Alexander Palace Forum

Discussions about Russian History => The Russian Revolution => Topic started by: Kurt Steiner on November 27, 2007, 02:20:36 PM

Title: Poetry of World War I
Post by: Kurt Steiner on November 27, 2007, 02:20:36 PM
Excuse me if I got pedantic on this issue, but, dealing my PhD with WW1 English literature I tend to be pedantic even if I don't realize. So, I get carried out, just forgive me, please.

My favourite WW1 English poets are Robert Graves, Sigfried Sassoon and, above them all, Wilfred Owen. Ruppet Brooke died too young and to early. Had he lived longer, he would have turned into Sassoon's or Owen's style, for sure. On his last poems we can see this change of attitude, as in the ones he started in his fateful trip to Gallipolli.

So, let me quote perhaps one of the finest sonnets ever written about war.

Strange Meeting by Wilfred Owen.

It seemed that out of battle I escaped
Down some profound dull tunnel, long since scooped
Through granites which titanic wars had groined.

Yet also there encumbered sleepers groaned,
Too fast in thought or death to be bestirred.
Then ,as I probed them, one sprang up, and stared
With piteous recognition in fixed eyes,
Lifting distressful hands, as if to bless.
And by his smile, I knew that sullen hall, -
By his dead smile I knew we stood in Hell.

With a thousand pains that vision's face was grained;
Yet no blood reached there from the upper ground,
And no guns thumped, or down the flues made moan.
'Strange friend,' I said, 'here is no cause to mourn.'
'None,' said that other, 'save the undone years,
The hopelessness. Whatever hope is yours,
Was my life also; I went hunting wild
After the wildest beauty in the world,
Which lies not calm in eyes, or braided hair,
But mocks the steady running of the hour,
And if it grieves, grieves richlier than here.
For by my glee might many men have laughed,
And of my weeping something had been left,
Which must die now. I mean the truth untold,
The pity of war, the pity war distilled.
Now men will go content with what we spoiled,
Or, discontent, boil bloody, and be spilled.
They will be swift with swiftness of the tigress.
None will break ranks, though nations trek from progress.
Courage was mine, and I had mystery,
Wisdom was mine, and I had mastery:
To miss the march of this retreating world
Into vain citadels that are not walled.
Then, when much blood had clogged their chariot-wheels,
I would go up and wash them from sweet wells,
Even with truths that lie too deep for taint.
I would have poured my spirit without stint
But not through wounds; not on the cess of war.
Foreheads of men have bled where no wounds were.

I am the enemy you killed, my friend.
I knew you in this dark: for so you frowned
Yesterday through me as you jabbed and killed.
I parried; but my hands were loath and cold.
Let us sleep now...'


Moving, isn't it?

PD: Take a look also at Isaac Rosemberg, Ivor Gurney or Vera Brittain, too.
Title: Re: Poetry of World War I
Post by: Kurt Steiner on November 27, 2007, 02:23:16 PM
Well, could WWI have been prevented?

No. As the alliance system worked, with all the interest the every single nation had, any single trouble would have started the war. France and the UK almost came to blows in 1898 at Fashoda, and look at them later on.

Hadn't been at Sarajevo, the spark would have taken place anywhere else.
Title: Re: Poetry of World War I
Post by: jehan on November 27, 2007, 06:53:29 PM
Has anyone else read Vera Brittain's "Testament of Youth", or her war diaries?

She is a good writer and her writings are one of the few views of WW1 from a woman's perspective- she served as a VAD near the front and in England.  And she lost most of the young men she was close to (including her fiance and her brother).  After the war she became an outspoken pacifist.

Anyway- my favorite WW1 poem was written by her fiance Roland Leighton  a few months before he was killed in action December 1915.

Villanelle

Violets from Plug Street Wood,
Sweet, I send you oversea.
(It is strange they should be blue,
Blue, when his soaked blood was red,
For they grew around his head;
It is strange they should be blue.)

Violets from Plug Street Wood-
Think what they have meant to me-
Life and Hope and Love and You
(And you did not see them grow
Where his mangled body lay
Hiding horror from the day;
Sweetest it was better so.)

Violets from oversea,
To your dear, far, forgetting land
These I send in memory,
Knowing You will understand. (3)
Title: Re: Poetry of World War I
Post by: Alixz on November 27, 2007, 10:25:15 PM
jehan -

That is the most beautiful and yet heartbreaking poem yet!

Arch Duke Rudolph, the heir to the Austrian throne before his suicide at Mayerling had often spoken of the "need for" and the "inevitability" of a war with Russia.  As early as 1881, Rudolph developed this view:  Appeasement pf Russia would have to cease, she should be pressed back behind an enlarged Romania, and Poland would have to be resuscitated

He then said:  Because the great mission of this state is still unfulfilled.  It has yet to play a great part in the European Orient which it will then reform basically.... I go so far as to maintain that a great war which forces us to fight out the whole issue of the Near East would be of great advantage to our internal conditions and for our whole right to exist...."

Rudolph died in 1889, but this memorandum was written in 1881.  There is much more to it and much more to his assertion that a war with Russia conducted by Austria-Hungry with Germany at its back was necessary.

Thirty three years later, with the death of Franz Ferdinand (who of course would not have been the heir if Rudolph had not committed suicide) that Austrian idea of a war with Russia over the Balkans and Austria's right to over see the Balkans and to be the controlling force in that area of the world was still very much in evidence.

And the one other thing that I always bring up about the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 is that Ho Chi Min was a bus boy or waiter at the conference.  He tried to get the delegates to listen to him and to set in motion the withdrawal of the French from Indochina.  But not one of those self satisfied and egocentric men would listen to a mere "bus boy".

And the need for natural resources that were not available in their own countries and the determination to control and humiliate the defeated Central Powers plus the insensitive drawing and redrawing of map lines in the Middle East were the direct causes of World War II and Korea and Viet Nam and now Iraq and Iran.
Title: Re: Poetry of World War I
Post by: imperial angel on November 27, 2007, 11:24:52 PM
I am not familiar with Vera Brittain, but I have to agree with the last poster about that poem- so beautiful. I also like that is not as well known as some of the poems I posted- they are familiar enough to have been beaten into the ground. It is always nice to read World War I poetry that is not as familiar to people yet is lovely, and I really appreciate the last four responses to this thread- hope it continues..
Title: Re: Poetry of World War I
Post by: Kurt Steiner on November 28, 2007, 03:27:41 AM
Has anyone else read Vera Brittain's "Testament of Youth", or her war diaries?

I did. I still remember the parts where she talks about the death of Roland.

As Imperial Angel has asked... You've given me an idea. I'll try to show with examples how the mood in poetry changes from the beginning of the war till the end. I'll also add some biographical information about the writer, if you like.

So, let's do it.

A poem by Thomas Hardy, in the early stages of the war.

“Men who March Away” (Song of the Soldiers)

WHAT of the faith and fire within us   
  Men who march away   
  Ere the barn-cocks say   
  Night is growing gray,   
To hazards whence no tears can win us;          
What of the faith and fire within us   
  Men who march away!   
 
Is it a purblind prank, O think you,   
  Friend with the musing eye   
  Who watch us stepping by,          
  With doubt and dolorous sigh?   
Can much pondering so hoodwink you?   
Is it a purblind prank, O think you,   
  Friend with the musing eye?   
 
Nay. We see well what we are doing,          
  Though some may not see—   
  Dalliers as they be—   
  England’s need are we;   
Her distress would leave us rueing:   
Nay. We well see what we are doing,          
  Though some may not see!   
 
In our heart of hearts believing   
  Victory crowns the just,   
  And that braggarts must   
  Surely bite the dust,          
Press we to the field ungrieving,   
In our heart of hearts believing   
  Victory crowns the just.   
 
Hence the faith and fire within us   
  Men who march away          
  Ere the barn-cocks say   
  Night is growing gray,   
To hazards whence no tears can win us;   
Hence the faith and fire within us   
  Men who march away.


  September 5, 1914

Notice the data, to understand the poem. Have you noticed the rhythm of the poem? It's was written to be sung, I think.

Thomas Hardy (1840-1928) was a war poet before 1914, and was regarded by many young poets -for instance, by Sassoon-, as the greatest living English poet. He wrote The Dynasts (1904-08).

Also, I would like to ask for something: Can anyone please some Russian war poems of the Great War? I'm sure there must be some of them, but I'm not familiar with Russian war poetry, shame on me.
Title: Re: Poetry of World War I
Post by: Mari on November 28, 2007, 04:00:49 AM
I would like to offer this as a Russian Poet's work from WWI! Anna Gorenko experienced the War, the Revolution and the death of Nikolai Gumiley.
 
 
Quote
Akhmatova was born Anna Andreevna Gorenko. She was raised in an upper class family in the town of Tsarskoye Selo, near St. Petersburg. At an early age, she became interested in poetry, though it was not fashionable at the time. When her father found out about her aspirations, he told her not to shame the family name by becoming a "decadent poetess" (Kenyon 2). He forced her to take a pen-name, and she chose the last name of her maternal Great-Grandmother, a Tartar. In 1910, Akhmatova married Nikolai Gumilev.

n 1917, during World War I, Akhmatova's third book, White Flock, was published. Russia experienced extremely heavy losses during the war, and Akhmatova often gave poetry readings for the benefit of the wounded (Reeder 89). White Flock contains Akhmatova's famous poem about World War I, "In Memoriam, July 19, 1914." It begins with the lines, "We aged a hundred years, and this/Happened in a single hour" (Herschemeyer 210). Another poem in this book, "We thought: we're poor," gives voice to the suffering of those who lost loved ones in the war:
                              We thought: we're poor, we have nothing,
                              but when we started losing one after the other
                              so each day became
                              remembrance day,
                              we started composing poems
                              about God's great generosity
                              and--our former riches. (1-7)
                              (McKane 74)

With this book, Akhmatova's connectedness with the suffering of her country began to be an important theme in her writing. In the poem, "Prayer," this is an almost mystical union:
                              Give me bitter years of sickness,
                              Suffocation, insomnia, fever,
                              Take my child and my lover,
                              And my mysterious gift of song--
                              This I pray at your liturgy
                              After so many tormented days,
                              So that the stormcloud over darkened Russia
                              Might become a cloud of glorious rays. (1-8)
                              (Hemschemeyer 203)
A poem about Gumilev's death also appeared in this book. This version has also been translated by Judith Hemschemeyer:
                              You are no longer among the living,
                              You cannot rise from the snow.
                              Twenty-eight bayonets,
                              Five bullets.
                              A bitter new shirt
                              For my beloved I sewed.
                              The Russian earth loves, loves
                              Droplets of blood.
                              (Hemschemeyer 287-288)

works cited:  khmatova, Anna. Selected Poems. Trans. Richard McKane.
Newcastle-Upon-Tyne: Bloodaxe, 1989.

Akhmatova, Anna. Twenty Poems of Anna Akhmatova.
Trans. Jane Kenyon. St. Paul: Eighties Press, 1985.

Akhmatova, Anna. Complete Poems of Anna Akhmatova. Trans.
Judith Hemschemeyer, Ed. Roberta Reeder. 2nd ed. Boston:
Zephyr, 1992.
Title: Re: Poetry of World War I
Post by: Kurt Steiner on November 28, 2007, 04:56:06 AM
Wonderful post, Mari. Thank you very much, really!

Another British poet:

Peace, by Rupert Brooke

Now, God be thanked Who has matched us with His hour,
And caught our youth, and wakened us from sleeping,
With hand made sure, clear eye, and sharpened power,
To turn, as swimmers into cleanness leaping,
Glad from a world grown old and cold and weary,
Leave the sick hearts that honour could not move,
And half-men, and their dirty songs and dreary,
And all the little emptiness of love!

