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Poetry Analysis, Essay Example

Pages: 5

Words: 1360

Essay

Part A

In Wilfred Owen’s radical critique of war “Dulce et Decorum Est”, the poet effectively uses diverse forms of imagery in order to convey to the reader the horror of war. It is the depiction of this horror that functions as Owen’s argument against war. Hence, by using imagery particularly related to the human senses, Owen is able to create a situation that is essentially universal, to the extent that all readers can easily grasp this stark imagery, and therefore understand his arguments against war.

The immediate reliance on tactile imagery in line two “we cursed through sludge” immerses the reader in the environment Owen is depicting: the arduous progression through the filth of the mud, described with the figurative “cursed” emphasizes the feeling of condemnation that the poet experiences, having essentially been exiled to a hellish environment. This evokes a clear foreshadowing within the reader of the suffering that Owen is to describe throughout the rest of the poem.

This almost supernatural and unworldly environment is further developed with the utilization of the striking visual imagery of “haunting flares.” The distant appearance of lights in the sky gives the scene a ghostly appearance, which communicates to the reader the inhumanity of the soldiers’ conditions. They have fallen into a world that is incomprehensible to normal and everyday logic.

The auditory imagery of “someone still was yelling out and stumbling, and flound’ring like a man in fire or lime” infuses the text with the screams of Owen’s comrade, as the terror he and his companions experience is made explicit. The feeling produced in the reader is one of the overall madness of the situation, wherein only a profound terror reigns.

The effect of the gas attack that has sparked this panic is rigorously described by Owen. The gustatory effect produced by “incurable sores on innocent tongues”, is a powerful image as Owen communicates the essential horrible taste of war to the reader – the effect of gas mutates and distorts the human body, evoking in the reader the feeling of a physical revulsion.

Whereas Owen does not explicitly refer to olfactory imagery, such smells are implicit throughout the whole poem, insofar as the reliance on sensual imagery also creates as a side-effect the possible odors of battle. This is most imaginable in the line “behind the wagon that we flung him in”, which suggests to the reader a wagon carrying corpses, thus emitting a horrific stench that further accentuates the entire hellish scene.

Accordingly, Owen’s effective utilization of sensual imagery helps transport the reader directly into the scene of battle. Owen is thus able to directly communicate the horror of the war, through the reliance on bodily experience. This gives his critique an arguably universal character, which everyone can readily grasp, to the extent that everyone can understand the horrible sensual imagery that Owen depicts.

Part B

Andrew Marvell’s »To His Coy Mistress« utilizes a variety of literary devices in order to convey the overall theme of his poem, which is essentially an ode to the seduction and wooing of a woman. These devices, such as hyperbole, understatement, simile and personification, help romanticize the sexual ambitions of the author, presenting these ambitions in a seductive form, which is to help him realize his goal.

The author makes use of hyperbole in order to stress that his courting of the mistress is bound by finite time. To highlight this point, Marvell begins his poem by taking the opposite perspective. He therefore tries to depict how their relationship would turn out if they had an infinite amount of time. Hence, he uses hyperbole to show how that if they had such time, “hundred years should go to praise”, meaning that he would devote an entire century of their relationship to only compliments of the mistress. Furthermore, he notes that he would spend “two hundred years to adore each breast”, demonstrating how the infinite amount of time would allow for a further contemplation of the physical details of his lover. At the same time, such an account shows how Marvell essentially uses hyperbole in a humorous fashion, as the amount of time dedicated to such activities spans centuries – this use of hyperbole helps convey the main point of the poem, which is the author’s desired seduction of the mistress. Such time is not available to them, as the hyperbole indicates, hence they must act immediately.

Furthermore, understatement is used by the author when he writes “And your quaint honour turn to dust:. In this passage, Marvell is describing that the time of their life is radically finite, and if they do not act now, the mistress will eventually die. Thus, insofar as this poem is poem of seduction, the author cannot explicitly state that the mistress will die, but rather must understate her death, in a manner that further emphasizes the romantic tone of the poem, despite its allusion to a serious phenomenon such as death.

An example of simile in the poem is “while the youthful hue/Sits on thy skin like morning dew”, which further expresses how the author intends to relentlessly compliment the mistress, noting her freshness and youthfulness. The youthful appearance of the woman is compared to the newness of fresh dew in the morning, thus demonstrating the motif that youth is a virtue for a woman. Essentially, in this case simile is used as a tool of seduction.  Another example of simile is “and now, like amorous birds of prey, Rather at once our time devour”, which compares the sexual act with the activities of birds of prey, nevertheless not in a violent sense, but in an amorous sense. The simile thus explicitly states the author’s attempt at seduction and the general aim of his verse.

A case of personification is found in the concluding lines of the poem, when Marvell describes how their love can affect time, comparing the latter to the sun: “Thus, though we cannot make our sun/Stand still, yet we will make him run.” By personifying the sun with attributes of a human body, Marvell describes what effect their love can have on time itself: they cannot make the sun as a measure of time “stand still”, but rather can make the sun “run”, in the sense that their love can represent an infinite source of power, towards which even the sun must flee, meaning that even nature pales in comparison to this love.

Accordingly, Marvell effectively uses a wide range of literary devices in order to convey his ambitions to the mistress to whom the poet is addressed. The poem can thus be said to use these devices as a form of seduction, showing how the employment of poetic techniques closely corresponds to what we understand as romantic speech. Marvell shows that romantic speech is one that essentially furnishes explicit sexual intentions with the ornamentation of skilful uses of language.

Part C

The figures of speech used in lines 1-20 and 21-46 in Marvell’s poem can be said to differ to the extent that they are used to communicate the two main points of Marvell’s poem. Firstly, lines 1-20 present what the narrator would do if their love had an infinite amount of time with which to develop. Accordingly, the figures of speech used are more sprawling, as details of their romance can take place over the course of centuries – the figures of speech are more expansive in their scope, for example, in the line “Vaster than empires and more slow”.

In contrast, lines 21-46 convey a sense of urgency. Precisely because the lovers do not have an infinite amount of time to realize their relationship, they must act quickly. The figures of speech in these lines are more active and aggressive, as for example, “But at my back I always hear/Time’s winged chariot hurrying near.” This demonstrates the lack of time that constitutes the reality of their situation, and thus the necessity to actualize their love in the present instance, to the extent that time is precisely of the essence. The contrast in figures of speech thus effectively articulates the ideal prolonged situation in which their love could slowly develop, and the real situation that, from the narrator’s point of view, forces the lovers to act immediately.

Time is precious

Time is precious

don’t waste it!

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