Author Topic: Poetry of World War I  (Read 55466 times)

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Offline Kurt Steiner

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Re: Poetry of World War I
« Reply #30 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.

Offline Mari

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Re: Poetry of World War I
« Reply #31 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






Offline Kurt Steiner

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Re: Poetry of World War I
« Reply #32 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

Offline Kurt Steiner

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Re: Poetry of World War I
« Reply #33 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.

Offline Kurt Steiner

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Re: Poetry of World War I
« Reply #34 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.

Offline imperial angel

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Re: Poetry of World War I
« Reply #35 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.

Offline Kurt Steiner

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Re: Poetry of World War I
« Reply #36 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".

Offline Rachel

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Re: Poetry of World War I
« Reply #37 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.

Offline Kurt Steiner

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Re: Poetry of World War I
« Reply #38 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.


Offline imperial angel

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Re: Poetry of World War I
« Reply #39 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.

Offline Mari

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Re: Poetry of World War I
« Reply #40 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.

Offline Kurt Steiner

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Re: Poetry of World War I
« Reply #41 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.


Offline Kurt Steiner

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Re: Poetry of World War I
« Reply #42 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."


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!

Offline Mari

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Re: Poetry of World War I
« Reply #43 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."

Offline Kurt Steiner

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Re: Poetry of World War I
« Reply #44 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!