Comparison

You can discover a lot about a poem by comparing it to one by another author that deals with a similar subject. You could compare features such as theme, form, structure, rhythm, language and figures of speech.

The key thing to do when comparing poems is to note the points where they are similar and the points where they differ. You could make a list noting similarities and differences between the two poems.

Comparison of 'The Destruction of Sennacherib' by Lord Byron and 'What Were They Like?' by Denise Levertov

Similarities

  • The two poems look at the effect war has on a particular nation and specifically at the aspect of loss.
  • The after-effects of war are seen as ongoing and affecting others, beyond those who were engaged in fighting.
  • Both poems were written at a time when war was dominating the news – Byron’s towards the end of the Napoleonic Wars and Levertov’s during the Vietnam War.
  • Both poets make use of alliteration.
  • Both poets use similes which compare events to aspects of the natural world.

Differences

  • Byron uses a highly regular poetic form of four line stanzas. Levertov uses two blocks of free verse.
  • Byron’s speaker is an observer and recorder of events. Levertov uses two speakers (the questioner and the responder) to be more openly critical of what has occurred.
  • Byron’s tone is more neutral than Levertov’s. Levertov seems angrier about what has happened - probably because the events she is describing are recent, whereas Byron’s are from ancient history.

Try comparing The Destruction of Sennacherib to these other poems:

  • The Charge of The Light Brigade by Alfred, Lord Tennyson
  • Exposure by Wilfred Owen

Explore the study guide for 'Exposure'.