How Classical Poetry is Still Relevant to Audience

Wilfred Owen's "Dulce et Decorum eEst" is analysed in this essay about to discuss how classical poetry is still relevant to modern audiences. Poetry is important because it helps us understand and appreciate the world around us. There’s no question that poetry teaches us about life and how to live.

The human condition, it is the characteristics, major events and situations which composes a human’s essential life. Perhaps giving birth, growth, mortality and conflict. Subjects like the meaning of life are generally used with the human condition as it represents, ‘human life ‘. To prove that modern poetry is still relevant I’ll explore the universal themes and the human condition through two poems. I’ll be exploring a classical poem  ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ by Wilfred Owen.

This poem seems to share the theme of war and death. Themes that influence the human condition. The ball turret was a feature in a bomber aircraft, made of plexiglass and set into the ‘belly’ of the plane. From which the gunner, upside down, can track and target the enemy. You can picture the gunner inside the belly of the bomber feeling trapped and vulnerable inside thinking of his mother back home as he’s in the sky about to face the enemy. This corelates the poems main theme suggesting war and potentially death. Another line, “I woke up to black flak” also shows the reader the harsh reality these gunners faced on their mission, the harsh reality of death. With the end line in particular, it has a shocking imagery of death, and the scary thing is that its an actual practice. Cleaning out bodies with a hose.

Dulce et Decorum Est, which means “it is sweet and proper” immediately signalling irony, which is a major mode for this poem. Its not sweet to become “bent double” and “knock kneed”. The poem surprises the reader from the start with the opening line containing words such as trudge, hags, bent, haunting and cursed. This language is what isn’t suitable for the whole, ‘glory of the battlefield’. This is precisely what Owen had intended. Figurative language clashing with literal language. Creating an odd march. The first line also takes the reader straight into the ranks of the soldiers. Looking back at the themes of war and death the speaker makes it clear that the themes are death and war by only telling us that the soldiers resemble “old beggars” and “hags” along with Owen who is also amongst this crew. Beggars and hags seeming to be a way of being miserable and a mess from war.

The structure for Dulce et Decorum does not adhere to any sort of formal structure. Its four-stanza structure is irregular, as the first stanza contains 8 lines, the second with 6 lines, the third with 2 lines and the final with 12. There is no rhyme scheme involved within this poem. It’s too unbalanced, overlapping stanzas in a rhythmic yet slightly unpredictable manner. The irregularity of the poem contributes greatly to the experience of reading the poem. It makes it hard to read creating the reader to be somewhat disorientated, giving a more visual affect to what the soldiers went through during the poem. They experienced a gas attack, which causes disorientation to the men who suffered from the effects of the poison during the war. The imagery of the drowning man, helplessly grasping for air, grabs hold of the reader unexpectedly just like the gas did to the soldiers. Again, this also brings up the themes of war and death. The structure is like an ambush waiting to happen. The stanzas get shorter and shorter until the gas goes up.

Overall ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ by Wilfred Owen is a shocking and thought-provoking poem which details the experiences of soldiers in the trenches during WW1. Owen uses graphic descriptions of life in the trenches to deliver a powerful message to the reader. In fact, Owen wrote the poem following his experiences fighting in France during the first world war. He died only 1 week before the armistice signalling the end of hostilities.

11 February 2023
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