Oh! we, who have known shame, we have found release there,
Where there's no ill, no grief, but sleep has mending,
Naught broken save this body, lost but breath;
Nothing to shake the laughing heart's long peace there
But only agony, and that has ending;
And the worst friend and enemy is but Death.

Rupert Brooke (August 3, 1887–April 23, 1915) was an English poet known for his idealistic War Sonnets written during the First World War (especially The Soldier), as well as for his poetry written outside of war, particularly The Old Vicarage,and The Great Lover. He was  described as "the handsomest young man in England".

He was educated in Rugby and Cambridge, a very talented poet. He had friends among the Bloomsbury group of writers, and belonged to  the Georgian Poets. In the poem we see his desillusionment about love, which may refer to the severe emotional crisis he suffered in 1913, some say caused by sexual confusion and jealousy, resulting in the breakdown of his long relationship with Katherine Cox.

He was a very accomplished poet. When the Great War started, he was commisioned in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve as a temporary Sub-Lieutenant. Shortly after his 27th birthday he took part in the Antwerp expedition in October 1914. His five War Sonnets were the result of this experience, when he saw the suffering of the civilian population, which convinced him that the Allied cause was just. He sailed with the British Mediterranean Expeditionary Force on 28 February 1915 but developed septic pneumonia from an infected mosquito bite. He died on 23 April 1915 off the island of Lemnos in the Aegean on his way to Gallipoli. He was buried at 11 pm in an olive grove on the island of Skyros, Greece. Had he lived the ordeal of Gallipoli, I'm sure he would have changed his mind about war.

As a side-note, Rupert Brooke's brother, 2nd Lt. William Alfred Cotterill Brooke was a member of the 8th Battalion London Regiment (Post Office Rifles) and was killed in action near Le Rutoire Farm (Loos) on 14 June 1915, aged 24. He had only joined the battalion on 25 May.
Title: Re: Poetry of World War I
Post by: Alixz on November 28, 2007, 07:49:50 AM
I have never read such beautiful and soul searching collection of poetry about the Great War and death as you have accumulated here.

I know that this was not Annie's intent when she started this thread, but I am glad that you took it in this direction.  This is a direction that we have not gone in before in the study of European history.

Kudos!
Title: Re: Poetry of World War I
Post by: Kurt Steiner on November 28, 2007, 05:26:45 PM
To add more hindsight on this topic:

Another example, that I'll explain a bit further:

The Game

On through the hail of slaughter,
Where gallant comrades Fall,
Where blood is poured like water,
They drive the trickling ball.
The fear of death before them
Is but an empty name.
True to the land that bore them-
The SURREYS play the game.

On without check or falter,
They press towards the goal;
Who falls on freedom's altar
The Lord shall rest his soul.
But still they charge, the living
Into that hell of flame;
Ungrudging in the giving,
Our souldiers play the game.

And now at last is ended
The task so well begun.
Though savagely defended
The lines of death are won.
In this, the hour of glory,
A deathless place they claim
In England's splendid glory,
The men who played the game

This poems was written by E.C.H. Burton under the pen name of Touchstone.

It refers about a REAL attack, carried out by the 8th Bn. East Surrey Regiment durimg the first day of the battle of the Somme. Trust me, what I'm going to writte right now is not a joke, nor a lie. It took place like that:

Captain WP Nevill, attached from the East Yorkshire Regiment and commanding "B" Company, while on leave, bought four footballs, one for each of his platoons. Back in the trenches, he offered a prize to the first platoon to kick its football up to the German trenches on the day of the attack.

At 7.27 a.m., led by Nevill, "B" Company climbed out of their trenches and the attack commenced. In the face of murderous fire, and sustaining heavy casualities, they charged across the intervening ground with the footballs bouncing encouragingly before them. The combination of Nevill's initiative and their gallantry proved successful and they gained their objective on the Ridge. Sadly, Nevill was not there to pay the reward. He had been killed just outside the German wire just he as he had kicked one of the balls. Two of the footballs were found there later. Captain Nevill's sporting feat seems to be the result of the literary inspiration of produced by Henry Newbolt's poem "Vitai Lampada" about a cricket-boy.

This wasn't the first and last time it was done. The first time it took place was during the battle of Loos in 1915, by the 1st Battalion of the 18th London Regiment. It would be repeated, with success, during the battle of Beersheba (Palestine) in 1917.

What can be said about this... well... War is madness, methinks.

Title: Re: Poetry of World War I
Post by: Alixz on November 28, 2007, 06:20:00 PM
In war the only winner is death.
Title: Re: Poetry of World War I
Post by: Kurt Steiner on November 29, 2007, 03:37:21 PM
Sadly true, Alix...

A poem by Rupert Brooke when we can see the change of mood about war:

Fragment

I strayed about the deck, an hour, to-night
Under a cloudy moonless sky; and peeped
In at the windows, watched my friends at table,
Or playing cards, or standing in the doorway,
Or coming out into the darkness. Still
No one could see me.

             I would have thought of them
—Heedless, within a week of battle—in pity,
Pride in their strength and in the weight and firmness
And link’d beauty of bodies, and pity that
This gay machine of splendour ‘ld soon be broken,
Thought little of, pashed, scattered, . . .

                                    Only, always,
I could but see them—against the lamplight—pass
Like coloured shadows, thinner than filmy glass,
Slight bubbles, fainter than the wave’s faint light,
That broke to phosphorus out in the night,
Perishing things and strange ghosts—soon to die
To other ghosts—this one, or that or I.

written in 1915

(http://oldpoetry.com/images/ext/Oauthor/0/10.jpg)
Rupert Brooke. 1887-1915
Title: Re: Poetry of World War I
Post by: Kurt Steiner on November 30, 2007, 04:22:43 AM
No One Cares Less Than I by Edward Thomas

"No one cares less than I,
Nobody knows but God,
Whether I am destined to lie
Under a foreign clod,"
Where the words I made to the buggle call in the morning

But laughing, storming, scorning,
Only the buggles now
What the buggles say in the morning,
And they do not care, when they blow
The call that I heard and made words to early this morning

Edward Thomas (1878-1917) was a seasoned writer before the outbreak of war, and had worked as a journalist before becoming a poet, with the encouragement of his close friend Robert Frost. When war broke out, Thomas joined the Artists' Rifles, despite being a mature married man who could have avoided enlisting. In fact, few of his poems deal directly with his war experiences. His poems are noted for their attention to the English countryside. He was killed in action at Arras on April 9, 1917, soon after he arrived in France. He had a wife, Helen, a son, Merfyn and two, daughters Bronwen and Myfanwy.
Title: Re: Poetry of World War I
Post by: Mari on November 30, 2007, 05:02:09 AM
So many of these War time Poets were killed!   Imagine the realm of creativity that most certainly would have poured from them if they had lived a long life.  Just this glimpse into their World....and then they were gone.
Title: Re: Poetry of World War I
Post by: Kurt Steiner on November 30, 2007, 09:17:39 AM
Many of the British WW1 poets died, indeed. A lost generation.

Robert Graves (1895–1985).   

TO you who’d read my songs of War   
  And only hear of blood and fame,   
I’ll say (you’ve heard it said before)   
  ”War’s Hell!” and if you doubt the same,   
Today I found in Mametz Wood          
A certain cure for lust of blood:   
 
Where, propped against a shattered trunk,   
  In a great mess of things unclean,   
Sat a dead Boche; he scowled and stunk   
  With clothes and face a sodden green,          
Big-bellied, spectacled, crop-haired,   
Dribbling black blood from nose and beard.   

Robert Graves (24 July 1895 – 7 December 1985) studied at the King's College School and Copthorne Prep School, Wimbledon and Charterhouse School and won a scholarship to St John's College, Oxford. At the outbreak of World War I in August 1914, Graves enlisted almost immediately, taking a commission in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers (RWF). He published his first volume of poems, Over the Brazier, in 1916. He developed an early reputation as a war poet, and was one of the first to write realistic poems about his experience of front line conflict. He participated in the Battle of Loos (1915) -- where Charles Sorley was killed -- and was wounded during the Battle of the Somme (1916). He was so badly wounded he was expected to die, and indeed was officially reported as died of wounds. He gradually recovered, however, and apart from a brief spell back in France, he spent the remainder of the war in England. One of Graves's closest friends at this time was the poet Siegfried Sassoon, who like Graves was an officer in the RWF. When in 1917 Sassoon tried to rebel against the war by making a public anti-war statement, Graves, who feared Sassoon could face a court martial, intervened with the military authorities and persuaded them that he was suffering from shell shock, and to treat him accordingly. As a result Sassoon was sent to Craiglockhart, the military hospital near Edinburgh, where he was treated by Dr Rivers and met Wilfred Owen. Graves also suffered from shell shock, or neurasthenia as it is sometimes called, though was never hospitalised for it.

A prolific writer throughout his long life, Robert Graves published three volumes of poetry during the war, Over the Brazier (1916) Goliath and David (1916), and Fairies and Fusiliers (1917) -- which includes the poem "Sorley's Weather" -- and several volumes afterwards (click here to see more volumes of Robert Graves' poetry held by the Lee Library). (Also, click here to see a fanciful comparison of the "war poetry" of Robert Graves and American Edgar A. Guest.)

Following his marriage and the end of World War I, Graves belatedly took up his scholarship at St John's College, Oxford. He later attempted to make a living by running a small shop, but the business soon failed. In 1926 he took up a post at Cairo University, accompanied by his wife, their children, and the poet Laura Riding. He returned to London briefly, where he split up with his wife under highly emotional circumstances before leaving to live with Riding in Deià, Majorca. There they kept writting. In 1927, he published Lawrence and the Arabs, a commercially successful biography of T. E. Lawrence. Good-bye to All That (1929) proved a success but cost him many of his friends, notably Siegfried Sassoon. In 1934 he published his most commercially successful work, I, Claudius. Using classical sources he constructed a complex and compelling tale of the life of the Roman emperor Claudius, a tale extended in the sequel Claudius the God (1935).

Graves left Majorca in 1936 at the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. In 1939, he moved to the United States. At the outbreak of the Second World War, Graves tried to enlist, but was turned down (unfortunately, it was Graves' son David, instead, who went to war and was killed in 1943 fighting the Japanese on the subcontinent). In 1946 he and his new wife Beryl re-established a home in Deya, Majorca. In 1955, he published his version of The Greek Myths, which continues to dominate the English-language market for mythography despite its poor reputation among classicists, perhaps unsurprisingly given the unconventional nature of his interpretations and his own open and scathing opinion of literary scholars. In 1961 he became professor of poetry at Oxford, a post he held until 1966.

Graves died in December 1985 at the age of 90, following a long illness and gradual mental degeneration. He and Beryl are buried in the small churchyard on the hill in Deia, overlooking the sea on the northwest coast of Majorca.
Title: Re: Poetry of World War I
Post by: Kurt Steiner on December 01, 2007, 10:21:56 AM
Some poetry before commenting some interesting points I've missed till now, shame on me.

The March-Past by Siegfried Sassoon

'In red and gold the Corps-Commander stood,
With ribboned breast puffed out for all to see:
He'd sworn to beat the Germans if he could;
For God had taught him strength and strategy.
He was our leader, and a judge of port -
Rode well to hounds, and was a damned good sort.

"Eyes right!" We passed him with a jaunty stare.
"Eyes front!" He'd watched his trusted legions go
I wonder if he guessed how many there
Would get knocked out of time in next week's show.
"Eyes right!" The corpse-commander was a Mute
And Death leered round him, taking our salute.

Siegfried Loraine Sassoon, CBE MC (8 September 1886 – 1 September 1967) sp was one of the first to enlist in August 1914, later being commissioned in 1915 into the Royal Welch Fusiliers. He was described as  "an exceptionally courageous regimental officer" (Giddings 185), "an exceptionally brave officer", "an extremely brave and able officer, nicknamed 'Mad Jack' by his men". On one occasion, he single-handedly captured a German trench, only to then plop down and pull out a book of poetry from his pocket. On April 16th, 1917, Sassoon was wounded and shipped home to recuperate.

