Tuesday 11 November 2008 12.21 GMT First published on Tuesday 11 November 2008 12.21 GMT
When we look back to the first world war, it is generally the poets we turn to for the authentic voice of suffering humanity. Owen, Sassoon, Thomas - these are the secular saints of a conflict whose brutality remains barely imaginable, whose work counts the human costs that were wilfully disregarded at the time.
But, as a newly published entry in the venerable Dictionary of National Biography reminds us, that doesn't go for all the poets of that era. Reading her poetry today it's not hard to work out why Jessie Pope's work has been forgotten:
Who knows it won't be a picnic – not much-
Yet eagerly shoulders a gun?
Who would much rather come back with a crutch
Than lie low and be out of the fun?
But during the war, thanks to the good offices of the Daily Mail and other such stalwart champions of the national cause, her tub-thumping, eerily jolly exhortations to fight reached a vast readership while the poets we now revere were virtually unknown.
It's an interesting reminder of how poetry's rhetorical clout can be co-opted for propaganda. But it's well worth reading the short biography. which shows her as more than a cheerleader for slaughter, and harder to despise than you might expect.
Published: 23rd March, 2015 Last Edited: 23rd March, 2015
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The First World War poetry of Wilfred Owen provide a comprehensive and emotional account of the violence he himself witnessed during his time served in WWI with the Manchester Regiment from 1914 to 1918. Owen wanted to express the reality, horror and futility of war. Although the imagery and form of his poems vary considerably throughout his poems, there are two main elements of his poetry in his descriptions of physical and psychological torture suffered by the soldiers in the war. He is quoted as describing his work. “Above all, I am not concerned with Poetry .My subject is War and the pity of War. The poetry is in the pity.”
The draft of this poem “Apologia Pro Poemate Meo” which translates as ‘Reason for my poetry' or ‘Justification/Defence of my Poetry' is thought to have been completed in November 1917. Owen had been encouraged by Robert Graves to adopt a more optimistic attitude to his poetry rather than the morose and glum tone portrayed in his previous poems.
“Apologia Pro Poemate Meo” which consists of nine ordered quatrains with an alternating rhyming pattern is one of Owens more unfussy poems. There is a uniform rhythm which helps Owen repeat his message to the people who had no dealings with the war that they should try and understand the sacrifices being made by the fighting soldiers at the front and the comradeships that had formed in the trenches. The poem starts with a religious reference to God's existence in the mud. Owen says “I, too, saw God through mud”. Although the use of the pronoun ‘I' gives an indication that this may be more of a personal poem similar to Dulce et Decorum est' or ‘The Sentry' they are dissimilar, in that, “Apologia Pro Poemate Meo” is not gleaned from personal experience and again it is unlike ‘Anthem for a Doomed Youth' where Owen distances himself from the actions of the war but the overriding themes of these poems are similar, in that, they contain prophetic undertones.
Owens referral to God may be interpreted as, either God is all around them or that the soldiers have become almost God-like because of their power to take life. The very mention of ‘mud' in the first line conjures up the image of hardship in the trenches based on the fact that there is a hint that the mud must have been dry as it “cracked on cheeks” therefore the soldiers must not have washed for a long time and did not smile very often “when wretches smiled”. Owen continues by saying that the actual fighting by the soldiers brings more glory than death by the mere fact of being there. At the end of verse one Owen tells us how “War brought more glory to their eyes than blood”. Glory is not a word often used or found in Owens work giving us the impression that perhaps Owen is writing a less depressing poem than his others and that he is trying to present War as being very jingoistic.
On the other hand when Owen goes on to explain how soldiers were not supposed to feel remorse for killing we can surmise that there is no honour or glory in war. As well as bringing honour, the war had provided more meaning to their laughter which presumably did not happen very often, because when they did laugh, it was with gusto “And gave their laughs more glee than shakes a child”. At the end of the verse Owen reminds us of how young the soldiers are, his mention of “glee” makes one think of their youth. The use of contrasting language such as ‘laughter', ‘smiles' and ‘glory' are in conflict with the assonance of ‘mud' and ‘blood'
In the second verse a sense of joyfulness continues “Merry it was to laugh there-“ suggesting that out ‘there', there was more to laugh about than at home, perhaps because of the fact that it may be their last laugh! It is hard to believe that there was laughter in the trenches. It may have been the case that they appreciated laughter more. “Where death becomes absurd and life absurder” is Owens interpretation of the life of a soldier, as death gains you nothing but life is more absurd, as the men have the right to commit murder! “For power was on us as we slashed bones bare” Death is referred to as ‘murder' not ‘killing' showing how Owen viewed the task of the soldier. Yet again there is a contrast in the language where, on one hand we have the ‘merry' men and on the other we have 'murder', this contrast is emphasised by the use of tender language throughout the poem using soft ‘s' sounds eg. ‘seraphic', ‘soft silk eyes'.
