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Nature in Owen s Poetry Essay


Compare and contrast the presentation of nature in Owens poetry. Owen uses the concept of nature extensively in his poem Spring Offensive, in which he contemplates from an initial pastoral, peaceful scene in which gradually reflects upon the events off military initiative. Nature Is also used In his poem The Show to evoke the fear of death through using extended use of metaphors whilst both poems use personification and comparison of human life to the natural surroundings to convey the harsh conditions a soldier faced and the likelihood of death.

In The Show, the tone of the poem Is considerably more melancholy than Spring Offensive, using nature more intensively juxtaposed amongst imagery of death, in contrast with the more subtle, in some instances even soothing image that is initially built up in Spring Offensive. For example, in The Show, ‘caterpillars’ is used as a metaphor to describe the men, In a context of which seems degrading, diminishing the men to something so Insignificant In value. This Is reinforced In the following lines, isolating the word ‘killed. Wrought the use of a comma and full stop, adding an air of meaningless to the word. In contrast, the use of nature in Spring Offensive Initially acts as a motif of both new life and the potential of the men, shown in the second stanza, in which Owen develops a picturesque view of the battlefield prior to battle through; ‘Summer oozed in to their veins’. This use of figurative language combines onomatopoeia through the long vowel ‘o’ sound to create a sonorous, peaceful scene before action later commences In the fourth stanza.

In effect, by reading a focus on nature and the Intricate detail of the scenery through the first three stanzas, the inevitable horrific action of war conveyed through the poem’s title is delayed thus teasing the reader and creating tension. As Spring Offensive progresses, the mood of poem dramatically advances to apprehension in contrast with the initial peaceful setting. Nature remains keeping a central and focused backdrop to the action of the men, as they topped the hill, and raced together’, whilst the context in which it is used in varies.

The use of ‘Till like a cold gust thrilled the little word’ marks the change in direction of the poem, when coupled with the juxtaposing simile ‘like trees unstirred’. This acts as a device to show how Owen felt men acted as a part of nature during rest, reinforcing their idle movement for days and in contrast; how it could seem that even nature worked against their favor as they fought to defeat the enemy or merely stay alive.

Similarly, this technique of comparing human life to nature Is extensively used In The show, such as using imagery of ‘abundant spawns’ to convey sheer numbers of men, who were presumably German due to the reference to the color ‘gray (the color of a German army uniform). The depiction of these men being ‘ramped on the rest’ portrays men acting as an animal raised upon Its hind legs, thus conveying an underlying threat of the enemy and again, diminishing men by making them comparable to animals.

Spring Offensive, with the final lines returning to this initial concept of ‘Death’ having an eerily physical presence, effectively retaining an uncomfortable, dreamlike state of he speaker. In contrast, the mood of the poem in Spring Offensive is separated out more distinctively by larger structured stanzas, with the drowsy, tranquil nature of the first three stanzas pervading peace within the reader through the fluid enjambment of ‘ease’ and ‘And’ and pleasant imagery of the onomatopoeic ‘long grass swirled’, using nature to evoke peace before a dramatic change in tone taking effect later on in the poem.

Nature is used in Spring Offensive more directly, building scenic imagery from a objective point of view amongst this fierce backdrop of battle and fury, while in The Show nature is used in a more metaphorical sense used to describe the physical and mental state of men at war.

For example, in The Show the extended metaphor during the final stanza in which ‘Death’ is personified as ‘He’ and appears to pick up a Worm’, who Owen identifies with as the men in his platoon, seemingly defenseless as this force of death overpowers them. This is perhaps more disturbing to the reader than the calmer, yet still uncomfortable scenes of Spring Offensive, in which the sky burns With fury against them’, more subtly depicting a similar image of a greater power defeating their existence.

Owen uses nature in his poetry to powerfully convey how men were degraded at war due to their poor treatment and their surrounding conditions, belittling their entire being to that of an insect or an animal, as seen in both The Show and Spring Offensive. Nature is presented as providing both a sense of tranquility during rest at war; but equally it seemed in a place of such desolate isolation from civilized life, it seemed that even nature acted against the soldiers.