World War I poetry


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World War I poetry

  1. 1. World War I Poetry
  2. 2. WilfredOwen 1893-1918
  3. 3. Biography of Wilfred OwenWilfred Edward Salter Owen MC (18 March 1893 – 4 November 1918)was an English poet and soldier, one of the leading poets of the FirstWorld War. His shocking, realistic war poetry on the horrors of trenchesand gas warfare was heavily influenced by his friend Siegfried Sassoonand stood in stark contrast to both the public perception of war at thetime.He felt pressured by the propaganda to become a soldier andvolunteered on 21st October 1915. He spent the last day of 1916 in atent in France joining the Second Manchesters. He was full of boyishhigh spirits at being a soldier.Within a week he had been transported to the front line in a cattlewagon and was "sleeping" 70 or 80 yards from a heavy gun which firedevery minute or so. He was soon wading miles along trenches two feetdeep in water. Within a few days he was experiencing gas attacks andwas horrified by the stench of the rotting dead; his sentry wasblinded, his company then slept out in deep snow and intense frost tillthe end of January. That month was a profound shock for him: he nowunderstood the meaning of war. "The people of England neednt hope.They must agitate," he wrote home.He escaped bullets until the last week of the war, but he saw a gooddeal of front-line action: he was blown up, concussed and sufferedshell-shock. At Craiglockhart, the psychiatric hospital in Edinburgh, hemet Siegfried Sassoon who inspired him to develop his war poetry.He was sent back to the trenches in September, 1918 and in Octoberwon the Military Cross by seizing a German machine-gun and using it tokill a number of Germans.On 4th November he was shot and killed near the village of Ors. Thenews of his death reached his parents home as the Armistice bells wereringing on 11 November.
  4. 4. DULCE ET DECORUM ESTBent double, like old beggars under sacks,Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,Till on the haunting flareswe turned our backsAnd towards our distant rest began to trudge.Men marched asleep. Many had lost their bootsBut limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hootsOf tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,And floundring like a man in fire or limeDim, 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.
  5. 5. If in some smothering dreams you too could paceBehind the wagon that we flung him in,And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,His hanging face, like a devils sick of sin;If you could hear, at every jolt, the bloodCome gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cudOf vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,My friend, you would not tell with such high zestTo children ardent for some desperate glory,The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum estPro patria mori.
  6. 6. Anthem for a Doomed YouthWhat passing-bells for these who die as cattle?- Only the monstruous anger of the guns.Only the stuttering rifles rapid rattleCan patter out their hasty orisons.No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells;Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs, -The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;And bugles calling for them from sad shires.What candles may be held to speed them all?Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyesShall shine the holy glimmers of good-byes.The pallor of girls brows shall be their pall;Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.
  7. 7. Mental CasesWho are these? Why sit they here in twilight?Wherefore rock they, purgatorial shadows,Drooping tongues from jaws that slob their relish,Baring teeth that leer like skulls teeth wicked?Stroke on stroke of pain, - but what slow panic,Gouged these chasms round their fretted sockets?Ever from their hair and through their hands palmsMisery swelters. Surely we have perishedSleeping, and walk hell; but who these hellish?- These are men whose minds the Dead have ravished.Memory fingers in their hair of murders,Multitudinous murders they once witnessed.Wading sloughs of flesh these helpless wander,Treading blood from lings that had loved laughter.Always they must see these things and hear them,Batter of guns and shatter of flying muscles,Carnage incomparable, and human squanderRucked too thick for these mens extrication.Therefore still their eyeballs shrink tormentedBack into their brains, because on their senseSunlight seems a blood-smear; night comes blood-black;Dawn breaks open like a wound that bleeds afresh.- Thus their heads wear this hilarious, hideous,Awful falseness of set-smiling corpses.- Thus their hands are plucking at each other;Picking at the rope-knouts of their scourging;Snatching after us who smote them, brother,Pawing us who dealt them war and madness.
  8. 8. DisabledHe sat in a wheeled chair, waiting for dark,And shivered in his ghastly suit of grey,Legless, sewn short at elbow. Through the parkVoices of boys rang saddening like a hymn,Voices of play and pleasure after day,Till gathering sleep had mothered them from him.About this time Town used to swing so gayWhen glow-lamps budded in the light blue trees,And girls glanced lovelier as the air grew dim, -In the old times, before he threw away his knees.Now he will never feel again how slimGirls waists are, or how warm their subtle hands;All of them touch him like some queer disease.There was an artist silly for his face,For it was younger than his youth, last year.Now, he is old; his back will never brace;Hes lost his colour very far from here,Poured it down shell-holes till the veins ran dry,And half his lifetime lapsed in the hot raceAnd leap of purple spurted from his thigh.
  9. 9. One time he liked a blood-smear down his leg,After the matches, carried shoulder-high.It was after football, when hed drunk a peg,He thought hed better join. - He wonders why.Someone had said hed look a god in kilts,Thats why; and may be, too, to please his Meg;Aye, that was it, to please the giddy jiltsHe asked to join. He didnt have to beg;Smiling they wrote his lie; aged nineteen years.Germans he scarcely thought of; all their guilt,And Austrias, did not move him. And no fearsOf Fear came yet. He thought of jewelled hiltsFor daggers in plaid socks; of smart salutes;And care of arms; and leave; and pay arrears;Esprit de corps; and hints for young recruits.And soon, he was drafted out with drums and cheers.Some cheered him home, but not as crowds cheer Goal.Only a solemn man who brought him fruitsThanked him; and then inquired about his soul.Now, he will spend a few sick years in institutes,And do what things the rules consider wise,And take whatever pity they may dole.To-night he noticed how the womens eyesPassed from him to the strong men that were whole.How cold and late it is! Why dont they comeAnd put him into bed? Why dont they come?