In verse three Owen states “I, too, have dropped off Fear” insinuating that he has lost any fear he may have had. The use of a capital ‘F' in the word ‘Fear' may imply that fear is a personification of a God-like status and that God is the fear, especially when read alongside the first line of the poem. Owen then creates a surreal image of being able to float above the battlefield where the barbed wire and the dead soldiers lie “sailed my spirit surging” this may represent Owens ability to come out of his surroundings and see that there is more to just life and death and that there is a anomaly, whereby, even in a hopeless place, happiness existed “And witnessed exultation”. Not forgetting that Owen was a very young officer and had been leading men with more experience than him. There may have been some resentment to him giving them orders but now this is all behind them “Faces that used to curse me, scowl for scowl” they are now all together as one and “Shine and lift up with passion of oblation”. Owen continues with the religious imagery “Seraphic for an hour, though they were foul”. The ethereal tone is broken by Owens' reference to the men as being “foul” which probably refers to their hygiene and foul language. The religious overtones then cease as Owen goes on to refer to the more human aspects of the war and the relationships that formed “I have made fellowships” and compares them with the loving relationships that are more of the conventional and traditional style and then says that the friendships found in the trenches are more than this, “For love is not the binding of fair lips”. Owen does not make reference to death or wounding only that “the bandage of the arm that drips” the soldiers are united in there shared experiences. Even in such harsh surroundings Owen manages to find “beauty”, “music” and “peace” which, under normal circumstances would be out of place in the trenches.
Owens use of alliteration “Found peace where shell-storms spouted reddest spate” provides an image of constant bombardment but this is tempered by the soft sounds which gives a contrast between the fighting and the emotions felt by the soldiers.
It is in the final verses of the poem that Owen changes the mood and attitude by referring directly to the reader, saying that, they, as civilians may eventually go to hell the soldiers are already there. He describes the horror in the trenches that the soldiers experience as one of “Whose world is but a trembling of a flare”. The mention of “hell” twice in quick succession in this verse only serves to emphasise the horror of war to the reader. Having previously described the soldiers' experiences in soft and gentle tones as being happy Owen states that this should not be taken seriously “By any jest of mine”, the reader sitting safely at home will not be privy to the laughter of the soldiers “You shall not hear their mirth” nor should they believe that they are happy, as not only the dead soldiers should be mourned but the living as well. Owen is obviously disillusioned with the attitude amongst those at home by saying in the last line “These men are worth …. Your tears: You are not worth their merriment”. This compares with “But cursed are dullards whom no cannon stuns” in Owens poem”insensibility'”.
Owens use of direct speech and the present tense gives a sense of sincerity and urgency, his descriptive ability to promote the imagery of sight, sound and smell serve to emphasise the horrors of the war fought in the trenches. Owens' use of half rhymes provides amplification to his subject matter which is both disturbing and dissonant.
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Roughly 10 million soldiers lost their lives in World War I, along with seven million civilians. The horror of the war and its aftermath altered the world for decades, and poets responded to the brutalities and losses in new ways. Just months before his death in 1918, English poet Wilfred Owen famously wrote, “This book is not about heroes. English Poetry is not yet fit to speak of them. Nor is it about deeds, or lands, nor anything about glory, honour, might, majesty, dominion, or power, except War. Above all I am not concerned with Poetry. My subject is War, and the pity of War.”
To mark the WWI centenary, we’ve put together a sampling of poems written in English by both soldiers and civilians, chosen from our archive of over 250 poems from WWI. We’ve also compiled a sampler showcasing the poets who served and volunteered in World War I .
While many of these poems do not address a particular war event, we’ve listed them by year, along with a selection of historical markers, to contextualize the poems historically. You may notice that more poems in 1914 and 1915 extoll the old virtues of honor, duty, heroism, and glory, while many later poems after 1915 approach these lofty abstractions with far greater skepticism and moral subtlety, through realism and bitter irony. Though horrific depictions of battle in poetry date back to Homer’s Iliad. the later poems of WWI mark a substantial shift in how we view war and sacrifice.
Archduke Ferdinand assassinated. Outbreak of war in July/August. Germany invades Belgium. First Battle of the Marne, First Battle of Ypres. United States remains neutral. Trench warfare begins. The Siege of Antwerp. The Christmas truce.
Germans sink RMS Lusitania. The Dardenelles campaign. Battle of Gallipoli. Second Battle of Ypres. First use of poison gas.
Battle of Verdun, Battle of the Somme. President Wilson re-elected with campaign slogan, “He kept us out of the war.” Rasputin is murdered.
Germans issue Zimmerman Telegram to Mexico, United States declares war on Germany, draft begins. U.S. troops land in France. Third Battle of Ypres. Bolshevik uprising in Russia, led by Lenin, headed by Trotsky.