There, goaded by Bertrand Russell and others, Sassoon's disillusionment over the war (his brother Hamo had been killed at Gallipoli in 1915) solidified into his famous protest statement against the continuation of the war, which was eventually read before the House of Commons on July 30th, and published in The Times the next day. Sassoon then politely went A.W.O.L. (declining to report for further duty), threw his M.C. (Military Cross) ribbon into the River Mersey, and waited for martyrdom. Alàs! the Army hesitated to punish such a public hero as Sassoon and so a way was found, with the help of Graves who came to Sassoon's rescue, of reasoning that Sassoon's reaction was merely shell-shock, and for sending him to Craiglockhart Hospital for a "rest." There he met Wilfred Owen.  At Craiglockhart, Sassoon wrote most of the poems that would later make up his Counter-Attack and Other Poems (1918).

However, Sassoon knew he couldn't stay at Craiglockhart while his men were still in the trenches. If his protest couldn't help the fighting men, then his place was back with them. Sassoon went before a medical board and convinced them that he was quite "cured" and ready to return to the Front. Back in the line, in July of 1918, Sassoon was shot in the head by one of his own sergeants (who thought him a German) and invalided home.

Sassoon's war poetry is often satirical, leading up to and ending with a "knock-out punch" last line, but he was also able to express that same understanding of and "pity" for the plight of soldiers that Owen is famous for. He became horrified by the realities of war, and the tone of his writing changed completely: where his pre-war poems exhibit a Romantic dilettantish sweetness, his war poetry are unpleasant, disgusting to some readers. That's the purpose of Sasson, who intended to convey the ugly truths of the trenches to an audience hitherto lulled by patriotic propaganda. Details such as rotting corpses, mangled limbs, filth, cowardice and suicide are all trademarks of his work at this time, in order to fully convey the meaning of what war really meant. In addition, Sassoon was a survivor, who, while working out his own readjustment, carried the responsibility of remembrance, as he does in his poem "Aftermath".

Sassoon brought out two volumes of poetry during the war: The Old Huntsman (1917), and Counter-Attack (1918). Sassoon's satiric poetry influenced, among others, Wilfred Owen and Edmund Blunden. After the war Sassoon wrote of his pre-war, wartime, and post-war experiences in his thinly-fictionalized Memoirs of A Fox-Hunting Man; Memoirs of An Infantry Officer; and Sherston's Progress, a trilogy later collectively titled The Complete Memoirs of George Sherston. Later, Sassoon published three more volumes of autobiography, The Old Century (and Seven More Years); The Weald of Youth; and Siegfried's Journey.
Title: Re: Poetry of World War I
Post by: Greenowl on December 01, 2007, 12:37:07 PM
Thanks Kurt Steiner, I have really enjoyed all of your excellent contributions. It is a real pleasure to read your posts, thus hopefully there will be MORE.

I must admit that I admire Sassoon's satirical war poetry, which first came to my attention when I was at school, over 30 years ago. Strangely enough, there is one poem of his, namely "Base Details", which I have not seen nor read since my school days, but as it made such an impression on me then I can still quote it (almost word for word...I wonder if I have forgotten anything?):

Base Details

If I were fat and bald and short of breath
I'd live with scarlet majors at the base and speed glum heroes up the lines to death.
You'd see me with my puffy, petulant face, guzzling and gulping in the best hotels.
I'd read the roll of honour: 'poor young chap, I knew his father well'.
And when the war is done and youth stone dead
I'll toddle safely home and die in bed.
Title: Re: Poetry of World War I
Post by: Kurt Steiner on December 01, 2007, 05:23:32 PM
Thanks Kurt Steiner, I have really enjoyed all of your excellent contributions. It is a real pleasure to read your posts, thus hopefully there will be MORE.

Having such a wonderful readers like you, how could I even dare of not keeping posting! It would be a mortal sin!

So, for you, more of that Jazz... er... Sassoon  ;)

The Redeemer

      Darkness: the rain sluiced down; the mire was deep;
      It was past twelve on a mid-winter night,
      When peaceful folk in beds lay snug asleep;
      There, with much work to do before the light,
      We lugged our clay-sucked boots as best we might
      Along the trench; sometimes a bullet sang,
      And droning shells burst with a hollow bang;
      We were soaked, chilled and wretched, every one;
      Darkness; the distant wink of a huge gun.

      I turned in the black ditch, loathing the storm;
      A rocket fizzed and burned with blanching flare,
      And lit the face of what had been a form
      Floundering in mirk. He stood before me there;
      I say that He was Christ; stiff in the glare,
      And leaning forward from His burdening task,
      Both arms supporting it; His eyes on mine
      Stared from the woeful head that seemed a mask
      Of mortal pain in Hell's unholy shine.

      No thorny crown, only a woollen cap
      He wore-an English soldier, white and strong,
      Who loved his time like any simple chap,
      Good days of work and sport and homely song;
      Now he has learned that nights are very long,
      And dawn a watching of the windowed sky.
      But to the end, unjudging, he'll endure
      Horror and pain, not uncontent to die

      That Lancaster on Lune may stand secure.
      He faced me, reeling in his weariness,
      Shouldering his load of planks, so hard to bear.
      I say that He was Christ, who wrought to bless
      All groping things with freedom bright as air,
      And with His mercy washed and made them fair.
      Then the flame sank, and all grew black as pitch,
      While we began to struggle along the ditch;
      And someone flung his burden in the muck,
      Mumbling: 'O Christ Almighty, now I'm stuck!'
Title: Re: Poetry of World War I
Post by: Kurt Steiner on December 02, 2007, 05:41:09 AM
The Silent One by Ivor Gurney

Who died on the wires, and hung there, one of two —
Who for his hours of life had chattered through
Infinite lovely chatter of Bucks accent:
Yet faced unbroken wires; stepped over, and went
A noble fool, faithful to his stripes — and ended.
But I weak, hungry, and willing only for the chance
Of line — to fight in the line, lay down under unbroken
Wires, and saw the flashes and kept unshaken,
Till the politest voice — a finicking accent, said:
‘Do you think you might crawl through there: there's a hole.'
Darkness, shot at: I smiled, as politely replied —
‘I'm afraid not, Sir.' There was no hole no way to be seen
Nothing but chance of death, after tearing of clothes.
Kept flat, and watched the darkness, hearing bullets whizzing —-
And thought of music — and swore deep heart's oaths
(Polite to God) and retreated and came on again,
Again retreated — a second time faced the screen.

Ivor Gurney (1890-1937) began composing music at the age of 14 and won a scholarship to the Royal College of Music in London in 1911.  His studies were interrupted by WW I in which he served as a private.  He spent 16 months at the Front where he was wounded in April 1917 and gassed in September of the same year.  During the time he spent in France, his poetic gift revealed itself and his first book of poems, Severn and Somme, was published in the autumn of 1917.  After his discharge from the Army, he returned to London to resume his music studies.  His second book of poems, War’s Embers, was published in 1919. 

Gurney suffered from bipolar disorder, which showed symptoms during his mid-teens and led to his first documented breakdown in 1913, followed by a major breakdown in the spring of 1918 while he was still in uniform. He was never shell-shocked nor did he suffer from schizophrenia, the label often used to describe his illness. The 1918 breakdown was triggered by the failure of his relationship with Annie Nelson Drummond whom he met when he was a patient at the Edinburgh War Hospital. The notion of Gurney as a shell-shock victim owes its existence to Marion Scott. Both Gurney and Scott knew he had not suffered shell shock, but, as Scott could not put a name to what was happening to him - no one could - and war seemed to provide an explanation for the unexplainable. However, it was not so easy, as every attempt Scott made to get Gurney into facilities for shell shock victims met with denial. Army doctors saw a deeper, more entrenched problem at the root of his trouble than shell shock: they found him suffering from "Manic Depressive Psychosis". To have suffered because of war is more poignant and more heroic than to have suffered because one is ill, it seems, so She used the notion of Gurney as a victim of shell shock to what she believed would be his advantage. It was Scott wrote the initial press releases after Gurney's death and subsequent articles suggesting that his illness was connected with the war. As a result that label had stuck to his name even though it is false.

Gurney was  one of the most promising men of his generation, both in music and poetry. However, in 1922, the manic depressive illness that had plagued him from early adulthood prompted his family to have him declared insane.  He was institutionalized for the last 15 years of his life, and died on December 26, 1937 at the City of London Mental Hospital.  He wrote hundreds of poems and more than 300 songs as well as instrumental music. He set only a handful of his own poems, the best known being Severn Meadows.
Title: Re: Poetry of World War I
Post by: imperial angel on December 02, 2007, 01:36:19 PM
Thanks for introducing me to all these poets that I hadn't heard of before- you know more than me, I have learned so much. My favorite, and the most poignant of the war poets are those who died in the war, and who wrote poems that seem to indicate a premonition, or perhaps just a accepting of the possible fate that so many in war meet, that they too might find. But, Ivor Gurney's story is sad too, although he didn't die in the war- thanks especially for that story, I enjoyed reading it. I have always liked the poetry of A. E. Housman, although it isn't about World War I being written in the late 19th century most of it ( The Shropshire Lad), but it talks about dying in war, and things like that- it is almost predicting World War I, and the moods it inspired in poetry. Although not about the war, and although the author was not young at the time of the war, and thus didn't fight in it, it seems to have some relevance, so I will try to post some of it. Kurt Steiner, are you familiar with the poetry of Housman that I refer to, or his poetry in general? It isn't World War I poetry, but it is about many of the same things.
Title: Re: Poetry of World War I
Post by: imperial angel on December 02, 2007, 04:00:18 PM
Here are some Housman poems that seem to relate in subject to World War I, although he didn't fight in it, and these were written in the late 19th century, I believe.


On the Idle Hill of Summer

On the idle hill of summer,
Sleepy with the flow of streams,
Far I hear the steady drummer
Drumming like a noise in dreams.

Far and near and low and louder
On the roads of earth go by,
Dear to friends and food for powder,
Soldiers marching, all to die.

East and west on fields forgotten
Bleach the bones of comrades slain
Lovely lads and dead and rotten
None that go return again.

Far the calling bugles hollo,
High the screaming fife replies,
Gay the files of scarlet follow:
Woman bore me, I will rise.
published 1896

Also:

Here Dead We Lie

Here dead we lie
Because we did not choose
To live and shame the land
From which we sprung.

Life, to be sure,
Is nothing much to lose,
But young men think it is,
And we were young.

=========
Next is this one-

Oh stay at home, my lad, and plough
The land and not the sea,
And leave the soldiers at their drill,
And all about the idle hill
Shepherd your sheep with me.