  10. 10. SiegfriedSassoon 1886-1967
  11. 11. Biography of Siegfried SassoonSiegfried Sassoon was born on 8 September 1886 in Kent. His father was part ofa Jewish merchant family, originally from Iran and India, and his mother part ofthe artistic Thorneycroft family. Sassoon studied at Cambridge University butleft without a degree. He then lived the life of a country gentleman, huntingand playing cricket while also publishing small volumes of poetry.In May 1915, Sassoon was commissioned into the Royal Welsh Fusiliers andwent to France. He impressed many with his bravery in the front line and wasgiven the nickname Mad Jack for his near-suicidal exploits. He was decoratedtwice. His brother Hamo was killed in November 1915 at Gallipoli.In the summer of 1916, Sassoon was sent to England to recover from fever. Hewent back to the front, but was wounded in April 1917 and returned home.Meetings with several prominent pacifists, including Bertrand Russell, hadreinforced his growing disillusionment with the war and in June 1917 he wrotea letter that was published in the Times in which he said that the war was beingdeliberately and unnecessarily prolonged by the government. As a decoratedwar hero and published poet, this caused public outrage. It was only his friendand fellow poet, Robert Graves, who prevented him from being court-martialled by convincing the authorities that Sassoon had shell-shock. He wassent to Craiglockhart War Hospital in Edinburgh for treatment. Here hemet, and greatly influenced, Wilfred Owen. Both men returned to the frontwhere Owen was killed in 1918. Sassoon was posted to Palestine and thenreturned to France, where he was again wounded, spending the remainder ofthe war in England. Many of his war poems were published in The OldHuntsman (1917) and Counter-Attack (1918).After the war Sassoon spent a brief period as literary editor of the Daily Heraldbefore going to the United States, travelling the length and breadth of thecountry on a speaking tour. He then started writing the near-autobiographicalnovel Memoirs of a Fox-hunting Man (1928). It was an immediate success, andwas followed by others including Memoirs of an Infantry Officer (1930) andSherstons Progress (1936). Sassoon had a number of homosexual affairs butin 1933 surprised many of his friends by marrying Hester Gatty. They had ason, George, but the marriage broke down after World War Two.He continued to write both prose and poetry. In 1957, he was received into theCatholic church. He died on 1 September 1967.
  12. 12. The General"Good-morning; good-morning!" the General saidWhen we met him last week on our way to the line.Now the soldiers he smiled at are most of ’em dead,And we’re cursing his staff for incompetent swine."He’s a cheery old card," grunted Harry to JackAs they slogged up to Arras with rifle and pack.But he did for them both by his plan of attack
  13. 13. The HeroJack fell as hed have wished, the Mother said,And folded up the letter that shed read.The Colonel writes so nicely. Something brokeIn the tired voice that quavered to a choke.She half looked up. We mothers are so proudOf our dead soldiers. Then her face was bowed.Quietly the Brother Officer went out.Hed told the poor old dear some gallant liesThat she would nourish all her days, no doubt.For while he coughed and mumbled, her weak eyesHad shone with gentle triumph, brimmed with joy,Because hed been so brave, her glorious boy.He thought how Jack, cold-footed, useless swine,Had panicked down the trench that night the mineWent up at Wicked Corner; how hed triedTo get sent home, and how, at last, he died,Blown to small bits. And no one seemed to careExcept that lonely woman with white hair
  14. 14. Trench DutyShaken from sleep, and numbed and scarce awake,Out in the trench with three hours watch to take,I blunder through the splashing mirk; and thenHear the gruff muttering voices of the menCrouching in cabins candle-chinked with light.Hark! Theres the big bombardment on our rightRumbling and bumping; and the darks a glareOf flickering horror in the sectors whereWe raid the Boche; men waiting, stiff and chilled,Or crawling on their bellies through the wire."What? Stretcher-bearers wanted? Some one killed?"Five minutes ago I heard a sniper fire:Why did he do it? ... Starlight overhead--Blank stars. Im wide-awake; and some chaps dead.
  15. 15. Death-BedHe drowsed and was aware of silence heapedRound him, unshaken as the steadfast walls;Aqueous like floating rays of amber light,Soaring and quivering in the wings of sleep.Silence and safety; and his mortal shoreLipped by the inward, moonless waves of death.Someone was holding water to his mouth.He swallowed, unresisting; moaned and droppedThrough crimson gloom to darkness; and forgotThe opiate throb and ache that was his wound.Water—calm, sliding green above the weir.Water—a sky-lit alley for his boat,Bird- voiced, and bordered with reflected flowersAnd shaken hues of summer; drifting down,He dipped contented oars, and sighed, and slept.Night, with a gust of wind, was in the ward,Blowing the curtain to a glimmering curve.Night. He was blind; he could not see the starsGlinting among the wraiths of wandering cloud;Queer blots of colour, purple, scarlet, green,Flickered and faded in his drowning eyes.
  16. 16. Rain—he could hear it rustling through the dark;Fragrance and passionless music woven as one;Warm rain on drooping roses; pattering showersThat soak the woods; not the harsh rain that sweepsBehind the thunder, but a trickling peace,Gently and slowly washing life away.He stirred, shifting his body; then the painLeapt like a prowling beast, and gripped and toreHis groping dreams with grinding claws and fangs.But someone was beside him; soon he layShuddering because that evil thing had passed.And death, whod stepped toward him, paused and stared.Light many lamps and gather round his bed.Lend him your eyes, warm blood, and will to live.Speak to him; rouse him; you may save him yet.Hes young; he hated War; how should he dieWhen cruel old campaigners win safe through?But death replied: I choose him. So he went,And there was silence in the summer night;Silence and safety; and the veils of sleep.Then, far away, the thudding of the guns.