Neither fame nor glory can compensate for the immense suffering that war inflicts on humanity. “Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori” is an ‘old’ lie told to youths ardent of joining the army. Not only are the targeted victims oppressed, but the soldiers who risk their lives fighting for their countries are left horrified. In both “Dulce et Decorum Est” and “This is A Dark Time, My Love”, the intimate experiences of the personas give first-hand insights of the terrors and tortures of war.
Imagery, pathetic fallacy and language vividly create the ghastly image of war. This is The Dark Time, My Love” is about a people whose dreams of a better life have been threatened by the destructive power of the “strange invaders. ” The persona conveys his intense anger against the British military presence and his belief that their rule is wrong and they display total injustice. Additionally, the persona accentuates the subjection, devastation, death and anger of the people of Guyana. It focuses on the “dark time” that the people are facing that the experience of the war where “all around the land brown beetles crawl about”.
Everywhere the faces of men are strained and anxious” tell of the fear and tension that the victims feel. Even nature is sympathetic as “red flowers bend their heads in awful sorrow. ” The poet laments of the misery of his people, the instability of his people and the sorrow brought by these “strange invaders”. In “Dulce et Decorum Est”, a soldier vividly describes the horrors of war as he hopelessly watches one of his comrades being “gassed. ” Returning from the battle-field, “bent double,” coughing and limping with blood-shod feet, they had not heard the gas-filled shells being dropped.
Luckily, most of the soldiers managed to escape, but unfortunately one of his comrades did not. As the persona recounts the traumatic experience, he lashes out at all who thinks that it is glorious and honourable to die for one’s country. The impact of the incident on the persona is one of loathing and revulsion. Both poets use imagery which is striking and graphic to inform us of the terrors of war. In “This is The Dark Time, My Love,” the visual image of the soldiers, “all around the land brown beetles crawl about”, in their thick armoury is like the beetles who have hard shells on their backs.
All around” and “crawl” creates the image that they move around in large uniform masses, just like beetles. The word “crawl” also presents the image of the soldiers moving sneakily and invading the land with stealth. “Who comes walking in the dark night time? / Whose boot of steel tramps down the slender grass” creates the visual image of the soldiers, who can walk through the dark night fearlessly, unaffected by the dark times. An auditory image is also created as the tramping of the soldiers can be heard as they walk on the unthreatening, impotent grass.
Imagery in this poem is used to describe the ways in which war oppresses innocent victims, whereas in “Dulce et Decorum Est”, similes are used to create images of the struggles soldiers face on the battlefield. The simile, “bent double, like old beggars under sacks”, is vivid as one can actually picture the soldiers “drunk with fatigue” and trying to make their way back to camp. They are hopeless and tired and though fighting for one’s country is said to be honourable, they are being compared to beggars. This line contrasts with the title of the poem.
Both the visual and auditory image of the “knock-kneed” soldiers “coughing like hags” shows the choking effect of the smell of the gas. Their coughing sounds like that of an old, tired person, which they in fact are. They cannot breathe and being compared to ‘hags’ emasculates the soldiers. Pathetic fallacy is used in “This is the Dark Time, My Love” since even nature was in a state of sadness at the oppression of the society.
This is seen by the personifications, “The shining sun is hidden in the sky/Red flowers bend their heads in awful sorrow. The flowers appear to mourn the people in the dark time who are victims of the violence of the soldiers and the suppression by the colonial powers. It seems as if the wilting flowers, whose stems are usually drooping, are actually bending their ‘heads’ in sympathy with those who have to live through the dark times. The “shining sun” represents hope and prosperity. It is unable to penetrate through the “dark times” where the people are hopeless and in despair.
The sun being hidden in the sky reflects that there is no hope for the society. The emotive and intense language used in “Dulce et Decorum Est” tells of the anger, revulsion and disgust the persona feels about being part of the war. “He plunges at me guttering, choking, drowning, “white eyes writhing in his face” and “blood come gargling from his froth-corrupted lungs” evokes sympathy in the reader. The soldier’s comrade did not die instantly from inhalation of the gas, he suffered before he died.
In all the persona’s “smothering dreams,” he never thought he would experience anything like that. “Like a devil’s sick of sin” compares war to the devil who offers no good and will never be sick of sin. War only offers pain and suffering and it is as if those who declare war are in fact devils. “This is The Dark Time, My Love” and “Dulce et Decorum Est” both aim to convey the universal message that the stereotypical assumptions about war and fighting for one’s country are lies. Both poems tell of the atrocities of war and that war affects everyone.
In “Dulce et Decorum Est,” the persona remarks that the battlefield is a horrifying experience and that many are scared for life and left feeling helpless and hopeless. The main comment the persona is trying to make is that dying for one’s country is neither noble nor honourable as people claim it to be and those anxious for glory should not buy into this belief. It emphasizes how much they had to suffer and the message received is that war is not worth the trauma and agony they have to endure.
In “This is The dark Time, My Love,” the persona indicates that war is so dehumanising that even nature makes a statement as pathetic fallacy. The persona also refers to war as “the season of oppression . . and tears. ” This alludes to the hostility and brutality to which the Guyanese are subjected and their suffering as a result. It goes on to say that it is a “festival of guns” and “Carnival of misery” showing that violence is so rampant, it seems to be a celebration.
War imposes itself on the nation’s culture and robs the nation of its independence and dreams; “aiming at your dream. ” War wreaks severe pain and distress on both soldiers and innocent, targeted people and this brings about the question whether war is really worth the suffering. Those who declare war do not endure the suffering and thus, preach that it is glorious to die for one’s country. However, as the both persona’s prove, it is no honour and certainly, no nobility to die for one’s country!