Help Comparing and Contrasting "War Poets"  Are there any recurring themes and stark contrasts between the war poets? Could you please give me a brief summary of any that spring to mind?

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Jane Ames eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Let's assume we are considering the war poets of World War I. Given the complexity of warfare, the interpretation and representation of such by the war poets of the time varied greatly. Some poets generally valorized war, while others pointed to the horror of its violence. There are, however, some common threads that run through many of the quintessential war poems during and in the wake of WWI.

Perhaps the most striking similarity between WWI poems which are otherwise disparate is their rhyme scheme. "The Soldier" by Rupert Brooke speaks romantically of dying in a foreign land in the name of defending England. "Absolution" by Siegfried Sassoon explains in grisly details the horror and irrevocable loss caused by war. "The Man He Killed" by Thomas Hardy is neither proud nor lugubrious but does point to the sad irony of killing those in battle who are so like oneself. All three of these poems feature an "abab" rhyme scheme, otherwise known as alternate rhyme. Why do all these poets employ such a rhythmic, consistent, predictable pattern of rhyme?

The war poets of this period may frequently use an "abab" rhyme scheme for several reasons. In the first place, this use of rhyme invokes a steadiness which is much like marching into battle: "left right left right" and "abab." Many of these poems were written in the to convey an important anecdote and/or message and therefore tap into rhyme as a way to anchor words to memory. Finally, by using an old, even-tempered, and traditional rhyme scheme, the poets pay homage to the seriousness of their subjects. The rhyme scheme endows the poem with an air of solemn reverence befitting its subject matter: war, life, honor, and death. 

amy-lepore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen both were fairly truthful in their war poems.  They described it vividly and called it "hell" in the face of patriotism and duty to country.  Sassoon's "The Rear-Guard" and Owen's "Dulce et Decorum Est" are good examples of this.

There were others, however, who hid the gruesome truth of war and idealized everything for the people back home.  Rupert Brooke's "The Soldier" is a good example of this type of poet who glorified war and what is stood for in order to stir up feelings of honor, duty, and loyalty to country.