The First World War, also know as “the Great War”, and “The war to end all wars” was a global military conflict that embroiled most of the great powers of the world. More than seventy million soldiers fought, and around 15 million died in one of deadliest wars ever recorded. The war was sparked of on the 28th of June 1914 when Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife were assassinated in their open top car in Bosnia Herzegovina, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. This brought tensions with Serbia to a head, as the assassin was Serbian. His name was Gavrilo Princip, a nineteen-year-old Serbian nationalist, brought up in a poor area of Bosnia Herzegovina called Bosansko Grahovo. Around his mid-teens, his parents got bankrupt, and sent him to live with his brother in Zagreb. He soon entered a nationalistic group called “Young Bosnia”; however he had minimal contact with the group.
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In February 1912 Princip participated in a protest against the Sarajevo authorities, for which he was expelled from school. He then moved to Belgrade and followed a gymnastics course which he failed. He decided to join a group called “the Komite”, which was a Serbian guerrilla force controlled by a Serbian Major called Vojislav Tankosic, who had fought in Macedonia against the Ottoman units, however after a meeting with Tankosic he was denied entry to the group because Tankosic thought he was “too small and weak”. This drove him to wanting to prove himself to everyone who had rejected him in the past.
On the 28th of June 1914 he participated in the assassination attempt of Franz Ferdinand. General Oskar Potiorekl, Governor of the Austrian provinces of Bosnia and Herzegovina, had invited Franz Ferdinand and Countess Sophie Duchess of Hohenberg to Sarajevo where a procession would take place. After arriving by train the party travelled to the centre of Sarajevo. Princip and seven other conspirators where spread around the area, but during procession none got an opportunity to strike. It was not until later when the men where having a coffee in a near by bar that they saw Ferdinand’s car, which had stalled. They seized the opportunity and Princip ran out and shot two bullets into the car, killing Ferdinand and his wife. Princip was later captured and after attempting to commit suicide twice, was sentenced to prison for the maximum length of twenty years. Due to harsh conditions he died from tuberculosis four years after the assassination of Franz Ferdinand.
The assassination triggered off the First World War and within a few weeks the major powers in the world were at war. The assassination of Franz Ferdinand was one of the main reasons which the war started, however there were many other events that helped spark off the war.
Before the war, Europe and most of the countries in world had alliances with at least one other country, most of the other countries would be in separate alliances with other countries, this brought tension between countries which were not linked with each other. A good example of this was between the allied forces and the central powers; the allied forces being countries such as the U.S.A, Britain and France, and the central powers being Germany, the Austro Hungarian Empire, the Ottoman Empire also known as “the Turkish Empire,” and the Kingdom of Bulgaria. Once the assassination of Franz Ferdinand had taken place, the already high tensions with Serbia had blown and the central powers were at war with Serbia, whilst this was happening tensions also grew between the allied forces and the central powers, almost like dominoes most countries and alliances were at war.
The war ended on the 11th of November 1918 after an important armistice was signed, although the last peace treaties were signed on the 23rd of August 1923.
During the devastating war many heroic poets were discovered such as Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon, there were also not so heroic poets such as Jessie Pope who wrote tasteless jingoistic poems.
Jessie Pope was an English poet, writer and journalist who wrote for The Daily Mail, The Daily Express also writing for Vanity Fair, Pall Mall Magazine and the Windsor. She was born on the 18th of March 1868 in Leicester and attended Craven House, whilst working for the Daily Mail she wrote poems such as Who’s for the Game and The Call both jingoistic. She was often criticized for her tasteless, ignorant poems. Many have also questioned how she could compare war to a game of rugby. Key words and phrases such as “biggest that’s played,” “red crashing game,” “grip and tackle” are used. It seems likely that her poems were aimed mainly at the lower class because of her use of slang and also the way she compares war to a game. Rich people would have much more legitimate reasons for joining the war any way they wouldn’t join the war for its similarities to a game of rugby.
Rupert Brooke was born in Warwickshire, England; he was the second of three sons. He attended Hillbrow prep school before being educated at Rugby School. At twenty he received a place in Cambridge University. In 1913 he suffered a mental breakdown following his break up with Katherine Laird Cox. He was killed whilst he was on a naval ship; he developed sepsis form an infected mosquito bite and died on the 23rd of April 1915 on a French Hospital ship moored in a bay off the island of Skyros, at the age of 27.
His poems were some of the most religious war poems written, they could also be described as patriotic, while being a little bit ignorant as he glorified the war and was very enthusiastic whilst describing it.
Compared to Jessie Pope’s view on the war (although she probably didn’t have a say in the matter as she was paid to write the poems she wrote), Brooke’s poems were patriotic, very well flowing and had religious overtones to them, on the other hand Jessie Pope’s poems where mostly written in slang (to appeal to the market she was aiming at), they were very easy reading and often compared the war to everyday things.
