Opening worlds war poetry (all)
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  • 1. Opening Lines Poetry Anthology Section H 1914-18 War (ii)This revision guide is intended to support the work you have been doing in class on the following poems:Recruiting Katherine TynanJoining the Colors HinksonThe Target Ivor GurneyThe Send-Off Wilfred OwenSpring Offensive Wilfred OwenThe Bohemians Ivor GurneyLamentations Siegfried SassoonThe Deserter Winifred M. LettsThe Hero Siegfried SassoonFalling Leaves Margaret PostgateIn Flander’s Fields ColeThe Seed-Merchant’s John McCraySon Agnes GrozierThe Parable of the Old Man and the Young HerbertsonSpring in War-Time Wilfred OwenPerhaps- Edith NesbitReported Missing Vera BrittainE.A. Mackintosh Anna Gordon Keown Whitley Abbey Community School English DepartmentACa, ALa
  • 2. “Recruiting” E.A. Mackintosh“Recruiting” shows that the reality of war is different to the propagandarecruitment; the poem contains bitter criticism of the politicians who sentthe soldiers off to war and the journalists who write about it. The poemcomments on the recruitment drive in Britain; taking issue in particularwith posters encouraging young men to sign up to the army. Mackintoshfocuses on the discrepancy between the image of war as presented by theadvertising campaign of the “fat civilians” and the reality of war asexperienced by the young “lads” called up to fight.STRUCTUREConstructed of 11 verses, each made up of 4 lines (quatrains) with aregular rhyme scheme abcb defe ghih …The structure of the poem isrhythmic this reflects the way they were cajoled into going to war withoutgiving it proper consideration.The poem is an obvious attack written from a soldier’s perspective whohas had experienced the reality of war and realized the falsity of theiradvertising campaigns.THINKING POINTS1. How does the poet use the following techniques to get the point across? • The four line verse (quatrain) • Colloquial language • Rhyme • Alliteration2. The poem uses accessible, straightforward language. What does thissuggest about the purpose and audience it was written for? Whitley Abbey Community School English DepartmentACa, ALa
  • 3. “Joining the Colors” Katherine Tynan HinksonThe poem tells of a regiment of soldiers leaving Dublin to fight in France;written from a female perspective the poem juxtaposes (directlycontrasts) images of the innocent naivety of the young soldiers withimages of death. The poet speaks of the sad realization that the love feltfor these men by the women left at home “cannot save” the soldiers fromtheir uncertain futures and likely deaths.THINKING POINTS1. Compare this poem to “The Send-Off” which is also about men going offto die.Look at: • Settings • Verse forms • Standpoint of both poets • Each poet’s feelings • Patterns of imagery • Your own response to the poems • Use of contrast “The Target” Ivor Gurney“The Target” is told from the perspective of a soldier who agonizes over aman he has killed. The soldier says that his mother lives in fear of hisdeath, the speaker suggests that it might be better for his mother if hedied so that she might at least find some peace in not having to worryabout him anymore. The soldier then goes on to contemplate the situationof the soldier that he shot, and remembers that the man he shot is anothermother’s son. The soldier feels that God gives no guidance and does notseem to care. The speaker wonders who “felt the bullet worst” – hequestions whether it is better to be the soldier shot than the soldier whodid the shooting and has to live with the guilt of taking another’s life. Thepoem ends in disillusionment calling the war a “bloody mess indeed”. Whitley Abbey Community School English DepartmentACa, ALa
  • 4. “The Send-off” Wilfred OwenWilfred Owens’s poem, “The Send-Off” was written at Ripon where therewas a huge army camp. The troops in the poem have just come from asending-off ceremony of cheering crowds, bells, drums, and flowers givenby strangers; the troops are now being packed into trains for an unknowndestination. From the beginning of the poem the atmosphere is sinister,the lanes are “darkening” and claustrophobic, the crowds have gone andthe troops are watched only by the “dull” and uninspiring faces of a porterand lowly tramp. The flowers pinned on the chests of the soldiers incelebration become for the speaker of the poem the funeral flowersgarlanding the soldiers for the slaughter that awaits them in war. Thedeparture of the soldiers for war is secret, it is “like wrongs hushed up”,and the cheering celebration of the hours before becomes a smokescreen for the harsh solemnity of war.THINKING POINTS 1. Owens’s choice of words adds to the effect of the imagery. What is the effect of the oxymoron “grimly gay”? 2. Why does he use a rhetorical question in stanza 7? 3. Owen uses quite an unusual structure in the poem. Three-line stanzas are followed by two-line stanzas and the rhymes connect the stanzas. He also uses a combination of long and short lines. Look closely at the structure. What kind of mood and feeling does it give to the poem? Whitley Abbey Community School English DepartmentACa, ALa
