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EDWARDIAN AND WAR POETRY

War Poetry / Poets


Modern poetry grew out of the First World War. English verse altered under the
impact of mass murder in the trenches 1914-1918 and ceased to be cosy. The
war spread to Russia and Italy and Turkey and into the Middle East, but the
Western Front in France was the focus of attention at home. The opening
bombardment on the Somme was heard in London.
Poetry came closer to news. Poets became war correspondents of feeling and
suffering rather than celebrants of glory, honour, patria and remembrance. They
ceased to be crudely national.
This is not to claim that all poetry had hitherto been glossy magazine verse or
that wars had never been reported graphically. The change and difference lay in
mud and blood becoming fit subjects for poetry (a view rejected by W. B. Yeats).

Rupert Brooke (1887-1915) was the son of a schoolmaster at Rugby. Brooke


was considered extraordinarily handsome as well as clever and he became
darling of The Bloomsbury Group, the literary circle that formed around Gordon
Square, Bloomsbury, and Virginia Woolf. After studying at Cambridge University
he settled in the nearby village of Granchester and his former home, the Old
Vicarage, was later purchased by the popular novelist Lord Jeffrey Archer.
Brooke suffered a nervous breakdown in 1913 and travelled first to the United
States and then on to Tahiti in order to recuperate. He volunteered for the Royal
Navy in 1914 and took part in the expedition to Antwerp that year, which ended
in failure. Early in 1915 he sailed for the Dardanelles, where the British intended
a landing to advance on Constantinople, but died during the passage from a
mosquito bite on the lip. He was buried in an olive grove on Skyros.
One of the most anthologised poems in the language is Rupert Brooke's 'The
Soldier': Romantic, dreamy, patriotic: even the air has nationality. It's a
poem about falling asleep and waking up dead and not feeling a thing
except happy. Falling, yes, that word is deliberate - falling and rising. It
celebrates memorial resurrection and the suspension of time.
Rupert Brooke The Soldier
If I should die, think only this of me:
That there's some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England's breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.

And think, this heart, all evil shed away,


A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness.
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.
This poem may be classed among the literature of martyrology, though
it's not a religious poem. It plays on the poetic turn of mind that dreams
of being taken up in rapture for the sake of the cause or the faith - this
earth, this realm, this England invested with divinity, half in love with
easeful death.
Written in November and December 1914, only a few months after the outbreak
of the First World War, The Soldier reflects the proud English spirit that
led to many men enlisting in the early stages of the conflict. It takes the
form of Rupert Brookethe sonnet, a form which has long been
associated with English poetry, most famously with William Shakespeare
although before we get too clever and suggest the form of the poem thus reflects
its patriotic English message, we should point out that the specific type of sonnet
form Rupert Brooke is using is closer to the Italian than the English sonnet. (In
short, English sonnets are divided into three quatrains, or four-line units, and a
concluding couplet, while Italian sonnets are divided into an octave or eight-line
unit, followed by a sestet, or six-line unit.) Nevertheless, the poem does reflect
the Shakespearean sonnet by rhyming ababcdcd in those first eight lines,
whereas the Italian or Petrarchan sonnet rhymes abbaabba.

The patriotic message of the poem is evident in its repeated mention of


England and English six times in all. But a closer analysis of the
poem reveals that it also offers subtler hints of its proud patriotism. For
example, foreign, in the foreign field of the second line, finds itself
echoed and elongated into for ever England in the next line, neatly
bringing home the fact that, although English soldiers may die quickly
and horrifically on the fields of France, the English values that led to
them giving their lives for a cause courage, pride, pluck will last
forever.
Notatki z zeszytu:
Typical sonnett love poem
Love for a contry from a soldier
Soldier- Lyrical I
Linking tghe body to England. He says he was born by England, brought up by
England, educated by her. He has an England body.
Glorifies England and the idewa of dying for the country.

Glorification poem the way of propaganda, glory of going to war, then coming
back in glory again.
Rupoer glorifies the war because he died early and didnt experience much of
the war.