Siegfried Sassoon was born in Mattfield, Kent and attended The New Beacon Preparatory School also in Kent, when he was four his parents spilt up, leaving him to live with his Mother. Before the war Sassoon was extremely patriotic and joined the army, on his way he briefly met Rupert Brooke, just before his death. During the war he started writing poems, although these were in favour of the army. In the trenches he met another fellow soldier called Robert Graves who was also very fond of poetry, but he totally against the war after experiencing for himself the harsh realities of it. After knowing Grave for so long, Sassoon discovered that the way Grave thought of the war was right, and soon his poems turned anti-war despite being awarded the military cross. It came too the point that in 1917 he left the war. It was then that he begun to write poems showing his hatred too war, he wrote poems such as The General and a Soldier’s Declaration.
Wilfred Owen was born on the 18th of March 1893 in Peterlee Shropshire. He was educated at the Birkenhead Institute and at Shrewsbury Technical School. At the age of thirty two he enlisted in the Artists’ Rifles Officers’ Training Corps; he was soon assigned as 2nd lieutenant in the Manchester Regiment, initially he was a content and optimistic man, however his outlook on war changed after his troops’ loutish and disrespectful behavior changed his whole outlook on war. This was escalated after two traumatic events that happened to him while at war; first being one night that he was on patrol in the trenches a mortar exploded beside him throwing him up in the air and on to a dead comrade. The second incident took place in a German dugout where he was trapped for days. This build up of events landed him in a hospital being treated for shell shock. Whilst recovering he wrote many poems about war and the reality of it for example Dulce et Decorum est and Anthem for Doomed Youth.
Owen’s style of writing was very similar to Sassoon’s style; both were totally against war, the language used was simple and everything they said was strait to the point.
Who’s for the Game? By Jessie Pope was written for the army as part of the recruitment scheme for World War One, it consists of four stanzas with four lines in each, its rhyming pattern is: ab,ab throughout the whole poem. The poem is written mostly in slang. In the title (and throughout the poem) the poet compares the war with a big game in which hundreds of soldiers from each side would simply be team-mates in a game which would prove their manliness; just like rugby. Some poets have previously described it as “a tasteless equation of war with a rugby game.” Pope also uses many rhetorical questions (questions with one answer).
The first stanza starts with
“Who’s for the game, the biggest that’s played”; which highlights her message that the war was only a big game.
“Red crashing game” points out that it will be very fun and exhilarating. She then compares the game to a rugby match by writing words such as “grip” and “tackle”. Next she asks a rhetorical question “who thinks he’d rather sit tight?” Who would rather sit comfortable and let everybody do the work for you. Another rhetorical question is asked
“Who’ll toe the line for the signal ‘Go!’?” asking who will be the one who be the leader or the best soldier from the start? She then asks who would be the person that is patriotic to their country and will give it a hand? She now tries to make you feel as if you’re going into a show to see all the action. “seat in the stand” also portrays the idea that you are in a show or a rugby game, it also suggests that people will be watching you, just like in a rugby match.
The third stanza is mainly trying to put mildly the things that could happen if you were to join for example when she says “Who knows It wont be a picnic” she is mildly saying that you should know that it won’t be a picnic while also keeping to the idea that it is not much work either. The fourth stanza reminices what all the recruitment posters say “Your country is up to her neck in a fight,” this personifies England as in distress.
The poem entitled ‘Peace’ is a poem by Rupert Brooke, the poem was generally written to show people his feelings on the war and what he thought were the good and bad sides of the war, although it was not a propaganda poem like the Jessie Pope’s poems.
The first few lines are Brooke thanking God for his coming of age; ‘And caught our youth, and wakened us from sleeping, with hand made sure, clear eye and sharpened power,’ in line 4 he is saying how he has been cleansed and has been forgiven of all sins and is sought of a new man.
Brooke had had many failed relationships and in line 5 he talks about how happy he is about leaving ‘a world grown cold and weary,’ He carries on to tell people not pay attention to ‘sick hearts [people who stayed behind]’ and which not even honour could move,
“And half men, and their dirty songs”, “and all the emptiness of love” these phrases describe all the men who considered them selves British but when it came to war suddenly they became much less patriotic and wanted nothing to do with the war.
Broke starts off the second stanza by saying that use shame as an excuse for their problems, in the second line he explains how sleep (he also refers to it as death) can mend many things, sleep cures diseases and death release people who are suffering from pain, ‘Naught broken save this body, save this body’ means no matter if your body is dead your soul is not lost, next Brooke explains that no matter what happens to you nothing can take away happiness, only agony and even that will wear off, in the last phrase ‘And the worst friend and enemy is but death’ means that death can be a great thing or an awful thing; Death can take away your precious life when everything is going so well and it can also take away your life when you are in agony or in pain.
