Both Stephen Crane’s poem “War is Kind” and William Butler Yeat’s “On Being Asked for a War Poem” have varied and different techniques and the two poems best illustrate to us the sub-theme of war: emotions aroused from war.
The influence of Cranes “War is Kind” was from his compassion and empathy for the everyday suffering of war victims. Even though Crane never served in the United States military, he was a journalist that covered a number of conflicts for various newspapers and news services during the mid-to-late 1890s which was the Spanish-American War in which he based his poem from but the sufferers in “War is Kind” was written for the Americans but he also wrote it in entirety for the rest of the world to convey his emotions of war.
Yeats wrote his poem “On Being Asked for a War Poem” because of his mixed feelings towards war and the responsibilities of a poet during this dreadful time of pain and suffering. He was an Irishmen and wrote this last poem to take people’s minds away from war.
Both poems express two distinctly different themes. In Crane’s elegy, the main theme is the anger and agony suffered from the loved ones of the victims of war. The theme of Yeats’ poem is of the question he has in mind of ‘why write poetry on the war before or during it is happening because I am no statesman to put an opinion on this?’
Comparing the themes, both the poems essentially tell us about the negatives of war, especially the sufferings from people.
Wars pre-1914 were very different to WW1. Wars such as the Boer War and the Crimean War were fought by soldiers using mainly sabres and muskets. These wars had little in the way of powerful weaponry such as heavy weight machine guns. WW1 also saw the beginning of trench warfare, tanks, planes and gases. Almost all of the poetry written during WW1 was written while the soldiers were on the front ...
But first of all, Crane’s poem was intended to comfort the loved ones of those that died in war. Crane uses his words to show that there is these women, because there husbands, sons and fathers died for something as futile so died needlessly. This was brilliantly emphasised with the great use of paradox and irony. He uses it to accentuate the purpose of that technique; that something appears to be one thing when it reality, is the entire opposite. ‘War is Kind’
underscores the illusion maintained by men who believe in war, “Point for them the virtue of slaughter, make plain to them the excellence of killing” It tells of the universal suffering, of the
maiden, the soldier, the baby and the mother, all because of the pointless wars.
Yeats’ theme is trying to say that why should we write about the cynical events of war when instead, write about heart-warming things like of a happy old man on a winter’s night or of a young girl in her youth. In his poem, the form is clearly a free verse and the techniques used are alliteration and emotive language.
Both the poems use the technique: alliteration to put emphasis on the idea he is talking about. For example in Crane’s poem, alliteration is used in the lines “heart hung humble” to stress how upset the mother of towards her son’s death from being a soldier in war. Yeats used alliteration also to demonstrate how fixed he is on his decision not to write a poem on the depressing war.
Yeats is more plain and direct in his poem’s style using little alliteration and other techniques whereas Crane’s poem contrasts significantly definitely evokes contrast and irony between the title and the reality of war because he can arouse emotion without talking about emotion at all. It is poignant without being overly sentimental.