Poetry

Carrying poetry to war

First World War poetry also displays a range of viewpoints.  Rupert Brooke’s patriotic ‘1914’ sonnet sequence became hugely popular in the early years of the war.  At the outset of the war, many Britons were touched by the heroic sentiment of the poems, in particular, “The Soldier”.  This poem’s combatant speaker assures the reader that his death in battle will mean that “there’s a corner of some foreign field/ that is for ever England”.  Brooke’s poems pictures military service and death as purifying and noble.  At the start of the war, when such nationalistic feeling was strong, many British soldiers departed for training with a copy of Brooke’s poems tucked into their kits.  However, after many years of devastating losses and with no clear resolution to the seemingly endless fighting, poets depicting the hard reality of the soldiers experience gained more recognition.  Wilfred Owens gloomy 1917 “Anthem for Doomed Youth” pictures the war’s fallen “dying as cattle, ” for example.  Siegfried Sassoon’s 1918 piece, “Counter Attack,” offers us the gruesome vision of a battlefield “place rotten with dead” where corpses face downward, in the sucking mud, /Wallow…” Sassoon’s shocking verbal image recalls the horrible tableau of Nevinson’s  dead soldiers lying face downward in the mud.

 

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