Oh stay with company and mirth
And daylight and the air;
Too full already is the grave
Of fellows that were good and brave
And died because they were
=================
I will post some more, but that is a begining. He seems rather against war, or at least aware of the futility of such in this poetry. His philisophy seemed to be that as an earlier poster said, the only winner in war is death. That is a sentiment that seems true to me as well, especially in light of such wars as World War I, which in my opinion, didn't need to be fought. World War II did though, I think. I guess I am a pacifist, but war does sometimes make great literature, as is the case with World War I. On another note, the US didn't enter the war until later, but the war certaonly took many of this country too, as well as the British, which pretty much all of these poets are. Another one of my hobbies is wandering cemeteries, and taking pictures of interesting monuments/tombstones, etc, and there are so many monuments to World War I soldiers that have their picture in their uniform, and their dates of death, which interestingly enough ( I'm from the US) often have the date of death as sometime in 1918, the year of the armistice, indeed one I saw died like ten days before the armistice- a life perhaps almost saved, how sad. It seemed to be a trend to me that many died in 1918, the last year of the war, which makes it all the sadder about their deaths, and it is an interesting trend.
Title: Re: Poetry of World War I
Post by: Kurt Steiner on December 02, 2007, 04:02:58 PM
Thanks for introducing me to all these poets that I hadn't heard of before- you know more than me, I have learned so much. My favorite, and the most poignant of the war poets are those who died in the war, and who wrote poems that seem to indicate a premonition, or perhaps just a accepting of the possible fate that so many in war meet, that they too might find. But, Ivor Gurney's story is sad too, although he didn't die in the war- thanks especially for that story, I enjoyed reading it. I have always liked the poetry of A. E. Housman, although it isn't about World War I being written in the late 19th century most of it ( The Shropshire Lad), but it talks about dying in war, and things like that- it is almost predicting World War I, and the moods it inspired in poetry. Although not about the war, and although the author was not young at the time of the war, and thus didn't fight in it, it seems to have some relevance, so I will try to post some of it. Kurt Steiner, are you familiar with the poetry of Housman that I refer to, or his poetry in general? It isn't World War I poetry, but it is about many of the same things.

I'ts m pleasure, Imperial Angel. Information not shared is information lost, you know. I'm not familiar with Housman, although I've read a bit of his work. I know jsut a bit about him, when he's included in areas of my interest (for instance, WW1 or the poem he wrote about social injustice, 'Oh who is that young sinner with the handcuffs on his wrists?', written after the trial of Oscar Wilde). Ivor Gurney, by the way, was deeply influenced by Housman's poetry.

So, it's time to quote a poem by him, related to the Great War.

Epitaph on an Army of Mercenaries

These, in the day when heaven was falling,
The hour when earth's foundations fled,
Followed their mercenary calling,
And took their wages, and are dead.

Their shoulders held the sky suspended;
They stood, and earth's foundations stay;
What God abandoned, these defended,
And saved the sum of things for pay.


In that time, mercenaries had a different meaning. Actually, many words and many meanings were changed by the War. Perhaps some day we may talk about it, how it changed the English and the Russian language, to compare them. Who knows, perhaps this is the beginning of a new and interesting thread. Time will tell...
Title: Re: Poetry of World War I
Post by: Kurt Steiner on December 02, 2007, 04:07:34 PM
It seemed to be a trend to me that many died in 1918, the last year of the war, which makes it all the sadder about their deaths, and it is an interesting trend.

You're so right! My favourite WW1 poet, Wilfred Owen, was killed in action on November 4, 1918, just a week before the Great War ended. A week! As Professor Stallworthy comments on his biography about him, his mother received the telegram informing her of his death on Armistice Day. As she was reading it, the church bells were ringing out in celebration. Madness, indeed.

I love 'Here Dead We Lie'. It reminds me, dunno why, of a catchy sentence that the British soldiers used to repeat as a joke while in the trenches:

We are here cause we are here cause we are here...

Or 'Gheluvelt', also called 'the Epitaph on the Worcesters' by Robert Bridges (1)

Askest thou of these graves? They tell thee, O stranger, in England
How we Worcesters lie where we redeem'd the battle

Or 'The Epitah: Neuve Chappelle' by H. W. Garrod.

Tell them at home, there's nomthing here to hide,
We took our orders, asked no questions, died.

(1) It refers to a dramatic moment of the beginning of the Great War: On October 31st 1914, the 2nd Worcestershire was almost the last available reserve of the British defence. Nearly every other unit had been drawn into the battle line or had been broken beyond recovery. Furthermore, the Battalion could muster no more than 500 men. Ten days of battle had reduced it to a shadow of itself. The soldiers were haggard, unshaven and unwashed, without theeir puttees or their caps, but their weapons were clean and in good order, they had plenty of ammunition and endless confidence in their fighting power. They were still a fighting Battalion, officers and men bound together by that proud and willing discipline which is the soul of the Regiment.

That day the German army attacked vigorously, in overwhelming numbers against the remnants of five British battalions, mustering barely a thousand men, which were holding the trenches about the Menin Road (13 German battalions took part in this attack, of which six were fresh and at full strength). Before midday, weight of numbers had told. Many British units had fought to the last and were overwhelmed. The village of Gheluvelt had been lost and a great gap had been broken in the British line. Unless that gap could be closed, the British Army was doomed to disaster. So serious was the situation caused by the loss of Gheluvelt that orders were issued for the Artillery to move back, in preparation for a general retreat. At the same time, it was decided that the 2nd Worcestershire should make a counter-attack against the lost position.

There the 2nd Worcestershire went to regain the lost positions around Gheluvelt. Bayonets were fixed and the Battalion led by Major Hankey moved off in file under cover of the trees to the southwest corner of Polygon Wood. The  ground was dotted with wounded and stragglers coming back from the front. In every direction German shells were bursting with a hellish sound. British batteries could be seen limbering up and moving to the rear. Everywhere there were signs of retreat. Just the Worcestershire alone were moving forward, towards the enemy, just three companies tramped grimly forward. The field was littered with dead and wounded and the enemy's shells were bursting in rapid succession. Major Hankey decided that the only way of crossing that deadly stretch of ground was by one long rush.

The companies extended into line and advanced into a steady double and swept forward across the open with fixed bayonets, the officers leading on in front. A storm of shells rained down and high explosive shells crashed into the charging line. Men fell at every pace; over a hundred of the Battalion were killed or wounded during that critical advance but the rest dashed on. The speed of the rush increased as the troops came in sight of Gheluvelt Chateau close in front. The platoons scrambled across the light railway; through some hedges and wire fences and then in the grounds of the Chateau they closed with the enemy. Shooting and stabbing they charged across the lawn and came up into line with the gallant remnants of the defenders, the South Wales Borderers, which had held their ground at the Chateau and were still stubbornly fighting although almost surrounded, their resistance having delayed  the German advance. The meeting of the two Battalions was unexpected, as the 2nd Worcestershire had not known that any of the South Wales Borderers had been holding on. With the reinforcements, the German units were hunted out of the hedges and across the open fields beyond the Chateau. But the village of Gheluvelt, on the slope above the right flank, was still in enemy hands. From there the Germans opened fire on the sunken road. It soon became clear that the position would be unsafe until the village was secured and "A" Company were ordered to advance from their defensive position and occupy the village. After some sharp fighting the enemy's main force had been driven out and the peril of a collapse of the British defence about the Menin Road had been averted.

That day in Gheluvelt, the 2nd Worcestershire saved the day and the Empire, according to Sir John French, C-i-C of the BEF.
Title: Re: Poetry of World War I
Post by: imperial angel on December 02, 2007, 04:14:48 PM
Thanks for that! Here is another of his poems:

Wake not for the world- heard thunder,
Nor the chimes that earthquakes toll;
Stars may plot in heaven with planet,
Lightning rive the rock of granite,
Tempest tread the oakwood under,
Fear not for your flesh or soul;
Marching, fighting, victory past,
Stretch your limbs in peace at last.

Stir not for the soldiers drilling,
Nor the fever nothing cures;
Throb of drum and timbal's rattle
Call but men alive to battle,
And the fife with death notes filling
Screams for blood- but not for yours.
Times enough you bled your best;
Sleep on now, and take your rest.

Sleep, my lad; the French have landed,
London's burning, Windsor's down
Clasp your cloak of earth about you;
We must man the ditch without you,
March unled, and fight short-handed,
Charge to fall and swim to drown.
Duty, friendship. bravery o'er,
Sleep away, lad. wake no more.

These obviously aren't about World I, but the sentiments that Housman wrote in the late 19th century would come to fruition a generation or thereabouts later. Many of the young men who would die in the war were born in the 1890s, the decade that Housman's book of poetry the Shropshire Lad was published, which is interesting. Housman himself was born in 1860, died in 1936.
Title: Re: Poetry of World War I
Post by: imperial angel on December 02, 2007, 04:17:07 PM
Thanks for sharing the story about Wilfred Owen. His name rings a bell with me, but I am not extremely familiar with him.
Title: Re: Poetry of World War I
Post by: Kurt Steiner on December 02, 2007, 04:30:31 PM
Again, Imperial Angel, my pleasure.

Since I came here I've learnt a lot about Russia and the Imperial Family. So, if I can return a bit of all the information I've learnt since then with this humble posts, I'll be happy. Thank you too.

There is plenty of time, you'll read more about Wilfred Owen, in due time  ;).
Title: Re: Poetry of World War I
Post by: imperial angel on December 02, 2007, 04:34:07 PM
I love this thread because it combines my twin passions of  history and literature. I deeply love both, and finding a combination thereof is heaven, it isn't the way the original poster intended, but I am glad I steered this thread in this direction, and that other people out there know more than I do! It is good to learn new things, and thanks to everyone who helped continue, or helps continue, the direction of this thread. It proves how deeply history and literature do relate.
Title: Re: Poetry of World War I
Post by: Mari on December 03, 2007, 03:15:34 AM
I would like to add to our discussion  the work of Alexandr BLOK. The greatest of Russia's Symbolist poets, Aleksandr Blok, was born in St. Petersburg in 1880. He spent his childhood with his grandfather on his country estate of Shakhmatovo, near Moscow. Blok began writing poetry in earnest at age 17. His major early influences were the early 19th-century Romantic poetry of Aleksandr Pushkin and the apocalyptic mysticism of Vladimir Solovyov (1853–1900). In 1916 Blok was conscripted into the army and served behind the front lines in civil defense work near Pinsk. In 1917-18 he worked for the provisional government in a commission interrogating Czarist ministers, whose findings he later published under the title  "The Last Days of Imperial Power."
after 1918 Blok worked on government editorial and theatrical commissions. In 1919 he was arrested and nearly executed for alleged counter-revolutionary activities. From 1918 to 1921 he translated books for Gor'kii's publishing house Vsemirnaja Literatura. In 1919-21 he was chairman of the Bolshoi Theatre and the head of the Petrograd branch of the All-Russian Union of Poets in 1920-21. By this time Blok's mental and physical health was in decline. He died in Petrograd of heart failure brought on by malnutrition, on August 7, 1921.
Quote
Titled "The Twelve"
XII
... On they march with sovereign tread...
‘Who else goes there? Come out! I said
come out!’ It is the wind and the red
flag plunging gaily at their head.

The frozen snow-drift looms in front.
‘Who’s in the drift! Come out! Come here!’
There’s only the homeless mongrel runt
limping wretchedly in the rear ...

‘You mangy beast, out of the way
before you taste my bayonet.
Old mongrel world, clear off I say!
I’ll have your hide to sole my boot!

The shivering cur, the mongrel cur
bares his teeth like a hungry wolf,
droops his tail, but does not stir ...
‘Hey answer, you there, show yourself.’

‘Who’s that waving the red flag?’
‘Try and see! It’s as dark as the tomb!’
‘Who’s that moving at a jog
trot, keeping to the back-street gloom?’

‘Don’t you worry ~ I’ll catch you yet;
better surrender to me alive!’
‘Come out, comrade, or you’ll regret
it ~ we’ll fire when I’ve counted five!’

Crack ~ crack ~ crack! But only the echo
answers from among the eaves ...
The blizzard splits his seams, the snow
laughs wildly up the wirlwind’s sleeve ...

Crack ~ crack ~ crack!
Crack ~ crack ~ crack!
... So they march with sovereign tread ...
Behind them limps the hungry dog,
and wrapped in wild snow at their head
carrying a blood-red flag ~
soft-footed where the blizzard swirls,
invulnerable where bullets crossed ~
crowned with a crown of snowflake pearls,
a flowery diadem of frost,
ahead of them goes Jesus Christ.
Jan 1918
Title: Re: Poetry of World War I
Post by: Kurt Steiner on December 03, 2007, 04:37:27 AM
Impressive poem, indeed. Thanks for sharing it with us, Mary!  There is so much still to learn...

