Patriotism In The Poetry Research Paper
The poems of “Anthem for Doomed Youth” by Wilfred Owen, “The Soldier” by Rupert Brooke and “Who’s For the Game?” by Jessie Pope contain both many similarities and differences in terms of thematic content, perspectives, literary devices, and tone.
Firstly, in Wilfred Owen's poem "Anthem for Doomed Youth," the speaker portrays war as dehumanizing in lines two to four in the first octave, “-- Only the monstrous anger of the guns./ Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid battle/Can patter out their hasty orisons.” These lines demonstrate that death on the battlefield is savage and imminent and there is no time for even “hasty” prayers to “honor” the soldiers. Indeed, the only “prayers” or hymns the soldiers will earn for their ultimate sacrifice will not come from their families and loved ones, but from the “monstrous” sounds of the gunfire as its symbolical “anthem” for the doomed soldiers.
Moreover, the theme of indiscriminate and inhumane killing is reinforced by the speaker’s rhetorical question and simile in the first line. The speaker states, “What passing bells for these who die as cattle?” In this opening rhetorical question, the speaker compares the tragedy of the soldiers’ deaths on the battlefield to the inhumane treatment and degrading and indiscriminate slaughter of cattle. Namely, in lines six to eight, man’s inhumanity in war is portrayed by “Nor any voice of mourning [to] save the choirs,--/The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;/ And bugles calling for them from sad shires,” The metaphorical choirs described in the opening stanza are not true choirs, but are coming from the onomatopoeic “wailing shells”. Here, unlike Brooke, Owen uses personification in his opening stanza but only to show the violence and dehumanization of war.
Yet, the pain and anger does not end only with the dead soldiers. The speaker shifts in tone in the second stanza and illustrates the families’ loneliness and isolation. In lines 10 and 11,“Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes./ Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes”. The quote emphasizes the emotional tragedy of familial separation. The speaker concludes the second stanza, “The pallor of girls’ brows shall be their pall; Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,/And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.” This theme of separation reveals the fear and sadness of the families who fear that their loved ones will never return home. The symbolic “drawing-down of blinds” illustrates another day has passed, and many more soldiers have died. These families can never know the brutality of war that the soldiers have to endure. Unlike stanza one, this second stanza does not contain any violence of the battlefield and has no onomatopoeia or heavy auditory or visual sensory imagery. Instead, silence reigns which reemphasizes the families’ isolation and ignorance of what is truly happening on the battlefield. The speaker maintains that the public must stop ignoring the pain of the battlefield and finally realize the truth about the savagery of war and its effect on both its civilians as well as its soldiers.
In contrast, in Rupert Brooke’s poem “The Soldier”, the speaker argues that the patriotic sacrifice of the soldiers is worth the suffering in order to ensure England’s long lasting “peace” and “happiness”. This central theme of patriotic sacrifice is evident in the opening three lines, “If I should die, think only this of me:/ That there’s some corner of a foreign field/That is for ever England.” The speaker provides a vivid description of his motherland, England, using personified imagery in lines four to eight, “In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;/ A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,/Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam;/A body of England’s, breathing English air,/Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.” The soldier has spent his whole life being “shaped” and loved by his beloved and nurturing England. Now, his country is in danger, so he needs to repay his debt to society by sacrificing his life in return for England’s freedom. The speaker explains that the “richer dust concealed” means his hard-fought contribution and sacrifice will be recognized because his death will be honored. In fact, his noble death means that England will be even “richer” with “peace”,”laughter” and “happiness” for generations to come. The speaker conveys his patriotism in lines 9-11, “And think, this heart, all evil shed away,/A pulse in the eternal mind, no less/Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;”. The quote portrays the positive consequences of the speaker’s potential sacrifice which ultimately benefits England and us all. Finally, the speaker concludes with a reiteration of his patriotism, stating, “Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;/And laughter learnt of friends; and gentleness,/ In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.” Once again, the speaker affirms that putting England before his own personal safety is far more important. In sum, the speaker argues that it is his ultimate duty to sacrifice his life for the love of his England.
Lastly, Jessie Pope, the jingoistic poet of “Who’s for the Game”, conveys a very different and violent message. The theme of jingoism is evident in the first few lines, in which Pope writes, “Who’s for the game, the biggest that’s played,/ The red crashing game of a fight?”. These euphemistic lines demonstrate that Pope seeks to mislead the reader into fighting the war. Pope dwells on this less appealing idea, and only weakly concludes with vague supporting evidence for his claim, by writing “Your country is up to her neck in a fight,/And she’s looking and calling for you.”
However, it should be noted that although in “The Soldier”, the speaker expresses great patriotism for his country, this poem is not necessarily jingoistic. Jingoism is an extreme nationalist propaganda that glorifies violence as a justifiable means to achieve a country’s goals. Unlike Jessie Pope’s jingoistic poem “Who’s for the Game?”, Brooke argues that the ultimate goal of war is not to lure young men to a pointless death in a fun “game”. However, that being said, “The Soldier” does acknowledge that although death is imminent and unavoidable, as referenced by the opening lines, the only goal of the soldier is to ensure his country remains strong and protected. This means that the soldier’s ultimate sacrifice must be lauded as noble. Therefore, Brooke’s poem demonstrates there is another point of view, which is that a soldier's death is not in vain. Thus, Brooke’s unique and sacrificial perspective straddles the themes of both Owen’s dehumanization, and Jessie Pope’s jingoistic, unrealistic and nationalistic view of war.