In this presentation I will be evaluating the sections ‘Happiest is England now’ and ‘O Jesus make it stop’ and comparing how
the attitudes towards war are portraited. I will focus on the epigraph of both
poems and then the poems Happy is England Now by Freeman, England to her Sons
by Hodgson, Attack by Sassoon, Anthem for Doomed Youth by Owen

The epigraph of ‘Happiest
is England now’ is from a song from the musical ‘Oh what a lovely war’ in which the message that the performers (in
this case the women) are trying to send is to make men enlist in the war and to
add to the war effort. They seem to make war seem glorious and it is the man’s
duty to enlist and to fight and protect their country. This section relies
on patriotism to rally men to enlist in the war.

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This contrasts with the epigraph of ‘O Jesus make it stop’. It is also a section of song, in which the
lyrics are sung to the tune of Auld Lang Syne. This is quite iconic as Auld
Lang Syne is traditionally used to bid farewell
to something of significance. Today, we sing Auld Lang Syne to conclude the old
year, however in this context, it could have a much darker connotation, the end of the soldier’s lives. And this grim sentiment is what resonates
through the section, how the men were enticed into joining the war by a sweet
tune, but now they are oblivious the real reason for their fighting and are heralding
the end of their lives. This section is used to show the desperate nature of the men who are fighting in the war.

The poem ‘Happy is
England Now’ by John Freeman is an extremely patriotic poem in which
Freeman writes about how he feels towards the war, the glory of defending one’s
country.

‘England to her Sons’
by Hodgson is also a patriotic poem
designed to make men enlist, however it has a much more solemn mood than ‘Happy is England Now’, as it is much
explicit on the sacrifice of war.

Firstly, I would like to draw attention to the personification of England, the use of
the possessive pronoun ‘her’ (which
can be seen in Her faithfullest children, Her
hills and rivers and her chafing sea). This is an example of propaganda and patriotism which was the
main way the government enticed young men to enlist and join the war. The personification continues through the
poem as England is described as having a ‘new passion stirring in their veins, When the destroying dragon wakes from sleep.’
The personification here shows
England with a passion building in its blood and body and describing Germany as
a ‘destroying dragon’. Notice the alliteration which adds to the
demonization of Germany, describing it as a beast that the English are going to
go and slay. By using a dragon, there are connotations of St George (the patron
saint of England) slaying the dragon, which further adds to the patriotism that this poem is trying to
portrait.

In ‘England to her Sons’
poem, England is also personified as
a mother character and the soldiers are all her children. This is evident from
the line ‘Sons of mine, I hear you
thrilling’. The personification
really highlights the loss that the war will cause to the nation, but to
individuals as well as shown by the lines. In the first verse, England says she
can hear the young men excitement at
the outbreak of war. She suggests that they should prepare themselves for what
lies ahead and promises to provide as many men as necessary, shown by the line
‘I give you freely’. This opening demonstrates both the patriotic fervour and underlying fears which were prevalent at that
time.

The second verse of ‘Happy
is England now’ is as equally patriotic,
and this is displayed by values that England’s Sons hold core; that of self-sacrifice and judiciousness. These
men are afraid of nought except the shame
that may come from their own actions as shown by the line ‘Fearing but dishonour’s breath’. Furthermore, Hodgson states the
soldiers are willing to accept injury of death without complaint due to their
hopes for the future and their belief in the righteousness of their cause will eventually bring them success
displayed by the line ‘Strong in faith
that sees the issues and in hope that triumpheth’

                Freeman in ‘Happy is England now’ uses an end-stopped line of the sentence
“grief itself is proud.” to
allow the reader to reflect upon this bold statement. Freeman shows a balance
with the glory and the sadness of the war which can be seen in
this phrase. This portrays the idea of England being a mother and how the
soldiers are her sons and how they share a deep
love. It is saying that even if England’s children are killed, England is
still proud from the grief that the war has caused. This style also makes the
whole piece seem like propaganda as
Freeman states a disconcerting emotion such as “grief” is a positive emotion of pride.

                In ‘England to her Sons’, The
final verse depicts England expressing her feelings towards the war and
addresses the loss that she knows is inevitable. England explains that the
deaths of the soldiers will be dictated by God, whom the poet believes to be on
England’s side. ‘Go, and may the God of
battles You on His good guidance keep;’ The ending of this poem, while
remaining patriotic also introduces
a poignant note. England, Hodgson seems to imply, must and will accept the
losses that lie ahead. However, the national will also mourn, when the time
comes, for all the young men who have given their lives. Much like Freeman,
Hodgson is fiercely patriotic,
however he is not pro war; instead
he acknowledges that men must do their duty and answer to the call of their
country.