Siegfried Sassoon (1886-1967) was an aristocrat who won the Military Cross in
the First World War and became a pacifist. He composed a protest statement in
1917 which was published in The Times newspaper and read aloud in Parliament.
After this he was diagnosed as suffering from shell shock and hospitalised. A
fellow patient was Wilfred Owen whose poems Sassoon collected and published in
1920. Later, he turned to religion and was influenced by the devotional verse of
the seventeenth century metaphysical poets - especially Henry Vaughan (16221695) and George Herbert (1593-1633).

Sassoon began the war as a recognised Georgian and was almost as enthusiastic
as Brooke; yet, his views changed by 1916 and we can only wonder - if Brooke
had lived, would his ideas have changed too?
At the start of the war, the British army relied on volunteer recruits and there was
no shortage of men from all over the Empire willing to sign up. Conscription was
introduced in 1916 when the huge losses on the Western Front could no longer
be replaced by volunteers. The war was felt and its results were seen on the
Home Front. The dead may not have returned but the wounded did, maimed and
blinded.
Siegfried Sasson They
THE Bishop tells us: When the boys come back
They will not be the same; for theyll have fought
In a just cause: they lead the last attack
On Anti-Christ; their comrades blood has bought
New right to breed an honourable race,

They have challenged Death and dared him face to face.

Were none of us the same! the boys reply.


For George lost both his legs; and Bills stone blind;
Poor Jims shot through the lungs and like to die;
And Berts gone syphilitic: youll not find

10

A chap whos served that hasnt found some change.


And the Bishop said: The ways of God are strange!

They: They are the idealised British soldiers of whom the bishop speaks. They
are quite unlike the real soldiers who go to war.

The Bishop tells us:: The figure of religious authority in the poem a Bishop of
the Church of England speaks with confidence about a situation of which he has
no knowledge. He represents a brand of religious cant and hypocrisy that
was deeply unpopular amongst many men at the front.
When the boys come back / They will not be the same;: The meaning of the
poem turns on this observation that the war changes the men who fought in it.
Note the easy familiarity, even patronizing tone of the reference to the boys,
and the use of alliteration in this first line, as throughout the poem.
for theyll have fought / In a just cause;: alliteration (f) is again used to give a
rhythmic force to the Bishops leading statements. The mention of a just
cause reinforces the sense that the Bishop is dealing in popular
platitudes about the justification for war that it is just, or right.

their comrades blood has bought: the soldiers are explicitly compared to
Christ, who bought man eternal life by dying for their sins. Sassoons
earlier poem The Redeemer explicitly made this contrast: interestingly, Sassoon
now seems to refute this sentimental analogy.
New right to breed an honourable race,: what follows from this Christ-like
redemption is more unpleasant however. The Bishop uses pseudo-scientific
language, popular around the turn of the century. In Social Darwinist
terms, the right to breed is claimed through the sacrifice of soldiers.
This survival of the fittest (here, the fittest are the most
honourable) is an idea that underlay much elitist thinking about society
and often had, as here, a racist dimension.
they have challenged Death and dared him face to face: This Biblical line
declares that before death we have necessarily imperfect knowledge,
only attaining real enlightenment when we meet God. In many ways, the
Bishop embodies this cosmic ignorance.
Were none of us the same! the boys reply: The anguished agreement echoes
along with the use of the phrase the boys the first line, only to subvert the
Bishops prediction.
For George lost both his legs: A grim litany of injuries follows, spelling
out the true consequences of war for the boys. Note that the soldiers
are named, rather than idealized and anonymous in the Bishops
sermon. The description is explicit and pitiful: Poor Jims shot through
the lungs and like to die.
And Berts gone syphilitic:: Bert has contracted syphilis, a sexually
transmitted disease. Soldiers on leave would commonly visit prostitutes
in the local towns and villages; brothels were even graded in some
areas for use by officers (signed by blue lamps) and privates (red
lamps). Venereal infection was endemic, as prostitutes could sleep with