U.S. President Wilson issues Fourteen Points to peace. Germany launches Spring Offensive, bombs Paris. United States launches attacks at Belleau Wood and Argonne Forest. Bolsheviks murder Tsar Nicholas II and Romanov family. Kaiser Wilhelm II abdicates, Germany signs armistice on November 11. Paris Peace Conference.
1919 and After
Armies demobilize, return home. Peace Treaty of Versailles ratified by Germany; U.S. Senate votes to reject treaty and refuses to join League of Nations. Proposal and constitution for League of Nations. The Cenotaph unveiled in London. Treaty of Sevres in 1920 ends war on Eastern Front.
Read more poets who served or volunteered in WWI
Poet's Choice: Of Love and War. D.A. Powell reads poems from Rupert Brooke and Gwendolyn Brooks.
Anything But Sweet. Wilfred Owen's “Dulce et Decorum Est” and modern warfare.The Poetry of World War I
The term war poet came into currency during and after World War I. A number of poets writing in English had been soldiers, and had written about that experience. Quite a number had died, most famously Rupert Brooke, Wilfred Owen, and Charles Sorley. Others such as Siegfried Sassoon had survived, but made a reputation based on scathing poetry written from the disabused point of view of the trench soldier who had lost faith in his military superiors. At the time the term soldier poet was also used, but then dropped out of favour.World War I
There was probably at least as much poetry of quality written on the German side of the Western Front; but it was in English poetry that the war poem became an established genre marker, and attracted growing popular interest. Americans and Canadians contributed notable work (John McCrae wrote In Flanders Fields which is on the Canadian $5 bill), and the French had their own war poetry. According to Patrick Bridgwater in The German Poets of the First World War, the closest comparison to Owen would be Anton Schnack; and Schnack's only peer would be August Stramm.
It is perhaps not a well-defined question, what makes a war poet (compare, say, Brooke and Georg Trakl ). The public may have seen war poems as reportage and direct emotional links to the soldier. Robert Graves served in the trenches and survived, David Jones also; Graves did not use war experience as poetic material (making it autobiography in Goodbye to All That), or, more accurately, later suppressed what he had made of it; and Jones postponed its use, incorporating it into modernist forms. These and other WWI poets are listed here: World War I poets.Spanish Civil War
The Spanish Civil War produced a substantial volume of poetry in English and, of course, Spanish too, and other languages � there were English-speaking poets serving on both sides.World War II
By the time of World War II the role of 'war poet' was so well-established in the public mind that 'where are the war poets?' became a topic of discussion. The Times Literary Supplement ran an editorial 'To the Poets of 1940' right at the end of 1939 (still during the phoney war, therefore). Robert Graves gave a radio talk 'Why has this War produced no War Poets?' in October 1941. Stephen Spender also replied at about the same time, T. S. Eliot a year later.
Alun Lewis and Keith Douglas are the standard critical choices amongst British war poets of that time, and Karl Shapiro made a reputation based on poetry written during the Pacific war; there was probably more heavyweight poetry written in French from 1939-1945, than in English. The reason may be to do with the onward march of technology and the fact that soldiers spent less of their time sitting in trenches waiting for something to happen.
The expectation of war poetry can be noted in a character from the C. S. Forester novel The Ship who is a poet serving in a Royal Navy ship in the Mediterranean around 1942, and who is killed in action. Benjamin Britten's War Requiem made use of war poem texts, as does Robert Steadman's "In Memoriam".Later wars
There has been little recognition of war poetry from any subsequent conflict, certainly when compared with novels. That is not to say, at all, that such conflicts have not affected poets and what they write.
This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia .
first world war poetry
A war poet is a poet written at that time and on the subject of war. This term, at the beginning applied especially to those in military service during World War I. then, documented as early as 1848 in reference to German revolutionary poet, Georg Herwegh The main figures in the first world war
Siegfried Sassoon (1886-1967)-1
Siegfried Sassoon was perhaps the most innocent of the war poets. John Hildebidle has called Sassoon the "accidental hero." Born into a wealthy Jewish family in 1886, Sassoon lived the pastoral life of a young squire: fox-hunting, playing cricket, golfing and writing romantic verses. Being an innocent, Sassoon's reaction to the realities of the war were all the more bitter and violent -- both his reaction through his poetry and his reaction on the battlefield (after the death of fellow officer David Thomas and his brother Hamo at Gallipoli). Sassoon sadness, he believed that the Germans were entirely to blame. Sassoon showed innocence by going public to protest against the war. Luckily, his friend and fellow poet Robert Graves convinced the review board that Sassoon was suffering from shell-shock and he was sent instead to the military hospital at Craig Lockhart where he met and influenced Wilfred Owen. Sassoon is a key figure in the study of the poetry of the Great War: he brought with him to the war the ideal pastoral background. he began by writing war poetry reminiscent of Rupert Brooke. he wrote with such war poets as Robert Graves and Edmund Blunden. he spoke out publicly against the war. he spent thirty years reflecting on the war through his memoirs, and at last he found peace in his religious faith. Some critics found his later poetry lacking in comparison to his war poems. How to Die" "
Dark clouds are smouldering into red
While down the craters morning burns
The dying soldier shifts his head
To watch the glory that returns
He lifts his fingers toward the skies
Where holy brightness breaks in flame;
Radiance reflected in his eyes,
And on his lips a whispered name.