  • 5. “Spring Offensive” Wilfred OwenIn a letter dated 25th April 1917, Wilfred Owen recalls a day in which “wewere rushed up into line. Twice in one day we went over the top, gainingboth our objectives. Our ““A” company led the attack and of course lost acertain number of men. I had some extraordinary escapes from shells andbullets”. Owens’s poem “Spring Offensive” is an account of the action, itsprologue and aftermath and the men involved in it. The poem is composedof six stanzas; each describes a different phase of the attack – the scene,the pause before the attack, the tension, the attack, the casualties, andthe survivors.IMAGERY AND LANGUAGEImage Type of image Effect“Like and injected simile Emphasizes the dramaticdrug” healing effect of the sun.“sky burned / With personification Suggests the intensity of thefury” bombardment – as if they were being attacked by a vengeful god.“like sorrowing arms” simile Perhaps relating to Christ’s crown of thorns, the brambles create an image of sacrifice“like trees unstirred” simile Emphasizes how silently the men breathe, creates a sense of man in communion with nature“like a cold gust” simile The May breeze becomes a cold gust, emphasizes the manner in which the men stiffen and brace themselves in preparation for battle.“earth set sudden metaphor The cups are metaphors for thecups /In thousands for craters left by shells, filling withtheir blood” the blood as the men die. A graphic image of the blood shed and lives lost.“surf of bullets” metaphor Creates an image of bullets being fired in waves.“hell’s upsurge” Personificatio Suggests that the war has n created hell on earth.STRUCTURE Whitley Abbey Community School English DepartmentACa, ALa
  • 6. The poem’s structure reflects the different stages of the offensive – 1-setsthe scene, 2-pause before the attack, 3 –tension, 4-attack, 5-casulaties,and 6-survivors.The majority of the lines are composed of 10 syllables; the rhythm of thepoem is broken by irregularities in the number of syllables in some of thelines and by the irregular rhymes. Owen uses rhyming couplets to createand emphasize tension.THINKING POINTSTrace what actually happens to the soldiers by rearranging the followingsentences into the right order.a. As they attack they are exposed on an open stretch of ground.b. The soldiers who survive cannot speak of those who died.c. The soldiers have a chance to restd. The enemy opens firee. A “Little word” sends them into battlef. But many soldiers just stare at the place they will attackg. Many of the soldiers are shot or blown up. Whitley Abbey Community School English DepartmentACa, ALa
  • 7. “The Bohemians” Ivor GurneyA bohemian is someone who is unconventional, rebellious and does notconform.The poem discusses the different people who join up to the army satirizingthe punishments the soldiers received for not wearing the correctuniform. The individuality of the soldiers is erased. The soldiers who“burnished brasses, earned promotions” - the soldiers who conformed tothe army rules were promoted. However as the poem progresses thespeaker suggests that the soldiers no longer need to worry aboutconforming or not conforming as they eventually “died off one by one”: “InArtois or Picardy they lie – free of useless fashions” – ultimatelyconforming proved “useless”.IMAGERY AND LANGUAGEImage Type of Effect image“Barely escaping Alliteration The poet satirizes thehanging, indeed hardly exaggeration punishments for not wearing theable” correct uniform“others burnished Alliteration Emphasizes the action ofbrasses, earned polishing brass as an act thatpromotions” “earned promotions”“While others argued Alliteration The use of alliteration reinforcesof army ways, and the message of these lines – thatwrenched / What little conforming to army ways wassoul they had still soul destroying.further from shape”STRUCTURE“The Bohemians” is written in only two sentences, the first encompassing14 out of the 15 lines of the poem. The rhythm of the poem is broken upmid line, creating a sense of the poem as an accumulative list andproducing a casual tone.THINKING POINTS 1. Why is the conversational and casual tone of the poem deceptive? 2. What kind of individuality is stamped on the bohemians? Whitley Abbey Community School English DepartmentACa, ALa