over a hundred men a day. Note the deeply ironic contrast, then,
between this and the Bishops claim that their comrades blood has
bought / New right to breed an honourable race.
that hasnt found some change.: the irony of this statement
illustrates Sassoons satirical point, that a massive change has indeed
come to the men, but quite different to that which the Bishop predicts.
And the Bishop said; the ways of God are strange!: The Bishop resorts to idiotic
clich to explain the real change witnessed, essentially pronouncing that God
works in mysterious ways.
[ANTHOLOGY NOTE: It is a cutting attack on the hypocrisy of authority
and the kind of rhetoric used to encourage others to go abroad and
fight.
Notatki z zeszytu:
Thne Bishop comapres the war tyo the war between the good and the evil. The
fight with the Anti- Christ. The soldiers should come back in glory, proud of
fighting the devil. But they come back injured, without legs, eyes or life so they
left sth on the war.
Wilfred Owen (1893-1918). Gas attack had added a new dimension of terror:
the first such attack occurred at Ypres in April 1915 and in one of the most
famous anti-war poems Wilfred Owen describes the 'ecstasy of fumbling' for a
gas mask and of one drowning and lost, which, if you had seen it, you would not
then repeat the old lie from Horace's Odes that it's sweet and fitting to die for
your country - dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.
That was it. That was modernity. The givens and certainties of the pre-war world
had fallen to doubt and would go along with Tsars and Kaisers into the dustbin of
history. All of them? Are there any constant truths or only temporary fictions of
exigency and contingency?
Dulce et Decorum est
Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame, all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.

Gas! GAS! Quick, boys! -- An ecstasy of fumbling


Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,

But someone still was yelling out and stumbling


And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime. -Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams before my helpless sight


He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace


Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin,
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs
Bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues, -My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.
like old beggars l.1. The soldiers are deprived of dignity and health like
the elderly and dispossessed who are reduced to begging for a living.

coughing like hags l.2. Owen compares the men to old, ugly women.
They have lost their youth and with it their potency and masculinity.
like a man in fire or lime l.12 Lime is a strong alkali which burns the
skin as does flame; Owen is witnessing the agony of a man on fire.
As under a green sea l.14. This evokes the reality of drowning. The
dim image seen through thick green light may be the effect of the
gas but may also refer to the fact that Owen is seeing the man through
the eye-piece of his own gas mask.
like a devils sick of sin l.20.The implications for pain and loathing here
are dark. The mans face is compared to that of a devil, who is itself
horrified by - and surfeited with - evil.

Obscene as cancer l.23. Owen presents us with a short brutal


comparison. Like cancer the killer, the mans blood is an obscenity;
something which should not to be seen. It is as offensive to the sight as
is death by drowning in poison gas.
bitter as the cud / Of vile incurable sores... l. 24. Owen uses a farming
image (cud is the bitter tasting, regurgitated, half-digested pasture
chewed by cattle) that equates humans with animals, as well as
conveying the acidic burning effect of the mans blood which has been
degraded by the gas inhalation.
Notatki z zeszytu:
Ist stanza the very tired group of soldiers coming back from the first battle.
Looking like beggars.
IInd stanza the dynamic changes, because of gas the soldiers have to put on
the masks quickly. One soldier didint manage to put it on time.
The narrator is one of the soldiers. In the last stanza the soldier describes death
of the soldier who didnt manage to put on mask on time. The narrator tells us
not to glorify the war.
My friend propably adressed to Brooke (The Soldier)
Edwardian poetry / poet
The poetry which was popular before the outbreak of war has become
known as 'Georgian Poetry', and the main poets are known as 'Georgian
Poets'. These were poets named after the reign of King George V who was
crowned in 1910. The first volume of Georgian Poetry appeared in 1912,
proposed by Rupert Brooke. Four more volumes were published - the last in 1922
- edited by Sir Edward Marsh.
Pre-war Georgian poetry is typified as dreamy and romantic and
escapist in comparison with the harshness of war described by the
realists. The most enduring Georgian is James Elroy Flecker who
introduced orientalism into his verse and died young; though the most
famous is, still, probably, Rupert Brooke. The forgotten Georgians are
those who continued in the vein of late-Romantic picturesque
descriptions of countryside.

