The speaker says to let the boy feel the edge of the bayonet blade to know how cold steel is and how hungry for blood it is. He will see how it is a malicious shade of blue like a "madman's flash" and is hungry for flesh.
The boy should stroke the blind bullets that desire nothing more than to bury themselves in the hearts of young men. He should hold the cartridges of the "fine zinc teeth" that are sharp with death and anguish.
He should do these things because his teeth look ready to bite an apple, and there are no claws behind his fingernails. God will not give him talons or antlers in his curls.
This is one of Owen's most devastating and incisive poems. It was written around March 1918. It is organized in three quatrains featuring pararhymes – blade, blood; flash, flesh; teeth, death. Owen classified this poem under "Protest –the unnaturalness of weapons" as well as listed it under his intended works for his first poetry collection. The title of the poem may be a reference to George Bernard Shaw's play about war, Arms and the Man, performed in 1894 and published in 1898, or the first line of Virgil's Aeneid –"I sing of arms and man" – also a tale of battle and glory and despair.
Letters of Owen's to his mother from around this time speak of young men and cynically of their role as killing machines; in one he writes "Johnny de la Touche leaves school this term, I hear, and goes to prepare for the Indian army. He must be a creature of killable age by now", and "God so hated the world that He gave several million of English-begotten sons, that whosoever should believe in them should not perish, but have a comfortable life."
The poem begins with someone instructing a young boy to touch a bayonet blade. It is unclear who Owen's poetic voice is intended to be, but it is most likely the masters of war who are instructing young, naive, and innocent children to fight for them. The speaker is either trying to make the boy understand what he is in for in order to prepare him, or to get the boy excited about the dangerous weapons he will soon get to play with. The bayonet is personified into a ravenous and bloodthirsty animal, with a "hunger of blood". It is also depicted as a bit insane, "blue with all malice" like "a madman's flash". The weapon, and the chaos it can wield, seems unpredictable and crazed.
In the second stanza the boy is told to stroke the bullet heads, which, personified, only long to bury themselves in the hearts of young men. The cartridges are compared to sharp teeth of "grief and death". The word "stroke" in this stanza has a somewhat sensual or erotic air, as if the boy is being seduced into desiring to use these weapons. This is, of course, what happened to many young men who embraced killing and thus parted ways with their childhood.
In the final stanza, the speaker contrasts the weapons with the boy. He is gentle, with "fingers supple". His teeth are not sharp or animal-like, as they are more fit for "laughing around an apple". He will not grow talons like a bird of prey or antlers like a beast of the forest. This will not happen because God will not let it, Owen explains. The boy is not fundamentally evil. This means, then, that it is man, and his weapons of war, that pervert Nature and turn this boy into a killing machine. He will take responsibility for guiding the "blind" bullets to their targets, to giving the "famished" bayonet the blood it desires. Of course, the weapons do not appear in a vacuum; they are provided by the warmakers to the young men; therefore, Owen is excoriating those who take innocent boys, upend the natural cycle, and make them killers.
Two Views of War in Poetry Essay
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Two Views of War in Poetry
Nothing can impact society like war. War can be viewed as noble and just, or cruel and inhuman, as well as everything in between. War can make a man a hero, or it can make him a criminal. War affects everyone in society whether they are fighting in the trenches or waiting at home for a loved one to return. War has been the topic of countless pieces of literature, in the poem 'Dulce et Decorum Est,' by Wilfred Owen and the poem 'To Lucasta, on Going to the Wars,' by Richard Lovelace, both show two very different sides to war.
Wilfred Owen, who fought in The First World War, tells a tale of the reality of war from the trenches. He cuts though the propaganda to show war for what it is to a young…show more content…
Owen paints a grim picture of the war, and ends with a message to the reader. He warns us not to believe ?Dulce et decorum est Pro partria mori,?(27-28) Greek for ?It is sweet and fitting to die for one?s country.? Owen is trying to show us that war is not as noble as the propaganda tries to make use believe.
The propaganda that Owen talks about seems to be the topic of Lovelace?s poem, ?To Lucasta, on Going to the Wars.? Lovelace seems to view war as a romantic endeavor, he personifies war as a lover, ?a new mistress now I chase.? He seems to be caught up in the romantic view of war. He sees the war as honorable, he longs for his sword, house, shield, and he seems to ache for that first kill. This poem seems to be written before the author went to war. Would his poem be different after he experienced war?
These two authors show two very different views of war, one pointing out the horrors of the reality of war and one showing the romantic, noble view of the war. War takes on two very different views for the people who fight it and for the people who do not. It can?t be said which author is right and which is wrong. It could be said, though, that both authors? views represent their true feelings; war can mean very different things for different people.
Owen, Wilfred. ?Dulce et Decorum Est.? Literature and the Writing Process. Elizabeth McMahan, Susan X Day, and Robert Funk. 6th Ed. Upper Saddle River,