The poem ‘Happy is England’ has a tremendous patriotic theme and this is especially
apparent in the line ‘happiest is England
now In those that fight, and watch with pride and tears’. The use of the superlative ‘happiest’ is powerful as
it shows that the true pinnacle of England’s pride is in seeing her people
fight and die to defend her. This underlying theme of patriotism and propaganda
is woven into every line that Freeman writes, and this is indeed his agenda, to
get as many men to enlist and join the war effort.

Conversely, the poem ‘Attack’
by Siegfried Sassoon is about confronting the true nature of war. The poem
builds up line after line and concludes with uncontrollable fear and anxiety,
emotions that probably raged rampantly in the battlefield.

‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’
is a sonnet made up of octet and sestet, which is traditionally used to
portrait love, but here Wilfred Owen
is comparing the deaths of the young men and traditional funeral rites. It
looks at the darker side of war and especially at aspects which others would tend to look over.

 ‘Attack’ is a poem which
relies on the shock value of the words to portrait its message. The poem starts
calmly, with the imagery of a beautiful sunrise across the battlefield, however
this scene is soon destroyed by the harsh
reality of war. The line ‘At dawn the
ridge emerges massed and dun, In the wild purple of the glow’ring sun,’ describes
the beautiful scenery of the mountains emerging in the early morning sun. This
however is destroyed by the ‘Tanks (that)
creep and topple forward to the wire.’ There seems to be a personification of tanks which is used
to invoke fear, which is converse to ‘Happy is England now’ where it is used to
invoke

In the first section of ‘Anthem
for Doomed Youth’, Owen writes passionately about the cost of war for a country’s young and uses satire to mock those who
believe that war is glorious. Owen relates the deaths of the soldiers to a mass slaughter of animals as shown by
the line ‘for those who die as cattle’.
He uses personification, but unlike
Hodgson and Freeman, uses it to show the brutality of war. ‘The guns are angry, shells wail and bugles
call.’ Note also the onomatopoeia and alliteration present in line three, ‘stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle’ which
makes the poem sound much harsher on the ear, creating discord within the
reader.

Sassoon,
unlike the poets of the first section, dehumanises the soldiers instead of creating a personal connection. ‘Lines of grey, muttering faces, masked with
fear, They leave their trenches, going over the top’, describes the
soldiers as ‘lines of grey’. Grey is usually used to symbolise something bland
and by describing these men as grey they have become dehumanised and now are
just objects. This is further complimented by the line ‘Men jostle and climb to, meet the bristling fire’ This shows the
cruel nature of war, that men would rather die than fight one another. There is
nothing glamorous about war, only cruelty,
human barbarism and hopelessness.

The last line of ‘Attack’ states that the soldiers were really
in a pathetically hopeless
situation. Sassoon writes ‘Flounders in
mud. O Jesus, make it stop!’ A flounder is a type of fish, so you can only
imagine what the chances are of survival if a flounder finds itself stuck in
mud. Sassoon is stating that going to war is like committing suicide. The last
three words, ‘make it stop’ show how these overtly strong soldiers are left
with nothing at the end but crying and begging for the torture to stop. The
title of the poem is Attack, this could be due to the nature of the poem
itself. Sassoon builds up suspense throughout the poem and ends with a torturous ending, much like an attack.
Otherwise, the title attack could be referring to the feelings of the soldiers.
War may be glorified and chronicled as a noble duty, but it is only sending
innocent men to their death.

                The sestet of ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’ describes the
improper deaths that the soldiers are being sent to and relates them to the
proper funeral rites of the time. The imagery is extremely grim, describing the candles being ‘not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes (of the dead) shall shine
the holy glimmers of good-byes’ This highlights the inhumane conditions that the dead experience and the lack of
respect that is shown to these fallen soldiers. The final image is that of
blinds being drawn in respect of the dead. This is yet another tradition to
mark the loss of those who have passed on; curtains and shutters are closed to
create a dark interior and to signal to the community at large that the dead
are acknowledged. On the battlefield there are no such marks of respect, only the natural fading of the
light as another day ends.

                Evident from these poems, the
attitudes towards war were extremely varied and ranged from the extremely
patriotically to the complete anti-war. The agenda of the poets thus varied as
we can see, from poets such as Freeman and Hodgson writing about the virtues of
being able to perform the ultimate sacrifice for one’s country to poets such as
Sassoon and Owen who believe that war is completely evil, and the loss far
outweighs the result. And this is what produced the stark difference between
these poems.

However, to say that only those who had not seen war wrote
patriotic poetry is incorrect as Hodgson fought in the war and died on the
first day of the Somme, however he wrote poetry that was just as patriotic and
his fellow poets. The viewpoint that these poets held was not as simple as to
whether they had seen war or not but instead about whether they truly believed
that the cause they were fighting for was worth giving their lives for.