The texts ‘A Soldier’s Declaration’ and ‘The Rearguard’ were both written by Siegfried Sassoon in 1917 about the First World War. However ‘A Soldier’s Declaration’ is a rhetorical declaration, a letter of protest with the intention of being published. It is also non-fiction, whereas, although it draws on some of Sassoon’s own experiences of the war, the poem ‘The Rearguard’ is fictional.
The language used in each of the texts conveys a different aspect of the war. ‘A Soldier’s Declaration’ concentrates on the purpose of the war, which Sassoon believes has changed since it began in 1914 from a war of “defence and liberation” to one of “aggression and conquest”, these pairings link the two purposes as opposites emphasising the contradictory nature of the war. Sassoon’s poem on the other hand concentrates on the horror of war; he makes great use of repetition and motifs to create the feel of the monotonousness of the war, how men just kept on dying. In his declaration, Sassoon makes many repeated personal references “I am” “I believe”, while in ‘The Rearguard’ the poem could be referring to any soldier, it says he’ rather than I’. This has the effect of making the poem universal, any soldier might read it and apply it to himself; it also creates a sense that the war brings about a loss of identity and people are reduced to nothing more than “creatures”. In contrast, in the declaration, Sassoon believes that there is suffering and that “men are being sacrificed.” He uses more formal language in the declaration because it makes his argument sound more believable and sincere, moreover, the people with influence would take him more seriously if writes in a middle-class manner because they would relate to it and would not look down on it.
In ‘A Soldier’s Declaration’, Sassoon not only highlights the gulf between combatants and non-combatants; but in addition to this he also seems to be blaming them, to an extent, for their own “callous complacence”. Thus we can see that he is trying to educate them but he views them with contempt this is further evident in the alliteration of the hard C sound. However through the poem, ‘The Rearguard’, Sassoon (if his motives have anything at all to do with non-combatants) is merely trying to inform the civilian population of what is happening and the true horror of the war. He uses figurative language because of the genre and also to convey the horror. In the fourth line “Tins, boxes, bottles, shapes to vague too know,” the figurative effects of imagery are combined with phonological ones; those of assonance, alliteration and sibilance. This creates a very busy, confused line both to read aloud and to imagine, echoing the hectic, confused nature of the war.
In ‘The Rearguard’ air’ is mentioned twice, once near the beginning of the poem, and again as the final word. Perhaps this means that, yes, many soldiers died during the First World War and even one whom we meet in the poem, but not the speaker apparently. Given the context in which this poem was written wounded in hospital, Sassoon had his own situation in mind. His declaration had Sassoon labelled as a pacifist, a conscientious objector and a shirker’. Perhaps he would prefer the fate of the poem than that of the declaration?