  • 8. Lamentations Siegfried SassoonSassoon’s poem, “Lamentations”, is a funeral song. The speaker of thepoem describes the pain and anguish of a young soldier, who after havingbeen told of the death of his brother, had to be removed to the guardroom. The speaker hearing the pain of the grieved man entered into theguard room where the young soldier had broken down. A sergeant lookson puzzled and patiently at the man half-naked kneeling on the floor. Theguard appears to lack compassion and understanding for the situation ofthe grieving man.The poem establishes a contrast between the reality of war asexperienced by the grieving soldier and the sergeant who hasexperienced no personal cost for the war. It is ambiguous as to whetherthe poem’s title refers to the pain of the young soldier or laments the lackof pity and understanding of the unfeeling guard. For the speaker of thepoem, men like the sergeant have lost all “patriotic feeling” since they canno longer empathies with the pain and suffering of the grieving relatives.The soldier who has lost his brother is in such despair he would not beinterested in fighting for a country which has effectively killed his brother.IMAGERY AND LANGUAGEThis poem relies on montage. It is a single scene in the guard room andone which depicts the violence of grief. This is displayed in the verbs‘moaned’, ‘shouted’, ’sobbed’, ‘choked’, ‘howled’ and ‘beat’. The use of alist is employed to show the situation rising in violence and despair. All thelanguage is familiar and universal to the reader and this helps Sassoon toestablish his perspective. The scene is also reminiscent of a child’stantrum and this helps to display the futility of war.STRUCTUREThe structure of the poem aids the impression it gives of being an eye-witness account, creating a sense of intimacy with the reader as thespeaker imparts what he has seen.The use of enjambment in the poem aids flow between lines andsentences reinforcing the idea that this is a story being recalled frommemory.THINKING POINTS 1. What are the similarities between “Lamentations” and Sassoon’s “The Hero”? Whitley Abbey Community School English DepartmentACa, ALa
  • 9. “The Deserter” Winifred M. LettsIn the First World War many soldiers suffered from shell shock which wasnot generally recognized as a condition at the time. They ran off from theguns and were shot as deserters. The speaker of Winifred M. Letts’s poem tells of the fate of adeserter, the deserter is not named – it could be any soldier. The story ofthe deserter is told sympathetically, imagining the fear felt by the soldierwho ran off only to be caught and shot by his own army. The speaker tellsof the deserter’s mother who thinks her son died a hero, serving hiscountry in battle. The speaker suggests that it is best for the mother notto know that her son “lies in a deserter’s grave”.IMAGERY AND LANGUAGEImage Type of image Effect“Fear had dogged by personificatio Emphasizes the strong feelingsnight and day” n of fear felt by the soldier. Suggests that Fear has its own will separate to the will of the person who experiences it.“Who can judge him, Rhetoric The speaker suggests that it isyou or I?” not the place of the others to judge the deserter’s guilt“was scared as any simile Suggests the vulnerability of thefrightened child” soldier, provokes sympathy from the reader.“throbbing heart and Internal rhyme The repetition of sound mimicssobbing breathe” the repetitious pounding of the deserter’s heart. It emphasizes the physical experience of fear as something that takes over the body.“I’ve seen a hare with Simile The comparison to a hareeyes as wild” emphasizes again the fragility of the soldier but also suggests the erratic and unpredictable manner in which the deserter ran off“An English bullet in repetition Suggests the disbelief of thehis heart!” speaker that such killings should occurSTRUCTUREBeginning the poem with “There was a man” gives the poem a story likestructure, the man remains nameless suggesting that this could be thefate of any man. Whitley Abbey Community School English DepartmentACa, ALa
