“DULCE ET DECORUM EST” – these are the first words of a Latin saying (taken from a limerick by Horace). The words were widely understood and often quoted at the start of the First World War. They mean “It is sweet and right.” The full saying which ends the poem is “Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori” which means that: it is sweet and right to die for your country. In other words the poet is trying to emphasize how it is a wonderful and great honour to fight and die for your country.
“NO MORE HIROSHIMAS” is a slogan which was given sarcastically by the government in order to show that a Hiroshima (atomic bomb) had caused so much damage and that they really did not want another one. In this poem, James Kirkup explores many factors which make Japan seem “unchanged” and a few factors which show the “catastrophe” and deaths which took place in Japan. James describes people’s bodies as relics. A relic is a part of the body which belongs to a martyr. In other words, James is calling the people of Japan martyrs.
Wilfred Owen uses many images to portray many aspects about the chaos and danger of the war. An example of this is when he uses the phrase “till on the haunting flares we turned our backs.” He uses this to imply that rockets which were sent up to burn with a brilliant glare, were actually in order to light up men and other targets in the area between the front lines. In order to show how tired the soldiers were, he says that the soldiers “began to trudge” towards their “distant rest.” By making this comment, he was trying to show that they were sent to a camp away from the front line where exhausted soldiers could rest for a few days, or longer. Also, phrases like “of gas shells dropping softly behind” show that the soldiers have struggled beyond the reach of these shells which are now falling behind them as they struggle away from the scene of battle.
Wilfred Owen shows the soldiers’ suffering by describing them as “blood-shod,” and using images like “Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots”. This image illustrates that the soldiers were so “deaf” because of hearing the noise made by the shells which were continuously rushing through the air.
In the poem: “No More Hiroshimas”, James Kirkup uses many adjectives and images to describe how Japan is not much different from what it used to be and how it “remains unchanged.” However, he mentions that Japan is now “sad” and “refusing rehabilitation.” He supports his observation by telling the reader that: life is still going on due to the fact that “department stores” are still open, there are still “neon, flashy over tiled” roofs. The poet describes people as “noisy” and cheerful, which I think is untrue because after such an atomic bomb which had caused devastation on a wide scale, why would people who could have possibly lost their relatives be cheerful? James uses a lot of descriptive and emotive language in order to show that Japan is redeveloping and in an excellent condition.
He describes Japan’s wealth and people’s feelings in Japan throughout the majority of the poem. In fact it is not until the last two stanzas where he actually reveals the horrors that were caused by the “Hiroshima.” James describes the bodies of the people that died as “relics” that made him “weep.” He also describes some of the other events that were a consequence of the disaster. A few examples of this are the “burnt clothing”, the “stopped watches” and “the torn shorts.” These images are very graphic and give the reader a true idea of what the people actually felt like and what kind of situation they were facing.
The last two lines of the poem are very effective because James says that we should “remember only” the things that made the people suffer and the catastrophic events because these are “the memories we need.” This phrase is very important because it implies that we should only remember the destruction and catastrophe which took place. We should also remember the people who lost their lives. The word “relics” is used to describe their bodies. This word is very strong (as explained above) and this draws attention to the people’s deaths.
Wilfred uses many examples of repetition. At the start of the second verse, the word “GAS!” is repeated two times. The first time, in which the word is repeated, lower case letters are used. However, the second time that the word is repeated, it is in upper case lettering. This implies the sense of panic because it is likely to be a poisonous gas. From the symptoms which are described as “drowning”, it would appear to be chlorine or phosgene gas. The filling of the lungs with a fluid had the same effects as when a person drowned because of phosgene or chlorine.
The panic which is created is because Wilfred Owen is trying to portray the image of death to reader and how the soldiers are about to loose their lives because of the poisonous gas. The poet also tries to confirm the feeling of panic by building up tension in the poem. He does this by showing the reader that the soldiers are struggling to keep hold of their lives and are trying to fit their “clumsy helmets” on “just in time”. These “helmets” are actually gas masks. Other ways in which Owen creates panic are by using onomatopoeias like “yelling out and stumbling.” The poet shows the reader that the soldiers cannot see through the “misty pains and thick green light.” The misty pains are the glass bits in the gas masks which should make it possible to see. These pains are however, described as misty. The thick green light is the mist from the chlorine gas which made visibility quite poor. The detailed description of the gas shows the reader that there is no hope and that the soldiers are about to die.
James Kirkup uses repetition to emphasize certain aspects of life in Japan that are unaffected by the “Hiroshima.” An example of this is: “the river remains unchanged, sad, refusing rehabilitation.” By repeating this particular line twice in the 2nd paragraph, James is trying to draw the reader’s attention to this particular aspect of life in Japan.
Wilfred Owen describes a soldier who was “helpless” and who was “guttering, choking and dieing.” These strong and emotional words show how the soldier was suffering and dieing violently. Owen probably meant that the soldier was flickering out like a candle or gurgling like water draining down a gutter, referring to the sounds in the throat of the choking man. Also, it could be a sound partly like stuttering and partly like gurgling. Even though, Wilfred shows the death of the soldiers, he also shows their enthusiasm by using phrases like “My friend, you would not tell with such high zest.”
James Kirkup describes the people and places in Japan with many adjectives which show that even though the country had been bombed by a Hiroshima, Japan and its people have a lot of enthusiasm in order to rebuild the country and people’s lives.