In 1914 the press started to publish war poems again. During the Boer War poems had been printed to encourage recruiting or to inform the public about how the war was progressing. A lot of the early poems at the start of the First World War weren´t very well written. There was a lack of recruitment later on in the war and so recruitment poems started to be printed again. These were to help encourage men to sign up. Many of these poems were successful and more people signed up to fight, with the idea that war would be like a game.
Towards the end of war, poets, such as Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon, started to write poems about what the war was really like and what they had experienced when they were fighting. I am going to compare some of the recruiting poems with some of Owen and Sassoon´s poems. The images that many of the recruitment poems portrayed were that war was fun and that men that went to fight were making their families proud. Poets such as Harold Begbie and Matilda Betham-Edwards used a lot of images in their poems to create the feeling of guilt. These poems made people feel ashamed of not going to fight and defend their country. The poem about ‘The Two Mothers´ would have made young men feel that they were letting down their families. Owen and Sassoon used much different approaches to the images in their poems. The poetry that they wrote described the horrors of war that they had experienced and the death and terrible conditions in the trenches that had failed to be mentioned to them when they signed up. These poems shocked many people because they had no idea what people at war really had to go through. I think that the poem with the most horrific images in it is Owen´s poem, ‘Dulce et Decorum est´. Some of the images in this poem are, ‘His hanging face, like devils´ sick of sin.´
‘Of vile, incurable sores, on innocent tongues.´ The use of language by Owen is also strong and he used many horrific words and comparisons in his poems. I think that he used many of them to capture the horror and create the worst images possible. Sassoon also used harsh words in his poems to create strong images. The language used in the recruitment poems was more positive and words such as ‘grin´, ‘brave´,and ‘cheer´ were used. This language creates a happy image. However the poem,´The Two Mothers´ uses language such as ‘weeping´, ‘shame´ and ‘mourn´. These words may sound sad but they helped create the feeling of guilt. The poets that wrote recruiting poetry had little or no experience of war. This is what angered Owen and Sassoon. I think that they wrote their poems, not only to recreate the realities of war , but to show the recruitment poets that war was nothing like the way that they had portrayed it. Owen and Sassoon wrote their poems to give people the true picture of war. They didn´t feel the recruitment poems had any truth in them. They wanted to let people know the full story about life in the trenches. Jessie Popes poem, ‘Who´s for the Game´, especially annoyed Owen. His poem ‘Dulce et Decorum est´ was aimed at her and the other recruitment poets. I think that it was specifically aimed at Jessie Pope because in her poem she made it sound as if she knew all about the war and that it was just like going out to play a game. Some of the phrases used in her poem were, ‘Who would much rather come back with a crutch
Than lie low and be out of the fun?´ This is a good example of the type of things she wrote to help recruit more soldiers to fight. However, if this poem was being aimed at me I would much rather not have had a crutch. All that this poem does is make the reader feel guilty and left out which is quite effective. I am not surprised that Owen aimed one of his poems at her. He just wanted people to see what the soldiers really had to go through. Most of the poems written during the war were written simply. This was to enable all kinds of people to understand. This was an important factor because many of the men the poems were aimed at would have been lower or middle class men, which would mean that they may not understand the poems if they were complicated. Owen manages to comprehend war in ‘Anthem For Doomed Youth´ by the constant death and destruction by the ‘angry´ guns. The sonnet is split up into two stanza´s, the first one is about death and the second one is about sadness. He also point´s out that there is no dignity in death.
Most of the recruiting poems had been written in a basic rhyme pattern, with every other line rhyming. Many of Owen and Sassoon´s poems also had the basic rhyme pattern and a steady rhythm to them. I think that they used this because it was simple but effective.
The style that the poems were written in also was important. As many of the poems written in the First World War were simple, they were very successful in doing what they were aimed to do, either promote recruitment or show what
My conclusion is that both sets of poetry were very effective but in very different ways. The recruitment poets used certain words and phrases to make the readers feel guilty or feel that they would regret the decision if they didn´t sign up. The images in Owen and Sassoon´s poems were far more realistic and true to life. However, I think that because some of the images were so horrific and awful some people may have thought that some of the things they wrote were exaggerated or made up. I think that the poets writing recruitment poetry should have made sure that they had facts about the war or known what it was really like before they started writing that war was like a ‘game´. I don´t think that they meant to lie in their poems. I think that they just wrote what they thought war was like or what they thought it should be like. I think that they wrote what they did in their poems because if the situation with lack of soldiers was serious then it would have been the best way to recruit more people. I think that poetry printed in newspapers would have been one of the most successful ways of recruitment because many people would have read the newspapers. I think that another way to encourage recruitment would have been to use recruitment posters. The only problem with these were that they didn´t show much detail and they had to get straight to the point.
All in all I think that both sets of poetry were effective but I think that Owen and Sassoon´s poems would have put so many people off the war in the end that nobody would have taken much notice of the recruitment poetry if it was printed at the same time.