Exposure by Wilfred Owen

Our brains ache, in the merciless iced east winds that knife us...
Wearied we keep awake because the night is silent...
Low drooping flares confuse our memory of the salient...
Worried by silence, sentries whisper, curious, nervous,
             But nothing happens.

Watching, we hear the mad gusts tugging on the wire.
Like twitching agonies of men among its brambles.
Northward incessantly, the flickering gunnery rumbles,
Far off, like a dull rumour of some other war.
             What are we doing here?

The poignant misery of dawn begins to grow...
We only know war lasts, rain soaks, and clouds sag stormy.
Dawn massing in the east her melancholy army
Attacks once more in ranks on shivering ranks of gray,
             But nothing happens.

Sudden successive flights of bullets streak the silence.
Less deadly than the air that shudders black with snow,
With sidelong flowing flakes that flock, pause and renew,
We watch them wandering up and down the wind's nonchalance,
             But nothing happens.

Pale flakes with lingering stealth come feeling for our faces -
We cringe in holes, back on forgotten dreams, and stare, snow-dazed,
Deep into grassier ditches. So we drowse, sun-dozed,
Littered with blossoms trickling where the blackbird fusses.
             Is it that we are dying?

Slowly our ghosts drag home: glimpsing the sunk fires glozed
With crusted dark-red jewels; crickets jingle there;
For hours the innocent mice rejoice: the house is theirs;
Shutters and doors all closed: on us the doors are closed -
             We turn back to our dying.

Since we believe not otherwise can kind fires burn;
Now ever suns smile true on child, or field, or fruit.
For God's invincible spring our love is made afraid;
Therefore, not loath, we lie out here; therefore were born,
             For love of God seems dying.

To-night, His frost will fasten on this mud and us,
Shrivelling many hands and puckering foreheads crisp.
The burying-party, picks and shovels in their shaking grasp,
Pause over half-known faces. All their eyes are ice,
             But nothing happens.

(http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/43/Wilfred-Owen.jpg)
Title: Re: Poetry of World War I
Post by: Kurt Steiner on December 03, 2007, 04:37:58 AM
A bit of info about Wilfred Owen

Wilfred Edward Salter Owen (March 18, 1893 – November 4, 1918) was the eldest of four children of a family with of mixed English and Welsh ancestry. He was educated at the Birkenhead Institute and at Shrewsbury Technical School. His early influences included John Keats and the Bible. Shortly after leaving school in 1911, Owen passed the matriculation exam for the University of London. Prior to the outbreak of WW I, he worked as a private tutor teaching English and French at the Berlitz School of Languages in Bordeaux, France.

On 21 October 1915, he enlisted. In January 1917 he was commissioned as a second lieutenant with the Manchester Regiment. Owen started the war as a cheerful and optimistic man, as we can see in his letters to his mother, but he soon changed forever. After traumatic experiences, which included leading his platoon into battle and getting trapped for three days in a shell-hole side by side with the corpse of a fellow officer,  Owen was diagnosed as suffering from shell shock and sent to Craiglockhart War Hospital in Edinburgh for treatment. It there hwn he met Sassoon, an encounter which was to transform Owen's life.

After a period of convalescence in Scotland, he returned to light regimental duties. During this time he wrote a number of poems, including "Futility" and "Strange Meeting". In July 1918, Owen returned to active service in France, although he might have stayed on home-duty indefinitely. His decision was almost wholly the result of Sassoon's being put on sick-leave for the remaining of the war. Owen, it is said, saw it as his patriotic duty to take Sassoon's place at the front, to told the horrific realities of the war. Sassoon was violently opposed to the idea of Owen returning to the trenches, thus Owen did not inform him of this until he was in France. After returning to the front, Owen led his unit on 1 October 1918 to storm a number of enemy strongpoints near the village of Joncourt. Owen was killed in action on 4 November during the crossing of the Sambre-Oise Canal, exactly one week before the signing of the Armistice. His mother was informed  of his death on Armistice Day, as the church bells were ringing out in celebration. For his courage and leadership at Joncourt, he was posthumously awarded the Military Cross.

Sassoon had a profound effect on Owen's poetic voice, and Owen's most famous poems (Dulce et Decorum Est and Anthem for Doomed Youth) show direct results of Sassoon's influence. Owen's poetry would eventually be more widely acclaimed than that of his mentor, ironically -perhaps this would have ashamed Owen, as he worshipped Sassoon-. While his use of pararhyme, with its heavy reliance on consonance, was both innovative and brilliant, he was not the only poet at the time to utilize these techniques. He was, however, one of the first to experiment with it extensively. As for his poetry itself, it underwent significant changes in 1917. As a part of his therapy at Craiglockhart, Owen was encouraged to translate his experiences into poetry. Sassoon, who was becoming influenced by Freud, aided him here. Sassoon's use of satire influenced Owen, who tried his hand at writing "in Sassoon's style". Further, the content of Owen's verse was undeniably changed by his work with Sassoon. Sassoon's emphasis on realism and 'writing from experience' was not exactly unheard of to Owen, but he had not previously made use of it-- his earlier body of work consists primarily of light-hearted sonnets.

It would be after his death that his work was going to be widely know by the public, when a new anthology in 1931 was published  by Edmund Blunden. That ensured his popularity, coupled with a revival of interest in his poetry in the 1960s. Though he had plans for a volume of verse, for which he had written a "Preface," few realize that he never saw his own work published, apart from those poems he included in The Hydra, a literary magazine he edited at the Craiglockhart War Hospital.
Title: Re: Poetry of World War I
Post by: Kurt Steiner on December 05, 2007, 03:52:00 AM
The Redeemer by Siegfried Sassoon

      Darkness: the rain sluiced down; the mire was deep;
      It was past twelve on a mid-winter night,
      When peaceful folk in beds lay snug asleep;
      There, with much work to do before the light,
      We lugged our clay-sucked boots as best we might
      Along the trench; sometimes a bullet sang,
      And droning shells burst with a hollow bang;
      We were soaked, chilled and wretched, every one;
      Darkness; the distant wink of a huge gun.

      I turned in the black ditch, loathing the storm;
      A rocket fizzed and burned with blanching flare,
      And lit the face of what had been a form
      Floundering in mirk. He stood before me there;
      I say that He was Christ; stiff in the glare,
      And leaning forward from His burdening task,
      Both arms supporting it; His eyes on mine
      Stared from the woeful head that seemed a mask
      Of mortal pain in Hell's unholy shine.

      No thorny crown, only a woollen cap
      He wore-an English soldier, white and strong,
      Who loved his time like any simple chap,
      Good days of work and sport and homely song;
      Now he has learned that nights are very long,
      And dawn a watching of the windowed sky.
      But to the end, unjudging, he'll endure
      Horror and pain, not uncontent to die

      That Lancaster on Lune may stand secure.
      He faced me, reeling in his weariness,
      Shouldering his load of planks, so hard to bear.
      I say that He was Christ, who wrought to bless
      All groping things with freedom bright as air,
      And with His mercy washed and made them fair.
      Then the flame sank, and all grew black as pitch,
      While we began to struggle along the ditch;
      And someone flung his burden in the muck,
      Mumbling: 'O Christ Almighty, now I'm stuck!'

Here we have the change of mood in WW1 poetry. From the Heroic/Sacrificial poetry of the beginning, most typified by Rupert Brooke (we shouldn't forget that even Sassoon wrote some poetry which falls into this category: 'Absolution' and 'To My Brother' and that Sassoon himself wanted to be a martyr) to this vision filled with bitter disillusionment. Another interesting topic is the identification of the soldier with Christ -a topic we can find in many poets, as for instance Owen.
Title: Re: Poetry of World War I
Post by: Mari on December 05, 2007, 06:13:09 AM
Here is a French Poet of WWI: Again the Christ theme is present.....

 Guillaume Apollinaire who was an important part of several avant- garde movements. His influences were mainly the Symbolists Poets Victor Hugo, Charles Baudelaire, Paul Verlaine, Arthur Rimbaud, Jules Laforgue, and Tristan Corbière.

Quote
Guillaume Apollinaire (Wilhelm Albert Vladimir Apollinaris Kostrowitzky) was born in Rome on August 26, 1880. He purposefully kept his parentage clouded in speculation but was most likely the illegitimate child of Angelica Kostrowitzky, a Polish woman living in the Vatican. Apollinaire was raised in the gambling halls of Monaco, Paris, and the French Riviera; during his education in Cannes, Nice, and Monaco, he assumed the identity of a Russian prince.

Apollinaire's first collection of poetry, L'enchanteur pourrissant, appeared in 1909, and his reputation was established in 1913 with Alcools, a melange of classical versification and modern imagery. Apollinaire had a reputation as a thief—he was detained for a week in 1911 on suspicion of stealing the Mona Lisa—and decided to become a French national by enlisting in the infantry during World War I.

He was stationed on the front in Champagne until 1916, when he suffered a head wound and had to be trepanned. He outlined his poetic and political beliefs in L'esprit nouveau et les poëtes in 1917. In 1918, after a series of short-lived affairs, he married Jacqueline Kolb. War-weakened, Apollinaire died shortly after of the Spanish Flu on November 9, 1918, in Paris. Calligrammes, a collection of concrete poetry, was published a few months after his death.

Zone      
by Guillaume Apollinaire
Translated by Donald Revell...excerpts from the ZonE as it is  long

You went on sorrowful and giddy travels
Ignorant still of dishonesty and old age
Love afflicted you at twenty and again at thirty
I've lived like a fool and I've wasted my time
You dare not look at your hands I want to weep all the time
On you on the one I love on everything that frightened you

And now you are crying at the sight of refugees
Who believe in God who pray whose women nurse babies
The hall of the train station is filled with the refugee-smell
Like the Magi refugees believe in their star
They expect to find silver mines in the Argentine
And to return like kings to their abandoned countries
One family carries a red eiderdown you carry your heart
Eiderdown and dreams are equally fantastic

Some of the refugees stay on in Paris settling
Into slums on the rue des Rosiers or the rue des Ecouffes
I have seen them often at dusk they breathe at their doorways
They budge from home as reluctantly as chessmen
They are chiefly Jewish the women wear wigs
And haunt backrooms of little shops in little chairs

You're standing at the metal counter of some dive
Drinking wretched coffee where the wretched live

You are in a cavernous restaurant at night

These women are not evil they are used-up regretful
Each has tormented someone even the ugliest
She is the daughter of a police sergeant from Jersey

Her hands I'd never noticed are hard and cracked

My pity aches along the seams of her belly

I humble my mouth to her grotesque laughter

You're alone when morning comes
The milkmen jingle bottles in the street

Night beautiful courtesan the night withdraws
Fraudulent Ferdine or careful Leah

And you drink an alcohol as caustic as your life
Your life you drink as alcohol

You walk to Auteuil you want to go on foot to sleep
At home among your South Sea and Guinean fetishes
Christs of another shape another faith
Subordinate Christs of uncertain hopes
Goodbye Goodbye

Sun cut throated





Title: Re: Poetry of World War I
Post by: Kurt Steiner on December 05, 2007, 07:40:09 AM
Advent 1916 by Eva Dobell

I dreamt last night Christ came to earth again
To bless His own. My soul from place to place
On her dream-quest sped, seeking for His face
Through temple and town and lovely land, in vain.
Then came I to a place where death and pain
Had made of God's sweet world a waste forlorn,
With shattered trees and meadows gashed and torn,
Where the grim trenches scarred the shell-sheared plain.

And through that Golgotha of blood and clay,
Where watchers cursed the sick dawn, heavy-eyed,
There (in my dream) Christ passed upon His way,
Where His cross marks their nameless graves who died
Slain for the world's salvation where all day
For others' sake strong men are crucified.


