An experience of war is the experience a soldier has during his time in battle. Poets present soldiers’ experiences to show their ideas/thoughts and feelings about war and emotions from the soldiers’ point of view. Both poets question the reasons of war and justify it.
In “Bayonet Charge”, Hughes creates a speaker who is a soldier, “suddenly he awoke and was running”, this gives the impression that the soldier was unprepared. This idea could suggest how men joined the army without knowing what was to come and what they were signing up for. The fact that the soldier just awoke and started to run tells the reader that his movements were spontaneous and he may have not felt in control of his body, the use of the word ‘suddenly emphasises this as it makes the poet’s intentions seem much stronger and clearer. On the other hand this could mean that the soldier was just scared and realised the amount of danger in which he was in. The clever use of imagery here would make the reader imagine how if they were in this situation, they would probably be terrified and Hughes gives a negative experience of war here.
Similarly in “Come on, Come Back”, Smith creates the character of Vaudevue whose “fingers tap the ground”; this conveys to the reader how, just like the soldier in Bayonet Charge this one is spontaneously doing this as she doesn’t know what else to do. Here the soldier acts just like a child would as her mind has been wiped blank. This also shows that she is nervous as she doesn’t feel safe and doesn’t know what will happen to her this is because she doesn’t remember who she is (a soldier) and what she is doing (fighting at war). By using language like this Smith communicates with the reader by making a convincing idea of how war is damaging and can not only kill men and women but also cause them pain/torture before they lose their lives to it.
In Bayonet Charge the soldier is out of control as he, “plunged past with his bayonet toward the green hedge”, this could possibly convey how he just wants to get out of the warzone as he ‘plunges’. This is usually a forward movement and could connote a feeling of fear as the soldier just wants to run. On the other hand the fact that he runs towards the bush with enemy fire coming from could indicate that he again wants the war to be over and therefore he will give his life by trying to help so that others can return home to their families. The way the Hughes has put this in, can reveal to the reader a soldier’s true experience of war, as only one in the middle of one may truly understand how terrible it can be.
On the other hand, Smith uses Vaudevue in a similar way by the way she “strips her uniform off, strips, stands and plunges”. But despite using the same term, ‘plunges’, the poet intended to put this in for a different effect/meaning for the reader compared to how Hughes used it in Bayonet Charge. Here ‘plunges’ would indicate further that she is in no control over her body as she doesn’t slowly lower herself into the ‘icy waters’ like any other normal person would. Also the fact that she ‘strips her uniform off’ could connate how it means nothing to her as her mind is blank, but the poet may have actually implied something different by this. Smith may have really meant to express how he finds war futile as it means nothing to him due to there being no gain for anyone, only death. The reader would respond to this by, after reading Smith’s poem, fully understanding the poet’s view of soldiers’ experiences of war.
In conclusion, both poems present soldier’s experiences of wars in similar ways, but the poets have different ideas about this theme. In my opinion Bayonet Charge is the more effective poem as it tells the reader how soldiers truly experience wars. Hughes cleverly uses language to explain his ideas and creates a realistic view and atmosphere when the poem is read.