The first of these poems, Wilfred Owens "Dulce et Decorum Est," is a big example of anti-war poetry. The main theme in this dark poem is definitely war, and it definitely does not show it in a good light. From the very first lines, which describe a group of soldiers as "bent double, like old beggars under sacks, / knock-kneed, coughing like hags" ("Dulce" 1-2), it is clear that this poem is determined to destroy idealized visions of soldiers as glorious defenders of their country. The poem is filled with disturbing images of war, some of which are very realistic. An attack of poison gas is described with unflinching detail, telling how the soldiers, after "an ecstacy of fumbling / [fit] the clumsy helmets just in time" ("Dulce" 9-10). Owen also describes how the unlucky man who did not make it in time was "guttering, choking, drowning" ("Dulce" 16) and how blood was "gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs" ("Dulce" 22). The point of all this is not to gross out the reader, but to argue that patriots who "tell with such high zest / to children ... / the old Lie" that was is noble ("Dulce" 25-28) should reconsider their viewpoint.
On the other hand, Edward Thomass "This is No Petty Case of Right or Wrong" takes a much more patriotic view. Although the poet seems to argue against war at first, with the lines "I hate not Germans, nor grow hot / With love of Englishmen, to please newspapers" (3-4), as the poem continues it grows clear that what he is protesting is not necessarily hatred of the enemy or love of ones countrymen, but what he perceives as shallow patriotism. This is clear by the end of line four, quoted above, that it is not just for newspapers, or for show, that the poets narrator loves his country. Indeed, for Thomas, it appears impossible to believe that anyone might feel otherwise. It is "with the best and meanest Englishmen / I am one in crying, God save England," he says (19-20), implying ...Show more