  • 10. The rhyme scheme of the poem is based on repetition of whole words andphrases – “turned and ran away”, “to die”, “wild”, “death”, “when thedawn was grey”, “An English bullet in his heart”, “strife”, all of therepeated phrases serve to emphasizes the speaker’s sympathy for thedeserter.In the closing lines of the poem the poet rhymes “gave” with “grave”linking the image of the mother giving her son to war with an image ofdeath.THINKING POINTS 1. Winifred Letts feels a sense of outrage and injustice at the treatment of the deserter. What are the main ways she communicates these feelings? 2. Why do you think the army lied to the families of deserters about the way in which they died? Do you think it was right or wrong? “The Hero” Siegfried SassoonThe speaker of the poem tells of the fate of a young soldier named Jackand the moment that his mother received a letter from the colonelinforming her of her son’s death. The mother reacts to the eloquent wordsof the letter with both pride and grief; the letter was ironic as the speakercontinues by revealing Jack as a coward who in reality wanted nothingmore than to return home. He is referred to as “cold-footed” (nervous), a“useless swine” about whose death no one cared. The poem buildssympathy for both the mother and Jack; it also criticizes Jack’s comradesand the manner in which nervous soldiers were condemned. Thespeaker’s tone suggests the disgust he feels for way in which the soldierwas treated and thought of. Like the mother in “The Deserter”, Jack’smother will never no the truth and pain (both physical and psychological)of her son’s death.THINKING POINTS 1. Is Sassoon on the side of the Brother Officer or is he criticizing him? Whitley Abbey Community School English DepartmentACa, ALa
  • 11. “The Falling Leaves” Margaret Postgate ColeThe actual falling leaves in this poem symbolize the falling soldiers whoare dying in the battlefield. The poet uses what we call in poetry anextended metaphor. The leaves are the soldiers. The persona is riding ahorse in the autumn time. She observes the leaves turning brown andfalling from the trees and her mind is cast to the young men fighting andliterally falling to their deaths at war.The poem is written in one sentence as one long stanza consisting oftwelve lines. This is because it is a single thought which has consumedher there and then.Usually when leaves die in nature they are swept away by the wind, butthese leaves are falling like snowflakes from the trees on a ‘still afternoon’and the speaker finds it odd. This prompts her to consider how thesoldiers die ‘slain by no wind or age or pestilence’.GlossaryThence- and then, for that reasonGallant- brave, chivalrous, stately (representative of the country)Pestilence- fatal epidemic disease “In Flanders Fields” John McCrayeSickened by what he had seen during the Boer War, John McCrae nevertheless signed up in August 1914, and headed for France with his horse, Bonfire, in tow. He would have found few opportunities for riding in that hell on earth. Knee deep in mud and freezing water, mens feet rotted where they stood, waiting for the next attack of gas to insinuate its way down the trenches, or the signal to go "over the top", often into direct machine gun fire.McCrae wrote "In Flanders Fields" the day after presiding at the funeral of a friend and former student. McCrae was to number among the 9,000,000 fatalities that the war would claim.Poppy seed will lie in the ground for years if the soil is undisturbed. Thatchurned up cemetery known as the Western Front provided the idealmedium for masses of poppies to blanket the graves. By the 1920s, LegionBranches were selling the paper flowers to: provide assistance to needyex-servicemen and their families, to build housing for seniors, and supportprogrammes like meals-on-wheels, drop-in centres, etc. Buy and wear apoppy. It is simple, painless way to recognize contributions and sacrificesbarely imaginable to us. Whitley Abbey Community School English DepartmentACa, ALa
  • 12. Like ‘The Falling Leaves’, the poem relies heavily on visual imagery. “The Seed-Merchant’s Son” Agnes Grozier HerbertsonThe poet chose to make the subject of her poem the son of someone whogrows and sells seeds. Herbertson probably chose this occupationbecause seeds signify new life and the possibility of growth and renewal.The poem gives many facts about the young soldier who died, thisemphasizes the youthfulness of the boy – his “bright, bright eyes” and“cheeks all red”; he is “fair and healthy and long of limb”. The seedmerchant is described as being old to have such a young son. The poetsympathizes with the man and the fact that his family line will now and withhim and unlike the seeds will not be renewed. The speaker questionswhat we can say to a man in his situation. The answer to her questioncomes from her observations of the seed-merchant himself as sheobserves him looking at the seeds in his hand and the realization that lifewill go on. The seed-merchant manages to keep his faith in God as hethanks God – he thought that life was over but realizes it is not when helooks at the seed.THINKING POINTS 1. How does the structure of the poem reflect the themes of youth and age? 2. Why do you think the poet chose a two line stanza in rhyming couplets? Whitley Abbey Community School English DepartmentACa, ALa
