A poem is composed of a general theme that sets the mood. The mood of the poem varies form happy to sad, anger to pleasant, or many others. The theme is a general overview of what the poem is stating, but the poem itself has a much deeper meaning and stands for valuable interpretation. Among the words and phrases of a poem, there are certain characteristics and underlying ideas that need to be noticed in order for the poem to be understood. The use of war is a general theme used very often. The following authors and there poems use the theme of war: Rupert Brooke’s, “The Soldier”; Wilfred Owen’s, “Anthem for Doomed Youth”; and William Butler Yeats’, “An Irish Foresees His Death”. Even though the three poems use the theme of war, they seem to be whispering other underlying ideas which are patriotism, realism, and destiny.
Robert Brooke’s poem, “The Soldier” is a great representation for the patriotism of an English soldier. At the time that the poem war written, World War I was in full force, so that may have affected Brooke’s to write this poem. The poem is written from the aspect of an English soldier. Throughout the poem, implications of patriotism are subjected through the words chosen. “If I should die, think only this of me/ That there’s some corner of a foreign field/ That is for ever England. There shall be/ In that rich earth a richer dust concealed” (320). Brooke’s portrays this soldier to be willing to die for his country, just so he will be able to add to England’s victory. The soldier feels that his life will be held in honor and that his bones are much more valuable than some piece of land. Also, the soldier thinks that when he dies, he will be leaving a little piece of England there on the battlefield, making it a better place. Brooke’s describes patriotism very well and the mindset of a soldier willing to protect his homeland.
In stories told, it seems that the thought going through most soldiers head’s is death and when they are going to die. In Wilfred Owen’s poem, “Anthem for Doomed Youth”, the theme of realism is described throughout the poem. Like Brookes, Owen wrote this poem during the era of World War I. The poem is written from the perspective of a soldier that tells of the realism of war and the troubles it causes. The soldier describes a scene of absolute chaos, the kind of scene found in a journal, not a letter home. “What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?/ Only the monstrous anger of the guns./ Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle/ Can patter out their hasty orisons./ No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells” (321). The soldier explains the death that is happening in the war and the bodies that are surrounding him. He approaches the issue of the dying and can only come to the conclusion that if they keep fighting it will stop. The soldier also notices the lack of mourning and acknowledgement for the dead. This shows the realism of war because even though people are dying, the fighting must continue in order to win. In war there is no time to mourn the death of soldiers until after the fighting is over, and Owen reveals this immensely.
Accepting your own death is very hard to do, but most people know that they are going to die. Knowing that you are going to die soon is almost impossible to accept. In William Butler Yeats’ poem, “An Irish Airman Foresees His Death”, destiny plays a major role in war. Also like Brookes and Owens, Yeats wrote this at the time of World War I. The poem is written from the point of view of an Irish pilot who accepts the fact that it is his destiny to die in battle. The soldier describes what he will think will happen. “I know that I shall meet my fate/ Somewhere among the clouds above;/ . . . The years to come seemed waste of breadth,/ A waste of breadth the years behind/ In balance with this life, this death.” (322). The soldier knows that once he gets into the plane there is no turning back. He knows he will die, and nothing can stop him. He looks back on his life and the memories, and then forward to his future and neither are worth living for, just to die for country, knowing death is coming quick. Yeats describes destiny rightly in his poem.
The aspects of war have many different affects on poets as seen in the previous writing. War is a very inspirational subject and leads poets to write like they have never written before. It enables them to express themselves using words that flow in what seems like a natural order. The theme that a poet decides to use is what gives the poem substance and life, but it is what the author does not blatantly say that gives the poem meaning. A poet lets others understand what people really imagine about the world and different views from different people.
Brooke, Rupert. “The Soldier.” Kirszner and Mandell 320.
Owen, Wilfred. “Anthem for Doomed Youth.” Kirsner and Mandell 321.
Yeats, William Butler. “An Irish Airman Foresees His Death.” Kirszner and Mandell 322.
Kirszner, Laurie G. and Stephan G Mandell eds. Literature: Reading, Writing, andReacting. San Diego: Harcourt College Publishers, 2001.