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Dulce Et Decorum and Who's for the Game

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Analysis and comparison of WW1 poems
Frederik Jensen 2.a

Comparing the two poems “Dulce et Decorum Est” (1920), by wilfred Owen, and “Who’s for the game?” (1916), by Jessie Pope, is definitely an interesting task.
They both share the same subject, World War 1, but offer different purposes and perspectives. The contrast between the two poems is actually quite phenomenal. The two poets were both motivated by the Great War to write poems, because they both had a message that they felt like they needed to deliver, but they used different methods in order successfully carry out their messages. The English poet and soldier, Wilfred Owen, uses rhythmic patterns and grim language to describe the realities of life in war, whereas the journalist, Jessie Pope, gave potential soldiers a more patriotic, emotional, yet misleading image of war.

Wilfred Owens poem “Dulce et Decorum Est” is an incredibly powerful poem, with shocking and grim imagery. Formally, the poem is a combination of two sonnets, but the spacing between the two is irregular. The poem also makes use of cross rhyme, which carries out through most of the poem.
In the first stanza Owens gives tells the story in first person, giving us an insight in the “soldier experience” during this war. “Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots, but limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind” this indicates that the horrors of war became so frequent, so normal that all men went “blind” to them. It was an experience that included terrible living conditions and lack of motivation to carry on; this is demonstrated by the use of language like “trudge”. In the second stanza poisonous gas has been flung upon the soldiers. They are forced to put on some “clumsy fitting” helmets, in order to save themselves. Unfortunately a soldier was unable to put on the mask in time. The fellow soldier ends up “drowning” in the gas. Owen is telling this stanza through his dreams, which implies that this event still haunts him. In the last stanza Owen criticizes those who promote going to war, as a remarkable experience. War scars and traumatizes people. It’s not just a way to gain honor and respect. After describing the horrors of war, Owen says that, if you knew the reality of what war is really like, you wouldn’t tell children that they should join the army.
Directly contradictory to this viewpoint is Jessie Pope. She was an English poet who was well known for her “patriotic motivation poems”, during the war. “Who's for the Game?” is an obvious example of her patriotism. She wrote the poem as an attempt to encourage young men into joining the army. Of course, she had no true experience or idea what was happening in the war, as she stayed in the comfort of her house in England. The poem depicts the war as some kind of fun game, like the title suggests. The poem has a chatty but (positive) speech type tone in order to appeal to the young potential soldiers in England. An example of this tone being used is at the end of the poem, where she says things such as “Come along, lads” and “Your country is up to her neck in a fight, And she’s looking and calling for you.”. The poem would be a lot more convincing if she included some personal experience with the war, (like Owen did in his poem), but obviously this wouldn’t be possible, because she didn’t have any. She tries to make up for it, by using personal pronouns (“you’ll, your, you”) in order to appeal directly to the reader. The poem has also a simple rhyme scheme (“fight-tight” and “go-show”) as an attempt to appeal to young people, as well as to create a poem that stays with the reader.

Most of the poem consists of rhetorical questions. She makes use of rhetorical questions like: “Who’ll grip and tackle the job unafraid?”, “Who’ll give his country a hand?” And “Who would much rather come back with a crutch than lie low and be out of the fun?” in order to give the young men the impression, that if they didn’t go to war, they would be a coward and they would miss out on all the fun. By writing it like this, she almost directly blackmails her readers, by making them feel guilty for not enrolling into war.

The two poems are opposites. Owens uses horrifying imagery from personal experience, to carry out his message. He is insisting that people should stop falsely promoting going to war, like it’s a positive thing. People should know that it’s not for everybody. Because it really is an incredibly traumatizing and dangerous experience.
Compared to pope, who uses an encouraging and friendly speech tone, guilt inducing rhetorical questions, and false imagery of war to convince people to join.

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