Walter de la Mare (1873-1956)

Walter de la Mare, despite his aristocratic name and unlike many of the
Georgians and 30s poets, did not come from the privileged classes. He worked for
nearly twenty years as a clerk in the London office of an oil company and it was
not until he was almost forty that he attempted to live by his pen. He drew and
kept a growing readership who found his verse unaffected by fashion. King
George V came to be among his admirers and de la Mare was granted a Civil List
pension, made a Companion of Honour and ultimately received the Order of

Merit. His poem The Listeners remains a great favourite of school anthologies and
has an arresting close almost like a Zen koan.
The Listeners BY WALTER DE LA MARE
Is there anybody there? said the Traveller,
Knocking on the moonlit door;
And his horse in the silence champed the grasses
Of the forests ferny floor:
And a bird flew up out of the turret,
Above the Travellers head:
And he smote upon the door again a second time;
Is there anybody there? he said.
But no one descended to the Traveller;
No head from the leaf-fringed sill
Leaned over and looked into his grey eyes,
Where he stood perplexed and still.
But only a host of phantom listeners
That dwelt in the lone house then
Stood listening in the quiet of the moonlight
To that voice from the world of men:
Stood thronging the faint moonbeams on the dark stair,
That goes down to the empty hall,
Hearkening in an air stirred and shaken
By the lonely Travellers call.
And he felt in his heart their strangeness,
Their stillness answering his cry,
While his horse moved, cropping the dark turf,
Neath the starred and leafy sky;
For he suddenly smote on the door, even
Louder, and lifted his head:
Tell them I came, and no one answered,
That I kept my word, he said.
Never the least stir made the listeners,

Though every word he spake


Fell echoing through the shadowiness of the still house
From the one man left awake:
Ay, they heard his foot upon the stirrup,
And the sound of iron on stone,
And how the silence surged softly backward,
When the plunging hoofs were gone.
the atmosphere and imagery created by the words is very direct and it is easy
to think of experiences where we have waited impatiently after knocking at a
door and such circumstances force our mind to look at the surrounds as we
wait, taking more note of these than we usually do concentrating on hearing
and hopeful that someone will come.
there is a certain mystery conjured up giving thought to such things as why
is it so important for the Traveller to be heard what is the history harboured
behind the walls of this somewhat isolated house in the country there is very
much a ghostly feel to the words such as a host of phantom listeners.
it poses a question does the environment have a voice, all be it in the
stillness does each object exude a message the Traveller speaks to the
house and surrounds as though he is talking to a person, as well as speaking to
himself
I do like the bird flying up out of the turret the immediate response to the
initial demands of the Traveller a taking of flight from the disturbance a
certain omen
does the world of men rudely intrude on nature and when man is an
intricate part of nature what is the response in any conversation the Traveller
actually talks to the innate objects in his state of annoyance and to the extent of
asking the house to respond back to the person he wishes to see after he has left
the scene
the opening words straight away pose a question is anybody there and at
the end of the poem the answer is left for the reader to decide clearly there is
no human response, other than a non-response someone may be inside who
will not answer but the house has answered of course it is up to the
Traveller and the reader to make interpretation of this too
you could also say this is a poem about poetry, about being heard the poet
trying to converse with the reader in the end the poet has tried, leaving behind
his or her words and that is all a poet can do imploring the reader to respond
and shouting at his words it is up to you to deliver!
Notatki z zeszytu:
Lyrical I third person perspective, he knows everything, typical narrative mode
may have elemnts of a ballad

TRAVELLER came there because he promised to come, on a horse, a long


journey, lonely
House is in the forest, night, nobodys there, gothic, dark, gloomy setting
Silence, the only sounds are those moving the grass and his steps, bird flying up
In the house is something, some ghost-like figure, creatures. It brings us back to
medieval Times- medieval aspect
Georgian poetry the beginning of the 20th century