In Wilfred Owen’s poem “Dulce et Decorum Est” and Marvin Bell’s poem “The Uniform,” the struggles soldiers endured during wartime are portrayed with the use of poetic structure, devastating images, and internal conflict to exhibit the shift from romanticism to realism with a soldier’s fight toward “desperate glory.”
In “Dulce et Decorum Est,” Owen’s poetic structure consists of an almost steady AB rhyme scheme which helps the reader gracefully travel through battle. Along with the steady rhyme scheme, the events of the poem are separated by stanza, further aiding the reader’s ascension through combat. However, this flow is interrupted with the phrase “obscene as cancer” (29). This interruption is needed in order to break the smooth transition of the battle, just as easily as death could turn a winning fight to a loss. After the engagement of cancer, the poem continues on with its rhyme scheme just as it left it, leaving an uncomfortable presence for the reader. Contradictorily, Bell does not use a rhyme scheme, but begins each sentence with the phrase “Of the…” followed by a piece of a soldier’s uniform. This different approach is quite appropriate since the poem is not about death by battle, but the slow deterioration of the soldier’s comfort and morale. This type of destruction is often overlooked due to the high casualties of battle and reminds the reader of this silent ravager.
Behind the wondrous structure of the poems, the everlasting battle ends lives. The devastating images portrayed in each poem lead the reader to understand a typical day for a soldier. In Owen’s poem, he talks of the ill down on their knees as if begging and others marching sleepily along while showing the physical destruction of the Great War that is so often discussed: “blood-shod” feet and the sudden deployment of gas that dissolves the lungs and eyes (6). In “The Uniform,” the author discusses how the uniforms did not properly fit, how bulky they were, and how they were constantly wet, almost to the point of making them ineffective in combat. Along with the uniform, Bell tells of how the great machine guns mounted men, instead of men mounting them, and of the mortars men dragged by rope. This strenuous physical labor in combination with the horrid outfits caused great discomfort, causing the soldiers to question the faith to the army. Away from the external force of destruction in “Dulce et Decorum Est,” the poem exhibits emotional destruction with the ending of patriotism by saying it is not sweet or fitting to die for one’s own country. This decay in morale is most likely caused by the devastation every soldier experienced during the war. The shift in the author’s tone, just as cancer has taken its toll, indicates his true feelings toward the war; he has a great disdain for what the