The first poem is ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’, written by Wilfred Owen about the First World War. The title uses the word ‘doomed’, which has a strong sense of finality, and sets the mood for the rest of the poem. There are a lot of church related words in this poem, for example ‘prayers’, ‘choir’, and ‘pall’. This is an ironic choice of words, as the poem is about the fact that the youth die without a proper funeral. This also gives an idea of glory in death, which the government says, but is an unchristian belief.
They ‘die as cattle’, innumerable, with no respect. Their only recognition is in the ‘monstrous anger of the guns’. This is a mockery of a hymn, the closest they get to being recognised for their sacrifice. Calling them ‘cattle’ dehumanises them, as the war does, as they are just slaughtered like cattle, not men. They are no longer human, just animals for the slaughter. The word ‘choirs’ is repeated on line 7, making it stand out, and drawing the attention of the reader to the line. It also links it to the previous ‘choirs’ on the line above.
Line 7 is a parody of the line above, putting ‘choirs’ in a different, ironic, meaning. The next poem, ‘Does it Matter’ by Siegfried Sassoon, is much more heavily ironic and very provocative, with the first line ‘Does it matter? – losing your legs?… ‘ setting the mood. This is a rhetorical question, as it obviously does matter, and is heavily ironic. The next line, ‘For people will always be kind’ is the main irony, as no one really wants pity, they want to be able to do things like walk.
It is a poor substitute for you legs, and the sarcasm is that it is all right that you are crippled because you are pitied. The use of the word ‘others’ has the effect of isolating the soldier, which is what he feels in life, as he can’t go out ‘hunting’ anymore. In the line ‘there’s such splendid work for the blind;’ this is also sarcastic, and is written as in the view of someone else, the word ‘splendid’ suggesting that it is a rich person who is impressed by himself for helping the blind by giving them a job in society.
There is only so much a blind man can do, so this is demeaning for them. ‘Remembering’ suggests dreaming, as this is a common escape from reality. The last line of this stanza is moving, ‘And turning your face to the light’. This is a noticed fact about blind babies, and gives a sense of yearning, as they are trying but failing to see. This also links back to remembering a time before they were blinded, and therefore why did it have to happen. The last line sums up the poets message, ‘and no one will worry a bit. This is the point he tries to get across. The wounded soldiers were good while they were whole, good members of society, but the war turned them almost invisible, unable to have a life anymore. The third poem is called ‘War Exalts’, written by Harold Begbie.
This poem follows a similar theme to ‘Does it Matter’, but presents its points in a different way. The first line ‘War exalts and cleanses: it lifts man from the mud! ‘ is a pro-war line, and is praising war. But the second line ‘Ask god what he thinks of a bayonet dripping blood. shows that the poem is not pro-war, but a satirical attack on government propaganda. Also, the word ‘cleanses’ is a word that is often associated with ‘ethnic cleansing’, a racist attack on a community, a great evil. This makes the propaganda seem evil as well. ‘It lifts man from the mud’ is ironic, as this is where many fall and die. The question, ‘Ask God what he thinks’ is rhetorical, as everyone knows the answer. It is a Christian attack on government propaganda, as everyone is sacred according to Christian teachings.
The third stanza has more impact when read aloud, as the last line is very strong. It says ‘Then go wash the blood of and try to face your child. ‘ This is juxtaposed with the poem, as a child is innocent. This is what makes the poem stand out, as the last line is a quiet, sneering line, cutting deep into anyone who is a parent. The fact that children are told war is heroic and brave, but that a parent cannot face their child about it is a powerful image, and final proof that war isn’t good.
In conclusion, all three poems use language in different ways. ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’ is a denunciation with lots of church references to link it to death, ‘Does it Matter’ is an ironic, patronising poem that is full of rhetorical questions and bitterness, and ‘War Exalts’ is a contrasting poem, with a good point contrasted in an ironic way with a criticism that far outweighs the good point. All three have a similar yet different way of portraying their views, all use irony, but have unique points to get the final point across.