You’d think, to hear some people talk,
That lads go West with sobs and curses,
And sullen faces white as chalk,
Hankering for wreaths and tombs and hearses.
But they’ve been taught the way to do it
Like Christian soldiers; not with haste
And shuddering groans; but passing through it
With due regard for decent taste.
Wilfred Edward Salter Owen, 1893 – 1918-2
From the age of nineteen Owen wanted to be a poet and immersed himself in poetry, being especially impressed by Keats and Shelley. He wrote almost no poetry of importance until he saw action in France in 1917. He was deeply attached to his mother to whom most of his 664 letters are addressed. (She saved everyone.) He was a committed Christian and became lay assistant to the vicar of Dunsden near Reading 1911-1913 – teaching Bible classes and leading prayer meetings as well as visiting parishioners and helping in other ways. He escaped bullets until the last week of the war, but he saw a good deal of front-line action: he was blown up, concussed and suffered shell-shock. At Craig Lockhart, the psychiatric hospital in Edinburgh, he met Siegfried Sassoon who inspired him to develop his war poetry. He was sent back to the trenches in September, 1918 and in October won the Military Cross. by seizing a German machine-gun and using it to kill a number of Germans. On 4th November he was shot and killed near the village of Ors. The news of his death reached his parents' home as the Armistice bells were ringing on 11 November. Wilfred Owen is the greatest writer of war poetry in the English language. He wrote out of his intense personal experience as a soldier and wrote with matchless power of the physical, moral and psychological impact of the First World War. All of his great war poems about his reputation rests were written only in a fifteen months. Anthem for Doomed Youth
BY WILFRED OWEN
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Modern History Sourcebook: WorldWar I Poetry . Siegfried Sassoon (1886-1967):"How to Die" Link to Collected Poems [At Columbia] Wilfred Owen (1893-1918):"Anthem for a Doomed Youth" Link to Collected Poems [At Toronto] Wilfred Owen: "Dulce et Decorum Est" Herbert Read (1893-1968): "The Happy Warrior" W.N.Hodgson (1893-1916): "Before Action" Wilfred Gibson (1878-1962) "Back" Link to Collected Poems [At Columbia] Philip Larkin (1922-1985): "MCMXIV" Link to Poems [At Hooked.net] Siegfried Sassoon (1886-1967) "How to Die" Dark clouds are smouldering into red While down the craters morning burns. The dying soldier shifts his head To watch the glory that returns; He lifts his fingers toward the skies Where holy brightness breaks in flame; Radiance reflected in his eyes, And on his lips a whispered name. You'd think, to hear some people talk, That lads go West with sobs and curses, And sullen faces white as chalk, Hankering for wreaths and tombs and hearses. But they've been taught the way to do it Like Christian soldiers; not with haste And shuddering groans; but passing through it With due regard for decent taste. Wilfred Owen (1893-1918) "Anthem for a Doomed Youth" What passing-bells for these who die as cattle? --Only the monstrous anger of the guns. Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle Can patter out their hasty orisons. No mockeries for them from prayers or bells, Nor.
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Essay about ww1 poetry Conflict happens all the time it is a trait that human beings sport and have done since the beginning of time. I has many different ways of manifesting its self be it war . terror, a family quarrel, or freedom fighting. It is the main story in many pieces of writing and is used in a lot of plot lines in TV and film. Conflict appeals to humans. Reality TV for instance doesn’t go 5 minutes without a argument. I am going to write this essay about 4 poems each with a different light shed on conflict and war . I am going to compare the four. Dolce et decorum Est was written by Wilfred owen. I Believe this poem was written to try and put the point across about how the slaughtering of young British men as young as 15 is worse than the war its self. Boys were leaving their homes without knowing what the fate they were going to face, all they were being fed was propaganda and pro war posters, they wouldn’t have had first -hand access to pieces of literature like this, it was blind un witting suicide to sign up for the army and Wilfred Owen was one of the only men to realise this and try to put a end to it. In stanza 1 the description of the soldiers is a complete opposite to what you would want to perceive as a British soldier. You imagine a burley English gentleman with a curly moustache and a clean uniform. Ready for action sir. But no, the way he paints the life of.
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