Let's have a female voice among so many men.

Eva Dobell was the daughter of a wine merchant and local historian from Cheltenham and the niece of Sydney Dobell. Eva was deeply distressed by the suffering and loss of life during the war she volunteered as a nurse, and also took part in the morale-boosting work of writing to prisoners of war. The major part of her life was spent in the English Cotswolds, but she also travelled extensively to Europe and North Africa. She helped and encouraged young poets, and campaigned in print for the protection of both wildlife and the English countryside. Eva Dobell died in 1963
Title: Re: Poetry of World War I
Post by: Kurt Steiner on December 05, 2007, 07:47:42 AM
My men go wearily by Sir Herbert Read

My men go wearily
With their monstrous burdens.
They bear wooden planks
And iron sheeting
Through the area of death.

When a flare curves through the sky
They rest immobile.

Then on again,
Sweating and blaspheming—
"Oh, bloody Christ!"

My men, my modern Christs,
Your bloody agony confronts the world.

Sir Herbert Edward Read, MC, DSO (1893–1968) was born in Kirkbymoorside in North Yorkshire. His studies at the University of Leeds were interrupted by the outbreak of World War I, during which he served in France, where he received both the Military Cross and the Distinguished Service Order. During the war, Read founded with Frank Rutter the journal Arts and Letters, one of the first literary periodicals to publish work by T.S. Eliot. His first volume of poetry was Songs of Chaos, self-published in 1915. His second collection, published in 1919, was called Naked Warriors and drew on his experiences fighting in the trenches. His work, which shows the influence of imagism, was mainly in free verse. His Collected Poems appeared in 1946.

Read was also interested in the art of writing. He cared deeply about style and structure and summarized his views in English Prose Style (1928), a primer on -- as well as a philosophy of -- good writing. The book is considered one of the best on the foundations of the English language and how those foundations can and have been used to write English with elegance and distinction.

However, Read was  better known as an art critic. He was a champion of modern British artists such as Paul Nash, Ben Nicholson, Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth. He became associated with Nash's contemporary arts group Unit One. Read was professor of fine arts at the University of Edinburgh (1931–33) and editor of the trend-setting Burlington Magazine (1933–38). He was one of the organisers of the London International Surrealist Exhibition in 1936 and editor of the book Surrealism, published in 1936, with contributions from André Breton, Hugh Skyes Davies, Paul Eluard and Georges Hugnet. He also served as a trustee of the Tate Gallery and as a curator at the Victoria & Albert Museum (1922–1939), as well as co-founding the Institute of Contemporary Arts with Roland Penrose in 1947.

Dividing Read's writings on politics from those on art and culture is difficult as he saw art, culture and politics and a single congruent expression on human consciousness. Amongst his written works are Art Now (1933), Art and Industry (1934), Anarchy & Order; Poetry & Anarchism (1938), Philosophy of Anarchism (1940), Education Through Art (1943), Existentialism, Marxism and Anarchism (1949), Revolution & Reason (1953), Icon and Idea (1955), To Hell With Culture (1963), My Anarchism (1966) and Art and Alienation (1967). His total work amounts to over 1,000 published titles.

In his philosophical outlook, Read was close to the European Idealist traditions represented by von Schelling,  Fichte and Coleridge, believing that reality as it is experienced by the human mind was as much a product of the human mind as any external or objective actuality. In other words, the mind is not a camera recording the reality it perceives through the eyes; it is also a projector throwing out its own reality. This meant that art was not, as many Marxists believed, simply a product of a bourgeois society, but a psychological process that had evolved simultaneously to the evolution of consciousness. Art was, therefore, a biological phenomenon, a view that frequently pitted Read against Marxist critics in the 1930s. Read, in this respect, was influenced by developments in German art psychology. His Idealist background also led himtowards an interest in psychoanalysis, particularly in the theories of Jung. Read became a pioneer in the English-speaking world in the use of psychoanalysis as a tool for art and literary criticism.

Read was probably the first English writer to take an interest in the writings of the French existentialists -- as early as 1949 -- particularly those of Sartre. Although Read never described himself as an existentialist, he did acknowledge that his theories often found support amongst those who did. Read perhaps was the closest England came to an existentialist theorist of the European tradition.
Title: Re: Poetry of World War I
Post by: Kurt Steiner on December 06, 2007, 05:45:57 AM
Returning, We Hear the Larks By Isaac Rosenberg

Sombre the night is.
And though we have our lives, we know
What sinister threat lurks there.

Dragging these anguished limbs, we only know
This poison-blasted track opens on our camp-
On a little safe sleep.

But hark! joy-joy-strange joy.
Lo! heights of night ringing with unseen larks
Music showering on our upturned list'ning faces.

Death could drop from the dark
As easily as song-
But song only dropped,
Like a blind man's dreams on the sand
By dangerous tides,
Like a girl's dark hair for she dreams no ruin lies there,
Or her kisses where a serpent hides.


Here we have a moving testament of how, even amidst horror, the human spirit can still soar in the appreciation of beauty.

Isaac Rosenberg (November 25, 1890 - April 1, 1918) is another of the greatest British poets of the Great War. He was born in Bristol and in 1897 moved to 47 Cable Street in a poor district of the East End of London, and one with a strong Jewish community. He attended St. Paul's School around the corner in Wellclose Square, until his family (of Russian Jewish descent) moved to Stepney in 1900, so he could experience Jewish schooling. He left school at the age of fourteen and became an apprentice engraver.

Suffering from chronic bronchitis, which he was afraid would only worsen, Rosenberg hoped to try and cure himself by emigrating to the warmer climate of South Africa, where his sister Mina lived. He was interested in both poetry and visual art, and managed to find the finances to attend the Slade School. During his time at Slade School, he began to write poetry seriously, but he suffered from ill-health.

He wrote the poem On Receiving News of the War in Cape Town, South Africa. While others wrote about war as patriotic sacrifice, Rosenberg was critical of the war from its onset. However, in order to find a "job" and be able to help support his mother, Rosenberg returned to England in October 1915 and enlisted in the army. He was assigned to the 12th Suffolk Folk Regiment, a 'bantam' battalion (bantham... for men under 5'3"). After turning down an offer to become a lance corporal, Rosenberg was later transferred to the 11th Battalion, The King's Own Royal Lancaster Regiment (KORL). He was sent to the Somme on the Western Front in France where, having just finished night patrol, he was killed at dawn on April 1, 1918; there is a dispute as to whether his death occurred at the hands of a sniper or in close combat. In either case, he got killed durnig the last stages of the war.

We'll read more about him, trust me.
Title: Re: Poetry of World War I
Post by: imperial angel on December 06, 2007, 08:43:02 AM
I really enjoyed the last poem you posted,  some of of these poems sound more Edwardian/ even Victorian, but that sounds so modern, like the poetry written after the war in more modern times. It was very sad he was killed so late in the war, when he had survived three years of it. So close, yet so far. He seems like he was a sensitive soul, and not given to the romanticism about war that many had who fought in it, yet his poem shows a romanticism too, but not denial, or even acceptance, perhaps. I had never heard of him, but I really enjoyed it.
Title: Re: Poetry of World War I
Post by: Kurt Steiner on December 06, 2007, 11:24:39 AM
I am very glad that you're enjoying it. And gladder to know that I'm helping you and the rest of the forum mates to discover some magnificient poetry unkown by now, as I discovered those marvellous Russian poetry posted so far.

And talking about Victorianism...

from Epithaps of war, by Rudyard Kipling.

We were together since the War began.
He was my servant—and the better man.

--

My son was killed while laughing at some jest. I would I knew
What it was, and it might serve me in a time when jests are few.

--

I have slain none except my Mother.
She (Blessing her slayer) died of grief for me.

--

Pity not! The Army gave
Freedom to a timid slave:
In which Freedom did he find
Strength of body, will, and mind:
By which strength he came to prove
Mirth, Companionship, and Love:
For which Love to Death he went:
In which Death he lies content.

--

Body and Spirit I surrendered whole
To harsh Instructors—and received a soul .  .  .
If mortal man could change me through and through
From all I was—what may The God not do?

--

I could not look on Death, which being known,
Men led me to him, blindfold and alone.

--

My name, my speech, my self I had forgot.
My wife and children came—I knew them not.
I died. My Mother followed. At her call
And on her bosom I remembered all.

--

Death favoured me from the first, well knowing I could not endure
    To wait on him day by day. He quitted my betters and came
Whistling over the fields, and, when he had made all sure,
    “Thy line is at end,” he said, “but at least I have saved its name.”

--

On the first hour of my first day
    In the front trench I fell.
(Children in boxes at a play
    Stand up to watch it well.)

--

I have watched a thousand days
Push out and crawl into night
Slowly as tortoises.
Now I, too, follow these.
It is fever, and not the fight—
Time, not battle—that slays.

--

We have served our day.
'If any question why we died,
Tell them, because our fathers lied.'


I find this last poem so poignant... His son, John, died in 1915 at the Battle of Loos. It is speculated that these words may reveal Kipling's feelings of guilt at his role in getting John a commission in the Irish Guards, despite his initially having been rejected by the army because of his poor eyesight. Partly in response to this tragedy, Kipling joined Sir Fabian Ware's Imperial War Graves Commission (now the Commonwealth War Graves Commission), the group responsible for the garden-like British war graves that can be found to this day dotted along the former Western Front and all the other locations around the world where Commonwealth troops lie buried. His most significant contribution to the project was his selection of the biblical phrase "Their Name Liveth For Evermore" found on the Stones of Remembrance in larger war graves and his suggestion of the phrase "Known unto God" for the gravestones of unidentified servicemen. He also wrote a two-volume history of the Irish Guards, his son's regiment, that was published in 1923 and is considered to be one of the finest examples of regimental history.

Two years later, after a futile crusade to locate his son’s body and give it a proper burial, Kipling wrote a powerful epitaph that became the universal voice of every teenager who had perished:

'If any question why we died,
Tell them, because our fathers lied.'

Rudyard had once proclaimed: “We must demand that every fit young man come forward to enlist and that every young man who chooses to remain at home be shunned by his community.”

In a letter to his son (August 23th) Rudyard wrote to his son: "Need I tell you, my dear old man, how I love you, or how proud I am of you . . . Don’t forget about overhead rabbit netting . . ." We can just imagine how terrible would be his pain and how terrible his remorse.

John Kipling was 18 when he died. His body was never identified. Chronically shortsighted, he was killed on his first day of action, unable to see a thing. In torrential rain, he could either have taken his glasses off and seen nothing, or kept them on with the same result. That day there were 7,500 casualties, rising to 50,000 by the end of the battle.

As Robert E. Lee said once: "War is hell".
Title: Re: Poetry of World War I
Post by: Rachel on December 06, 2007, 04:31:52 PM
Quote
some of of these poems sound more Edwardian/ even Victorian

As well they should. The Victorian era hadn't even been over for 20 years yet, and the influences of the Edwardian era were still being felt all over Europe and America. It wasn't until after the war with the Roaring Twenties, jazz, Gershwin, Hollywood and radio that social attitudes and language really began to change. After the War, the world didn't seem quite so big anymore.
Title: Re: Poetry of World War I
Post by: Kurt Steiner on December 07, 2007, 03:48:25 AM
The vision of a woman denouncing women who betrayed their sons by not speaking out

We knew, this thing at least we knew, - the worth
Of life: this was our secret learned at birth.
We knew that Force the world has deified,
How weak it is. We spoke not, so men died.
Upon a world down-trampled, blood-defiled,
Fearing tha men should praise us, we smiled.

We knew thw sword accursed, yet iwth the strong
Proclaimed the sword triumphant. Yea, this wrong
Unto our children, unto those unborn
We did, blaspheming God. We feared the scorn
Of men; men worshipped pride, so were they led,
We followed. Dare we now lament our dead?

