Some notes I made to organise my notes, others may find it helpful as a basis for research for war lit exam on wednesday.
WAR LIT: THEMES TO CONSIDER
THE TIMING OF THE POEM
The Battle of the Somme (1916) was a turning point in terms of the views and opinions. The patriotism and pride experience by poets such as Rupert Brooke, were replaced with bitterness and cynicism of Owen and Sassoon after the pointless deaths of thousands and thousands of men thanks to an unsuccessful military operation coordinated by the generals who were far away from the destruction.
‘We went to war with Rupert Brooke, came home with Siegfried Sassoon’ (A common saying of British troops)
THE EFFECTS OF WAR (LONG-TERM)
Many poems feature the idea that the world would never be the same after the war.
‘Never such innocence…Never such innocence again.’ (MCMXIV Philip Larkin)
‘Though the spring be so green as never was seen
The crosses will still be black in the green’ (THE FIELDS OF FLANDERS Edith Nesbit)
‘They had evolved not into killers but into passive beings whose only aim was to endure’ (BIRDSONG by Sebastian Faulks)
INEVITABILITY OF WAR
The idea of war as a force.
‘And if we win
And crush the Huns,
In 20 years
We must fight their sons.’ (WAR Joseph Leftwich)
FOCUS ON DIFFERENT FIGURES
Many poems discuss the perspectives of the different people involved in the war. From the general, to a soldier, to a person left at home, to a rat!
‘he did for them both with his plan of attack’ (THE GENERAL Siegfried Sassoon)
‘I thought you’d have the common sense to leave the men alone to their meals. My officers are her to be respected, not laughed at’ (JOURNEY’S END BY R.C. SHERRIFF)
‘A queer sardonic rat…’ (BREAK OF THE DAY IN THE TRENCHES Isaac Rosenberg)
COMPASSION/EQUALITY OF ALL SOLDIERS
Compassion for the soldiers is a typical feature of many of the poems, particularly those who were written later when the horrors have been realised. Some of these include compassion for the German soldiers as well as the British. The idea that all soldiers are equal, they are victims caught up in the horrors of war. After the Somme, many people were of the feeling that Germany wasn’t the enemy, death was.
‘In that Golgotha perhaps you’ll find
The mothers of the men who killed your son’
‘The German soldiers were loyal and brave‘ (RECONCILIATION Siegfried Sassoon)
‘But Huns are we,
As much as they’ (WAR Joseph Leftwich)
‘because they had evolved not into killers, but into passive beings’ (BIRDSONG Sebastian Faulks)
DAY TO DAY ROUTINES
The routines of the soldiers are often referred to in contrasting ways.
‘The dreary routines of drills and training’ (GHOST ROAD Pat Barker)
‘Dawn break open like a wound’ (MENTAL CASES Wilfred Owen)
‘The darkness crumbles away’ (BREAK OF DAY IN THE TRENCHES Isaac Rosenberg)
‘smiling they wrote his lie; aged nineteen years’ (DISABLED Wilfred Owen)
‘Boys…went strongly forth to do the work of men.’ (THE CALL W.D. Hodgson)
Despite the fact that poppies did not become a remembrance symbol until long after the war was over, various poets included them in their poetry.
‘Poppies whose roots are in man’s veins’ (BREAK OF DAY IN THE TRENCHES Isaac Rosenberg)
‘Poppies blow between the crosses’ (IN FLANDERS FIELD John McCrae)
‘Band of brothers’ (HENRY V Shakespeare)
‘When you are standing at your heroes grave’ (RECONCILIATION Siegfried Sassoon)
‘Men fought like brutes and hideous things were done’ (RECONCILIATION Siefried Sassoon)
‘war is hell!’ (A DEAD BOCHE Robert Graves)
‘Treading blood afresh from lungs’ (MENTAL CASES Wilfred Owen)
‘My friend you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory
That old lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.’ (WILFRED OWEN)
The female perspective of war has been shown poetry in various different ways. For example Jessie Pope has been accused of not understanding the horrors of war. Her jingoistic poem ‘Whose for the game?’ has been attacked by many poets including Wilfred Owen, who wrote ‘Dulce et Decorum’ in response to her poem.
Patriotic feeling is evident in many of the poems, particularly the pre-Somme poems. In some cases this patriotism could be referred to as jingoism, as it is patriotism to the extreme. Jessie Pope is a good example of a jingoistic poet.
‘England’ ‘English’ repeated (THE SOLDIER Rupert Brooke)
‘It is for King and for Empire’ (OH WHAT A LOVELY WAR)
The references to religion are very varied. Some of the poems refer to the godlessness of war, whilst others refer to God in making their cause just and holy.
‘The God of battles shall judge the foe’ (FIELDS OF FLANDERS Edith Nesbit)
‘God is with us. It is for King and Empire’ (OH WHAT A LOVELY WAR)
THE CLEANSING EFFECT OF WAR
Some poems refer to fighting in war as cleansing the soul.
‘all evil shed away’ (THE SOLDIER Rupert Brooke)
These are 14 lined poems with a regular rhyme scheme. Used often to express love. Some poets e.g. Brooke used them for their war poems. Why would war be described using a sonnet?
INEVITABILITY OF DEATH
‘I know I shall be killed but death is the only place I can make my protest from’ (WILFRED OWEN)
‘Remembering again that I shall die’ (RAIN Edward Thomas)
Good luck everyone and thanks to everyone who has started discussions and answered my queries hence providing ideas that I have included x
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- Thread Starter
- 13-06-2005 17:09
- 13-06-2005 17:22
cool!! just what i needed!!! thanx!!
- 13-06-2005 20:16
Than you, that has really helped me!
- Thread Starter
- 13-06-2005 20:24
No problem! good luck x