of soldiers during 1914. However, the two poets used different techniques to express the message they are trying to give. ‘Recruiting’ is an anti-propaganda poem which provides the reader the reality of war and the actual meaning of propaganda. It emphases the way propagandas provoke nationalism and heroism. This can be seen in Mackintosh’s expression of Germans as “Huns” (L. 6). The fact that Germans are demonised leads us to consider the reliability of propagandas.

Later on in the poem, when Germans are described as “Huns” (L. 30) again, we cannot imagine them as “wicked foe” (L. 22) anymore, but we feel pity for them, as they are just the same as every soldier fighting. The poem also portrays the brutality of war, where all these propagandas are mere message of soldiers are dying and reinforcement is needed. The poet expresses his hatred towards the painter of propagandas by stating they are all over the age limit of “forty-one”. The line “To live and die with honest men” evidences the reality of war.

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Without embellishment and the tone of propaganda, the line directly and truthfully point out propaganda is merely an invocation of go and die in the war. The tone of ‘Recruiting’ is the same as the tone in the propaganda. The poet tries to give a satirical impression of the propaganda, paraphrase the wordings of it in a mocking tone. Mackintosh starts off with a sarcastic tone, e. g. “How the message ought to read” (L. 12). Slowly, the poem becomes straightforward and inspirational, saying “Go and help to swell the names/In the casualty lists. ” (L. 7-18)

Language effects can also be seen. Mackintosh refers solders as “lads” (L. 26) and mentions “vulgar songs” (L. 9). These suggest the idea of comrades and lower class music, which impersonalise the idea of equality in war. Alliteration can also be found. The phrase “blasted journalists” (L. 20) slows down the flow of the poem, stressing its importance. The phrase defuses heroism by saying their death are merely something for journalists to write about in the newspaper. It shows the reality of war instead of the heroic description of propaganda.

In “Joining the Colours”, the poems describe how happy the soldiers were in 1914. The word “gay” (L. 1) suggests how they are all enjoying war and their attitude towards war is carefree. They look almost as though they are “going to a wedding day” (L. 3), where they are “singing like the lark” (L. 6) and “whistles [,] mouth-organs”. The soldiers don’t understand how dangerous war is because they are “foolish and young” (L. 11), they feel like it is heroic and bring glory to the family. However, the poet also shows signs of death and dark implication.

He suggests the horror of war using the personification of soldiers being “food for shells and guns” (L. 2). The idea of “wedding day” (L. 3) might be a sarcastic expression of death and lost of family instead of joy and happiness. Their “singing” (L. 7) also has another meaning. The phrase “in the dark” (L. 8) suggests that their music can be victorious music or funeral music. Old fashioned phrase are used, for instance, “drab street” (L. 5). The phrase contrast with “tram tops”, which ironically suggests that their soldiers will never come back again.

In Line 4, the phrase “mother’s son” also gives us this impression that their mothers feel sad for they might never see their son again. Same goes with the “poor girls” kissing at the end. These darken the whole poem. The idea of stepping into the mist symbolise death, which ironically implies that they won’t come back anymore. The continuous r-sound in the poem slows down the flow, for example “drab street stares”. This resembles sadness of grave which contrasted with glory mentioned early on. The tone is somber and more funeral like instead of the sarcastic tone in ‘Recruiting’.

The last line of each stanza is shorter than the others. This shorts line stands out and has a huge impact on readers. It emphases fatalistic of soldiers, where neither their parents nor love can save the soldiers from death, they just sing and pass. The imagery words give the poem more impact because they convey a picture that makes it easy for the reader to understand the message of the poem. Both of the poems are written in the First World War and are similar as they are about soldiers going to war. Joining The Colours” conveys the message where everyone was happy when the war starts while “Recruiting” reveals the reality behind propaganda.

Both Hinkson and Mackintosh tries to give us an impression that war is bad. This can be seen in “Recruiting” – “gallant sacrifice” (L. 40), where he believes that going to war is mere sacrifice. “Joining the Colours” also suggest that war is suicide, saying “They pipe the way to … grave” (L. 10). The rhyming scheme in “Joining the Colours” is ABAB, increasing the flow of the poem thus expresses the happiness of soldiers.

In “Recruiting”, there is some sort of rhyming scheme yet it is not very clear. Both poems have also made use of sentence structure. In ‘Recruiting’, trochaic meter is used to give an impression of soldiers marching. In ‘Joining the Colors’, iambic meter is used to make the poem sounds elegy and sad. Hinkson’s poem is, in a way, more sophisticated and more complex than Mackintosh’s. To conclude, although the two poems express their opinions to war differently, both describe the reality of war accurately.