Last week in the tutorial, we were looking at two really different poems. Rupert Brooke’s “The Soldier” and Wilfred Owen’s “Anthem of Doomed Youth“. A question that resonated with me during the tutorial last week was the following:
Which of the two poems is more meaningful?
Both poems talk about the subject of war, yet in tone, they are very different. Brooke’s poem is grandiose. It is proud and patriotic to the persona’s mother country of England. The constant repetition of the country’s name being uttered highlights that. Meanwhile, in Owen’s poem, it is poignant, grim and serious. Yet there is also harsher sounding language involved from the alliteration of “rifles’ rapid rattle”.
Despite both poems sharing the same subject, being that of war, they are of different strands. Brooke’s poem is about representing one’s country proudly and wanting to die a valiant death for their country. On the other hand, Owen talks about the dark reality of war. His poem reminded me of a point that was made during the lecture.
Though war has its “heroes”, what about the people who weren’t remembered? What do their deaths amount to?
By that logic, that would mean that Brooke’s poem is delusional romanticism. That would then result with Owens’ poem being more meaningful. Is that correct? Well, not necessarily.
One also has to consider the time and place that these poems were set in. And Brooke’s poem was set in the time that WWI would have emerged. During then, the Futuristic movement reared its head. Futurism in art was the movement that celebrated the development and creation of dynamism, the machine, and modern technology – from tanks and automobiles to guns. It encouraged violence and war as evidence by Point 9 of the Futurist Manifesto:
9. We want to glorify war — the only hygiene of the world —
militarism, patriotism, the anarchist’s destructive gesture, the fine Ideas that kill, and the scorn of woman.
(An English reading of the Futurist Manifesto can be found here.)
In general, war was romanticized to encourage young men to become soldiers. So, during that time, Brooke’s poem could be seen as being more meaningful.
So then, what is the answer to the question of which poem is more meaningful? Simple: it just boils down to what kind of perspective we’re looking through. Brooke’s poem would be more meaningful if we were looking through a historical perspective, or through the eyes of a young soldier back in the day. Whereas Owen’s poem is more meaningful if we looked through the perspective of today.