War Poetry Essay

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War is often romanticised and glorified by some, yet ostracized and found nauseating for others and at times misunderstood. In studying ‘I was only 19’ by John Schuman and ‘The last laugh’ by Wilfred Owen, I was moved to a deeper understanding as I could visualise some of the horrors of war through the first-hand account of the composers and the imagery that brought the terrors to life. ‘The meaning of war’ by Katherine Gallagher presents a second hand account of how war not only effects the participants but also friends and family of the participant .The composers of these texts present the futility of war, the senseless loss of young lives. Each poet recounts the horrors of war and creates an overriding sense of fear to the reader. The battlefield literally comes to life as the weapons are personified by Wilfred Owen in ‘The Last Laugh’. Owen personifies the weapons, having a mind of their own and enjoying the carnage, ‘bullets chirped’, ‘machine guns chuckled’, the ‘big gun guffawed’ and shrapnel ‘splinter tittered’. These are onomatopoeic sounds of the battlefield. The title itself ‘The Last Laugh’ can be seen as ironic due to the contrast with the poem content of the weapons making fun of the soldiers in their desperate yet helpless fight to defend themselves. The first line pauses in the beginning of the verse , this technique is called caesura to draw attention to the pause to highlight and bring attention to what was said, in the case caesura was used after the words “’O Jesus Christ! I’m hit,’ he said; and died.” the words “’O Jesus Christ” can be san as either blasphemy or an actual prayer crying for help. This poem gave me a deeper understanding of the horrors of war in the personification of weapons helping me to realise how hopeless the war was. Another first-hand account of the war is recounted by John Schumann in the poem ‘I Was Only Nineteen’.

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