The General, by Siegfried Sassoon is a very short poem with two stanzas, one consisting of six lines, and the other of one line, in the first stanza the rhyming scheme is ab,ab,ccc. It is written very simply (a technique Sassoon often used).
It starts off in a camp near Arras, the General of a regiment is cheerfully waking up his soldiers to do exercises for the upcoming battle. The third line is a couple of days after, Sassoon simply and quickly says that most of the soldiers that the General smiled at “most of ’em are dead” he goes on to say how they curse other leaders for “incompetent swine”.
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“He’s a cheery old card”, the two main characters walk off talking about the general. The end is very simple, the two friends walk away, and he then says in a little rhyme “But he did for them in his plan of attack” meaning in a later battle they were both killed due to the very bad plans of the general.
Died of Wounds, also by Siegfried Sassoon was another bold, strait to the point poem. The poem had three stanzas with an A,A,B,B A,B,B,A A,A,B,B rhyming pattern.
“And had a wet white face and miserable eyes”, he was in such a bad state that the nurses brought ‘more than groans and sighs’ which boldly shows the reality of how ill the soldier was. The picture retained is certainly one which stirs sympathy from the reader. The line ‘he did the business well might refer to his performance in battle, yet on the other hand could refer to the fact that he certainly presents a picture of true suffering.
The second stanzas mood hardly changes with Sassoon describing the awful mental and physical state of the soldier “The ward grew dark and he was still complaining” shows how much pain he was in and ‘It’s time to go. O Christ and what’s the good?’ shows how he was also contemplating about his life before his injury and was getting ready to die.
In the final stanza, in the first two lines they sought of follow up from the second stanza where it says “They snipe like hell! O Dickie, don’t go outâ€¦”, is him calling out to his friend to come back from the battle as there are cunning enemy snipers everywhereâ€¦
â€¦ Here we discover that Sassoon was part of the poem as he says “I fell asleepâ€¦. Next morning he was dead” as if he was the documenter watching the man.
And Sassoon simply ends the poem saying ‘And some slight wound lay smiling on the bed’, which is when he is pointing out his point that no one cared about what happened to the men when they died, as if once they died they were simply replaced by other men and were forgotten about for ever.
Dulce et Decorum est was written by Wilfred Owen. Wilfred Owen wrote very similarly to Siegfried Sassoon, if not a little bit more detailed in the things he said. The title tells explains what the poem means very well, it is fitting to die for your country, this is a good pointer as you can tell he is being sarcastic by saying that as Owen wasn’t all to enthusiastic about fighting for your country. The poem consists of four stanzas, the first has eight lines, the second has six lines, the third has two lines and the fourth has twelve. The poem is about a young man who has come back from war with serious injuries and is severely traumatised.
The first stanza starts with Owen describing how tired the soldiers were, he described them to be “like old beggars under sacks” meaning they had a hunch on there backs because they were so tired. The next line carries on with saying how tired the soldiers were, saying that they were so tired that they were “knock-kneed”, they were almost falling with tiredness. They through haunting flares to show that the enemy was firing. And they started too walk to there next rest. The men were so tired that they marched asleep, some even with out wearing boots. While they limped on, the blood on their feet became encrusted to their feet. Owen now says they are so tired it is as if they were “drunk with fatigue”, they were deaf even to the shells which he calls “hoots”. He now puts it across that every thing is in a haze of tiredness, even the “Five-Nines” which were the shells are tired.
The next stanza is in a different scene, it is in the trenches and explains how a young man is killed by gas. “Gas, Gas! Quick, boys”, is one of the soldiers calling the other soldiers in their group to run as the enemy is firing gas at them. Here Owen makes it clear how bad some things in the army were as he says “Fitting on the clumsy helmets”. But now comes the twist, one of the soldiers was left behind and was found “floundering”. The next two lines he describes how through the “misty panes” he saw him “drowning”. The next stanza is an extension to the second stanza. Owen now describes how right in front of him, the man plunges at him “guttering, chocking, drowning”. Guttering means that he was slowly going out like a candle”.
The next stanza is a moving stanza in which Owen describes the awfulness of seeing the man dead, and why this is proof of the suffering in war. It starts of by him saying that you would not be able to “pace” yourself in the back of the wagon which they had “flung” him in. And how his eyes withered “in his face”, (how his eyes rolled). He now says that the man’s face hanged “like a devil’s sick of sin”. On the next few lines he describes how if you could hear the noises in the gargling in the man’s throat because of the “froth” coming out from his lungs, he compares it to the obscenity of “cancer, bitter as the cud”.
He now says that if you saw what he saw that day you will never; never want someone to fight for ‘their’ country any more.
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