  • 13. “The Parable of the Old Man and the Young” Wilfred OwenWilfred Owen chooses to base his poem on the biblical story of Abrahamand his son Isaac. In the bible when Abraham has demonstrated hisobedience, God sends a ram for Abraham to sacrifice rather than his son.The bible story is meant to emphasize the mercy of God. Abraham isconsidered the father of the Jewish people and also is important in Islam.The story parallels God’s later sacrifice of his own son Jesus Christ, toredeem the sins of the world.Owen reworks the traditional parable setting his story in the trenches ofWorld War One rather than in the Holy Land. Owens’s poem is a sinisterreworking of the parable in which Abraham becomes representative of theBritish government and instead of sacrificing the Ram of Pride chooses toslay his son and “half the seed of Europe”. The failure of the Angel topersuade Abraham to slay the Ram suggests that the war could have beenprevented had proper negotiations taken place. The speaker of the poemfeels that the government has gone against the teachings of God.THINKING POINTS 1. Why do you think Owen chose this particular parable of Abraham and Isaac to parody in his poem? Whitley Abbey Community School English DepartmentACa, ALa
  • 14. “Spring in War-Time” Edith NesbittThe female speaker of the poem addresses a lost lover, she lame1nts thepassing of the seasons and the fact that she shall no longer walks down“lover’s lane” with her lover. Spring, which holds connotations of newlife, only serves to remind the speaker of the poem of what she has lostand will not experience. She remembers the previous spring when sheand her lover were, like the birds, ready to build a nest (home). Thecomparison of the lovers to the nesting birds emphasizes the lostopportunities of the women left behind. “Lover’s lane” named so becauseit was often frequented by lovers is evocative of the marital tradition ofshowering newly weds in confetti as the blossoming flowers scatter theirpetals on the road.THINKING POINTS1. Nesbit has chosen a ballad form for the poem. Why is this appropriate? “Perhaps –“Vera BrittainWritten in five quatrains the speaker reflects on the beauty of naturearound her which she can no longer appreciate. The speaker uses natureto demonstrate the passing of time and her feelings of grief for her lostlover.The speaker questions whether she will ever be able to appreciate thebeauty of nature again after experiencing such loss. The poem is bothpersonal and universal in its address, the capitalization of “Yon” is boththe speaker’s named lover and the name of any loved one lost in the war.The ending is poignant and optimistic at the same time and reflects theBritish fashion of resilience common during the period. Time is a healerand life does go on. Nature aids the process of grief as it a constantphenomenon and continues to live on and provide familiar structure forthose coping with loss.Five quatrains are used with a rhyme scheme of abab cdcd efef ghgh ijij.This reflects the monotony of the seasons and the steady rhythm ofchange.The poem would have been appreciated by many young women at the timesince such a vast number of men died during the war, and as aconsequence the birth rate dropped significantly and many women livedtheir lives as spinsters or widows. Whitley Abbey Community School English DepartmentACa, ALa
  • 15. ‘Reported Missing’ by Anna Gordon KeownThis is a Shakespearian sonnet since it has the structure of abba cddceffe gg. Sonnets were traditionally about love. It is ambiguous as towhether the speaker in this poem is the soldier’s mother or lover. It ismoving because the speaker is in denial and will soon have to accept thedeath of the missing soldier. The poem can be divided into two sections –the first 12 lines express anger at the manner in which others so readilyassume that the soldier is dead, the final rhyming lines express hercertainty that he will he is not dead and will come again. The final linesare poignant as the reader realizes that one day the speaker will have toaccept that the soldier is not returning to her. Whitley Abbey Community School English DepartmentACa, ALa