Shawdows and echoes, harlots! We betrayed
Our sons; because men laughed we were afraid.
That silent wisdom which was ours we kept
Deep-buried; thousands perished; still we slept.
Childred were slaughtered, women raped, the weak
Down-trodden. Very quiet was our sleep.

Ours was the vision, but the vision lay
Too far, too strange; we chose an easy way.
The light, the unknown light, dazzled our eyes.
Oh! sister in our choice were not wise?
When all men hated, could we pity or plead
For love with those who taught the Devil's creed?

Reap we with pride the harvest! it was sown
By our own toil. Rejoice! it is our own.
This is the flesh we might have saved - our hands,
Our hands prepared these bllod-drenched, dreadful lands.
What shall we plead? That we were deaf and blind?
We mothers and we murderers of mankind.

First published in 1916

Margaret Sackville, the daughter of the 7th Earl De La Warr, was born in 1881. A poet and children's author, she joined the ant-war, Union of Democratic Control in 1914. During the war she published a collection of poems called The Pagent of War (1916). It included the poem Nostra Culpa, denouncing women who betrayed their sons by not speaking out: "We mothers and we murderers of mankind".

Her aunt, Muriel De La Warr and her uncle, Herbrand Sackville, ninth Earl De La Warr, were also involved in the peace movement. Her brother, the 8th Earl De La Warr, was killed in the conflict in 1915. Margaret Sackville died in Cheltenham in 1963.

Title: Re: Poetry of World War I
Post by: imperial angel on December 07, 2007, 07:50:06 AM
I was just commenting that that one poem was very modern sounding for something written in the teens of the century- Isaac Rosenberg had a great deal of talent. Of course, it is expected that much of this poetry has a Victorian/ Edwardian ring to it.
Title: Re: Poetry of World War I
Post by: Mari on December 08, 2007, 02:57:42 AM
That's the wonderful thing about Poetry each Person relates to it on an individual level! 

Here is the work of the Russian Poet Eduard Bagritskii! (1895-1934)

Here I am again on this land.
                               Again
I walk under the young plane trees,
Again children run around under Park Benches,
Again the Sea  lies in the Steamers haze...

Volunteer, my shoulder straps
Decorated with multi-colored cord;
That's me - the Warrior, the Hero of Stokhad,
The Knight of the Mazurain Swamps,
Hobbling in blistered jack boots,
with a service cap cocked on the back of my head...

On furlough I came Home to take in with every muscle.
to feel with every tiny cell the tremor
of wind enmeshed in leaves,
the pigeon warmth of breath
of suntanned boys, the play of spots
On the sand the salty tenderness of the  sea...

Now I'm used to everything: from where
I escaped these things: seemed trivial to me-
The world charred by a mortar bullet,
Pierced by a Bayonet tightly wound
With barbed wire the pungent stench
of sweat and rancid bread...

In this world I must find a place, a corner
where a fresh towel on a hook has the scent of Mother,
where a shard of soap is aside the tap,
and the sun passing through the window
Doesn't burn your face like coal

Quote
Eduard Bagritskii (1895-1934), a major Russian-Jewish poet. Overlooked in the West, Bagritskii's life and art typify the tortured destiny of Russia's Jews.   Born in Odessa, Bagritskii participated in both the February 1917 Revolution and the Russian Civil War--these events formed the thematic core of his writings. Like his close friend and artistic contemporary Isaak Babel, Bagritskii moved to Moscow in the 1920s. Bagritskii's later years were marked by a critical examination of his own Jewish identity. As a Jew, a Russian poet, and a revolutionary idealist, Bagritskii once believed that the liberated Jews of the Russian Empire would enjoy harmony with their fellow Soviet citizens, giving rise to the new figure of "Homo sovieticus Judaeus." Bagritskii's dreams were shattered as a wave of popular anti-Semitism struck Soviet society in the late 1920s. He realized that Soviet ideology not only demanded that Jews shed their cultural, historical, and religious identity but also encouraged them to engage in a Soviet brand of Jewish self-hatred. The poet's initial rejection of his Jewish self was followed by a return to a biblical notion of Jewish selfhood. Bagritskii's last testament, the narrative poem "February,"is a controversial story of a Jewish youth's rejection by and subsequent triumph over an ethnic Russian girl from the upper class. "Russian Poet/Soviet Jew" includes the first English translation of this seminal work.
Title: Re: Poetry of World War I
Post by: Kurt Steiner on December 08, 2007, 10:43:00 AM
The Mother, by by May Herschel-Clarke

If you should die, think only this of me
In that still quietness where is space for thought,
Where parting, loss and bloodshed shall not be,
And men may rest themselves and dream of nought:
That in some place a mystic mile away
One whom you loved has drained the bitter cup
Till there is nought to drink; has faced the day
Once more, and now, has raised the standard up.

And think, my son, with eyes grown clear and dry
She lives as though for ever in your sight,
Loving the things you loved, with heart aglow
For country, honour, truth, traditions high,
—Proud that you paid their price. (And if some night
Her heart should break—well, lad, you will not know.

Title: Re: Poetry of World War I
Post by: Kurt Steiner on December 31, 2007, 04:13:06 PM
It has been a long while since my last post (let's say I was out of internet due to a silly problem, no need to elaborate further).

So, in order to repay all of you for my unwanted silence...

Break of Day in the Trenches by Isaac Rosenberg
The darkness crumbles away
It is the same old druid Time as ever,
Only a live thing leaps my hand,
A queer sardonic rat,
As I pull the parapet's poppy
To stick behind my ear.
Droll rat, they would shoot you if they knew
Your cosmopolitan sympathies,
Now you have touched this English hand
You will do the same to a German
Soon, no doubt, if it be your pleasure
To cross the sleeping green between.
It seems you inwardly grin as you pass
Strong eyes, fine limbs, haughty athletes,
Less chanced than you for life,
Bonds to the whims of murder,
Sprawled in the bowels of the earth,
The torn fields of France.
What do you see in our eyes
At the shrieking iron and flame
Hurled through still heavens?
What quaver -what heart aghast?
Poppies whose roots are in men's veins
Drop, and are ever dropping;
But mine in my ear is safe,
Just a little white with the dust.


Isaac Rosenberg (November 25, 1890 - April 1, 1918) was an English poet of the First World War who was considered to be one of the greatest of all British war poets. His "Poems from the Trenches" are recognised as some of the most outstanding written during the First World War.

Rosenberg was born in Bristol and in 1897 moved to a poor district of the East End of London, and one with a strong Jewish community. He attended St. Paul's School around the corner in Wellclose Square, until his family (of Russian descent) moved to Stepney in 1900, so he could experience Jewish schooling. He left school at the age of fourteen and became an apprentice engraver. Suffering from chronic bronchitis, which he was afraid would only worsen, Rosenberg hoped to try and cure himself by emigrating to the warmer climate of South Africa, where his sister Mina lived.

He was interested in both poetry and visual art, and managed to find the finances to attend the Slade School. During his time at Slade School, Rosenberg notably studied alongside David Bomberg, Mark Gertler, Stanley Spencer, Paul Nash, Edward Wadsworth and Dora Carrington. He was taken up by Laurence Binyon and Edward Marsh, and began to write poetry seriously, but he suffered from ill-health.

He wrote the poem On Receiving News of the War in Cape Town, South Africa. While others wrote about war as patriotic sacrifice, Rosenberg was critical of the war from its onset. However, in order to find a "job" and be able to help support his mother, Rosenberg returned to England in October 1915 and enlisted in the army. He was assigned to the 12th Suffolk Folk Regiment, a 'bantam' battalion (men under 5'3"). After turning down an offer to become a lance corporal, Private Rosenberg was later transferred to the 11th Battalion, The King's Own Royal Lancaster Regiment (KORL). He was sent to the Somme on the Western Front in France where, having just finished night patrol, he was killed at dawn on April 1, 1918; there is a dispute as to whether his death occurred at the hands of a sniper or in close combat. In either case, Fampoux is the name of the town where he died. He was first buried in a mass grave, but in 1926, his remains were identified and reinterred, not in England, but at Bailleul Road East Cemetery, Plot V, St. Laurent-Blangy, Pas de Calais, France.

In The Great War and Modern Memory, Paul Fussell's landmark study of the literature of the First World War, Fussell identifies Rosenberg's Break of Day in the Trenches as "the greatest poem of the war."

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Rosenberg_portrait.jpg)
Self-portrait of Isaac Rosenberg, 1915. It hangs in the National Portrait Gallery NPG 4129 and Tate Britain Self-Portrait 1911


Happy New Year for all, my dear friends. I've missed you a lot, really. I'm very glad to be back!
Title: Re: Poetry of World War I
Post by: Mari on January 02, 2008, 04:08:23 AM
Beautiful Poem.. here is more Anna Akhmatova born Gorenko...Though Akhmatova was frequently confronted with official goverment opposition to her work during her lifetime, she was deeply loved and lauded by the Russian people, in part because she did not abandon her country during difficult political times. Her most accomplished works, Requiem (which was not published in its entirety in Russia until 1987) and Poem Without a Hero, are reactions to the horror of the Stalinist Terror, during which time she endured artistic repression as well as tremendous personal loss. Following World War II, there was an official decree banning publication of her poetry and Andrey Zhadanov, the Secretary of the Central Committee, expelled her from the Writer's Union, calling her "half nun, half harlot". I find her Poetry really interesting.....


July 1914



Smells like burning. For four weeks now
The dry ground on the swamplands bakes.
Today even birds did not sing songs
And the aspen-tree does not shake.

Sun has stopped in divine displeasure
Easter rain did not pelt fields hard.
A one-legged passerby came here
And alone said in the yard:

"Awful times near. For freshly dug graves
There will be not be enough place soon.
Expect pest, expect plague, expect coward,
And eclipses of Sun and Moon.

But the enemy won't get to divide
Our lands for his fun:
Holy Mary will spread on her own
Over great sorrows a white gown."
Title: Re: Poetry of World War I
Post by: Kurt Steiner on January 02, 2008, 11:45:24 AM
A grim vision of war:

from Denial, by R. Watson Kerr

If I shoukld die - chatter only this;
'A bullet flew by that didn't miss!'
I did not give life up because of a friend;
This bullet came thro' and that was the end!

The same autor also wrote:

Let me not think of blood tonight
So doing
It will be harder to fight:
Peace's wooing
Sucks blood making me white
And tremulous -
Thus, thus
I will harden yet my heart
Gaze into horror's face
Unafraid, without a trace
Of Tenderness.


R. C. G. Dartford wasn't optimistic, either:

Welcome Death

When you've been deade beat, and had to go on
While other died, when your turn to be gone
Is overdue; when you're pished ahead
('Go on till you die' all they say)
then die -aand you're glad to be dead!
Title: Re: Poetry of World War I
Post by: Greenowl on January 02, 2008, 12:38:35 PM
Happy New Year Kurt Steiner and delighted to see that you are back again. I missed you (and the fascinating poetry)!!! I never heard of R. Watson Kerr before (my ignorance knows no bounds) but I was fascinated by his matter-of-fact realism without any hint of pathos.
Thanks also to Mari for that wonderful Akhmatova poem.
Title: Re: Poetry of World War I
Post by: Mari on January 03, 2008, 01:48:31 AM
Quote
Go on till you die' all they say)
then die -aand you're glad to be dead!

I have read accounts of Men in WWI and II who said that for them it would be easier to die than to go on facing each day..never knowing...
Title: Re: Poetry of World War I
Post by: Kurt Steiner on January 04, 2008, 02:22:05 PM
Happy New Year Kurt Steiner and delighted to see that you are back again. I missed you (and the fascinating poetry)!!! I never heard of R. Watson Kerr before (my ignorance knows no bounds) but I was fascinated by his matter-of-fact realism without any hint of pathos.
Thanks also to Mari for that wonderful Akhmatova poem.

