Julian Grenfell’s Into Battle
The ideology behind Julian Grenfell’s Into Battle is one that approves of warfare. Throughout the poem the hero that every soldier that goes into battle is, is idolised. The poem does not look upon death as a terrible loss nor at war as a useless waste of life and resources. This is all very clear from the tone and the figurative language that is used in the poem.
The first stanza starts with setting a light-hearted tone, a warm day in spring where everything seems to be all right. Halfway through the second stanza the heroic soldier is introduced and compared with nature which strives for ‘Colour and Warmth and Light … evermore’. This tone is continued until the eighth stanza brings the turnover where the tone switches from light-hearted to serious, though still positive, and the oncoming battle is introduced. This positive tone is most clear in the ninth and tenth stanza where the soldier is first taken over by the ‘Joy of Battle’ and where he knows that he will not be touched unless it is ‘Destined Will’. Furthermore, the eleventh stanza reiterates nature’s protection of the warrior; day ‘shall clasp him with strong hands’ and, night ‘shall fold him in soft wings’ and in doing so they protect him from Death. On the whole, the tone set by the poem is positive, in most parts even light-hearted.
As for figures of speech it is constantly made clear that the warrior is superior to normal people even though they are named only once, ‘he is dead who will not fight’. This is obvious in the first half of the poem where five stanzas are dedicated to claiming that the fighting man is directly and consciously supported by nature. This is done either in a life-sustaining manner, ‘The fighting man shall from the sun take warmth, and life from the glowing earth’, or in a direct practical manner, ‘woodland trees … guide to valley and ridge’s end.’ When it appears that the heroic soldier is allowed to show a sign of humanity in the ‘dreary doubtful waiting hours’ before the battle the following ‘brazen frenzy’ makes it clear that the warrior’s state is one of eagerness rather than anxiety. It is here that warfare is most glorified. Mostly when the author speaks of the ‘Joy of Battle’ where not only the words are very clear in their meaning but that meaning is accentuated by capitalising them as well. The ideology that approves of war is further stressed when it is stated that the soldier knows ‘through joy and blindness’ that he shall not perish unless it is the ‘Destined Will’ for him to do so. Here is a direct link to higher powers that overlook the battlefield and decide upon the lives of the combatants; the soldier is now turned into an instrument, everything he does or that is done to him is not his responsibility. In addition, it gives the impression that being a fighting man means that you have a closer connection with your gods thus strengthening the ideology of the glory of war with a form of divine right.
In Julian Grenfell’s Into Battle both tone and figurative language strongly add to bolster the ideology of righteous warfare. The tone of the entire poem deals lightly with a serious subject and the metaphors continuously elevate the common soldier to a heroic status. These two aspects both are significant in making Into Battle a pro-war poem.
09 Dec. 99
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