War Poetry – Notes From Class

Armitage makes subtle use of sound in his poem. While the poem has a definite rhyme scheme, it is his use of alliteration which sticks in the mind. He talks of the returning soldier coming home to not “klaxons and Union Jacks” but “sticking plasters to cover the cracks”. The repetition of the hard “K” sound could reflect either the sound of gunfire, echoing in the soldier’s mind, or perhaps even the stuttering, uncertain frame of mind the soldier now lives with.

Both poets make use of a certain kind of structure in their poems. Owen adheres to a strict iambic pentameter, with every second syllable being stressed. For example, he writes, “If you could hear at every jolt the blood come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs.” Here, we can hear the regular beat in the line, and this is intended to sound like the regular march of soldiers. Armitage, on the other hand, uses a looser structure. He maintains a regular rhyme scheme (as Owen does), but he does not keep to a rigid meter. It seems likely that this is intended to show the slight fraying of the PTSD soldier’s mind. There is an appearance of order, but it is breaking.

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