I missed you too, and all the forum, but I'm back, and delighted to be with so wonderful friends. You're ignorance is like mine, endless, so don't worry. I'm discovering this magnificient treasure of Russian poetry, for instance, that was unknown for me. I'm having a great time here, trust me. So, if I'm enjoying, it would be quite egostistical to not help my mates to do the same, wouldn't be? ;)
Title: Re: Poetry of World War I
Post by: Kurt Steiner on January 04, 2008, 02:25:41 PM
Quote
Go on till you die' all they say)
then die -aand you're glad to be dead!

I have read accounts of Men in WWI and II who said that for them it would be easier to die than to go on facing each day..never knowing...

Me too, perhaps this poem comes in a very good moment, then:

The coward cries "How long?"
But the brave man bides the hour.
The mills of God grind slow.
From a strasnge grain strange flour,
Yet the wise shall endure and know,
The Strong shall be filled with power.
Forge the chains for the foe.

James Griffyth Fairfax (15 July 1886 – 27 January 1976) was a British poet and translator, grandson of the newspaper publisher John Fairfax. Fairfax was educated at Winchester and New College, Oxford. His first volume of poetry was published in 1908. He served in the 15th Indian Division for the duration of the First World War, and was made Captain in the Army Service Corps. He was a Member of Parliament for Norwich from 1924–1929.
Title: Re: Poetry of World War I
Post by: Mari on January 05, 2008, 03:33:33 AM
Boris Pasternak was born in 1890 in Moscow..almost everyone assumed he would become a Musician but in 1909 he gave up aspirations in Music and entered into an Academic Career and then Poetry.
Quote
The outbreak of the war found Pasternak on the Oka, a river eighty miles south of Moscow, and in his letters of this time his descriptions of the people's grief foreshadow his later prose and verse. Pasternak was unable to serve in the army, a childhood fall from a horse having left him with one leg shorter than the other. Much of the time between 1914 and 1917 he spent as a clerk at a chemical works to the far east of Moscow. His prolonged period away from the city was a productive one for him. Pasternak composed two volumes of verse in the war years. One was destroyed by fire in 1915. The other was published in 1917 as Over the Barriers.

At the time of the February Revolution of 1917, Pasternak left for Moscow. During the period between his arrival in Moscow and the October Revolution, Pasternak wrote two books, My Sister Life and Themes and Variations, although the circumstances of the war didn't allow for either volume to be published for five years. My Sister Life, published in 1922, immediately won Pasternak a place among the leading writers of the time. After the revolution, all Russians had to choose between emigrating and living with the new Bolshevik order. Pasternak, who held no enthusiasm for the Revolution, stayed in Russia, living in an overcrowded communal flat in Moscow.

In 1946 a new ideological pogrom began and many of Pasternak's friends were arrested. The terror continued and increased through the period when he was working on Doctor Zhivago. His father died in 1945, and his wife's first son, Adrian, also passed away after five years of suffering. It left her, by her own account, a stern and joyless woman. In 1946, Pasternak met and fell in love with Olga Ivinskaya, some 22 years his junior. She inspired many of his later love poems, and was in many ways the prototype for Lara in Doctor Zhivago. After her release from a forced labor camp in 1953, she was close to Pasternak until the time of his death.

In October 1958, Pasternak was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature.


Before All This There Was The Winter

Through lace curtains,
ravens.
in terror of hoar frost
omens.

Its the October whirling,
its terror
crawling, clawing
up the steps.

Sometimes they beg sometimes they sigh
or groan,
but all rise in unison
for October.

when the wind grabs the trees
by the hands,
its time to fetch wood
from the cellar.

Snow falls from knees to floor
entering the store
shouting: "How many winters,
how many years?"

did the snow so often
 trampled,
scatter like hooves
from cocaine?

The pain always comes back
as foam on bits
in wet salt from clouds, like stains
on a headcloth.

Title: Re: Poetry of World War I
Post by: Kurt Steiner on January 13, 2008, 06:24:17 AM
Forgive me please for my unwanted silences, but my job is taking a lot of my time lately.

Does it Matter? by Sigfried Sassoon

    Does it matter?—losing your legs?...
    For people will always be kind,
    And you need not show that you mind
    When the others come in after hunting
    To gobble their muffins and eggs.

    Does it matter ?—losing your sight?...
    There's such splendid work for the blind;
    And people will always be kind,
    As you sit on the terrace remembering
    And turning your face to the light.

    Do they matter?—those dreams from the pit?...
    You can drink and forget and be glad,
    And people won't say that you're mad;
    For they'll know you've fought for your country
    And no one will worry a bit.

And another one by Sassoon

Remorse


LOST in the swamp and welter of the pit,   
He flounders off the duck-boards; only he knows   
Each flash and spouting crash,—each instant lit   
When gloom reveals the streaming rain. He goes   
Heavily, blindly on. And, while he blunders,            
‘Could anything be worse than this?’—he wonders,   
Remembering how he saw those Germans run,   
Screaming for mercy among the stumps of trees:   
Green-faced, they dodged and darted: there was one   
Livid with terror, clutching at his knees...   
Our chaps were sticking ’em like pigs ... ‘O hell!’   
He thought—‘there’s things in war one dare not tell   
Poor father sitting safe at home, who reads   
Of dying heroes and their deathless deeds.’   

Title: Re: Poetry of World War I
Post by: Kurt Steiner on January 17, 2008, 04:54:21 AM
Perhaps the best known poem of the First World War

DULCE ET DECORUM EST by Wilfred Owen

        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 tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.

        Gas!7 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,
        Obscene as cancer, 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.

Dulce et Decorum est Pro patria mori are the first words of a Latin saying (taken from an ode by Horace). The words were widely understood and often quoted at the start of the First World War. They mean it is sweet and right to die for your country. In other words, it is a wonderful and great honour to fight and die for your country

Five-Nines, by the way, are 5.9 calibre explosive shells.

The most striking -for me- feature of this poem -along with the loose iambic pentameter rhyme that has this wonderful rythm-, is the nightmarish atmosphere and images, as if they were out of a real bad dream. To see the soldier drowning in his own blood by the gas should have been an awful experience, to be sure.
Title: Re: Poetry of World War I
Post by: Mari on January 22, 2008, 03:59:46 AM
Quote
Amos N. WILDER. 1895-1993. Brother of Thornton Wilder. Served in American Field Service in the Argonne and west of Verdun in 1917, and on the Serbian Front and Salonika later that year. Served with A Battery, 17th Field Artillery, Second Division, AEF from January until the Armistice, participating in the following engagements: Belleau Wood, Soissons, St. Mihiel, Blanc Mont, and the Argonne. Winner of the 1923 Yale Series of Younger Poets contest for his war poems. Later wrote extensively of the relation of religion to modern poetry, religion and the arts.

 A little bit of History as to the events this Poem was formed around: after a feverish mobilization in the great woods near Soissons of Highlander, Moroccan, and other units, including the first and second American divisions, General Mangin, under Marshall Foch’s orders, attacked eastward, threatening the German Marne salient. The desperate rush to the front in the great beech forests during that rainy night and the attack at 4:35 remain one of the outstanding epic actions of the war.


from “Armageddon: Foret de Villers-Cotterets, July 18, 1918"

Was it a dream that all one summer night
We toiled obscurely through a mighty wood
Teeming with desperate armies; toiled to smite
At dawn upon the unsuspecting height
Above, the Powers of Darkness where they stood?
Was it a dream? Our hosts poured like a flood

In ceaseless cataract of shadowy forms
Along the dark torrential avenues,
Within, the host unseen, unseeing, swarms;
Without, the blind foe’s nervous shell-fire storms,
And groping plane its flares, suspicious, strews
Above the cross-roads where the columns fuse.

Dwarfed in the enormous beeches and submerged
In double night we labored up the aisles
As in an underworld; our convoys surged
Like streams in flood, and now our torrents merged
With other torrents from the blind defiles
As hurrying units joined our crowded files.

The hoarse confusion of that precipitate march,
The night-long roar that hung about that train,
Lost itself in the branches that o’erarch
Those passages, and to the heaven’s far porch
No whisper rose, but all that agonized strain
Of myriads clamored to the skies in vain.

Beneath a load of palpable dark we bowed.
Smothered in hours with time itself we strove.
The wilderness stood o’er us like a cloud
Opaque to bar bright futures disallowed,
Denying dawn, as though the vindictive grove
Eternal night around our legions wove.

Was it a dream, that rush through night to day?
Far in the depths of night we labored on,
Out of the core of midnight made our way
To meet the grandiose daybreak far away,
While unknown thousands brushed us and were gone,
Whence, whither, in that night’s oblivion.

Oaths, shouts and cries rose o’er the incessant din
Of wheel and hoof, and many a frantic blow.
The dazed beasts battle through that tumult in
The darkness at the driver’s lash to win
A goal unknown: nor do the thousands know
The event in course, but likewise blindly go.



Title: Re: Poetry of World War I
Post by: Kurt Steiner on January 24, 2008, 02:32:29 AM
A man of mine
lies on the wire.
It is death to fetch his soulless corpse.
A man of mine lies
on the wire.
And he will rot
And first his lips
The worms will eat.

It is not thus I would have him kiss'd
But with the warm passionate lips
Of his comrade here.

Herbert Read wrote these lines 1917, after seeing one of his friends dead on the wire after a failed attack.



Title: Re: Poetry of World War I
Post by: Kurt Steiner on January 26, 2008, 03:53:02 PM
    
When You See Millions of the Mouthless Dead by Charles Hamilton Sorley (19 May 1895 – 13 October 1915)
     
     When you see millions of the mouthless dead
Across your dreams in pale battalions go,
Say not soft things as other men have said,
That you'll remember. For you need not so.
Give them not praise. For, deaf, how should they know
It is not curses heaped on each gashed head?
Nor tears. Their blind eyes see not your tears flow.
Nor honour. It is easy to be dead.
Say only this, "They are dead." Then add thereto,
"Yet many a better one has died before."
Then, scanning all the o'ercrowded mass, should you
Perceive one face that you loved heretofore,
It is a spook. None wears the face you knew.
Great death has made all his for evermore.

Sorley was born in Aberdeen, Scotland and educated, like Siegfried Sassoon, at Marlborough College (1908–13). At Marlborough College Sorley's favourite pursuit was cross-country running in the rain, a theme evident in many of his pre-war poems, including "Rain" and "The Song of the Ungirt Runners". Before taking up a scholarship to study at University College, Oxford, Sorley studied in Schwerin, Germany, up to the outbreak of World War I. After a brief detention in Trier, Sorley returned to England and volunteered for military service, joining the Suffolk Regiment. He arrived at the Western Front in France as a lieutenant in May 1915, and quickly rose to the rank of Captain at the age of only twenty. Sorley was killed in action, shot in the head by a sniper, at the Battle of Loos on October 13, 1915.

Robert Graves, a contemporary of Sorley's, described him in his book Goodbye to All That as "one of the three poets of importance killed during the war". (The other two were Isaac Rosenberg and Wilfred Owen.)

In his work Sorley may be seen as a forerunner of Sassoon and Owen, and his unsentimental style stands in direct contrast to that of Rupert Brooke. Sorley's last poem was recovered from his kit after his death. The writer Robert Goddard took the title of his novel In Pale Battalions from the lines quoted above. Sorley's sole work was published posthumously in January 1916 and immediately became a critical success, with six editions printed that year. Sorley is regarded by some, including the Poet Laureate John Masefield (1878–1967), as the greatest loss of all the poets killed during the war. Despite the horrors of World War I, Sorley felt it had freed his spirit.