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August 1914


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AS World War I Poetry

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August 1914

  1. 1. August 1914 On Receiving News of the War Rosenberg
  2. 2. Learning Objectives:
  3. 3. Context • August 1914: Though the title refers to the first month of the war, this poem was actually written in 1916, as Rosenberg trained as a private soldier for the front line.
  4. 4. August 1914 • What in our lives is burnt In the fire of this? The heart’s dear granary?--metaphor The much we shall miss?--alliteration Questions the consequences of war
  5. 5. • Three lives hath one life – Iron, honey, gold.—cryptic comment The gold, the honey gone – Left is the hard and cold.
  6. 6. • Iron are our lives Molten right through our youth. A burnt space through ripe fields A fair mouth’s broken tooth. Hesiod, an ancient Greek writer, described these Ages of Man as beginning with the Golden Age, moving then through the Silver, Bronze, Heroic then Iron Age. Each stage traces a gradual fall from a higher state, until in the Iron Age man has become unjust, dishonest and tyrannical. “Gold” here might refer to that paradisal state, while “honey” seems to have more Biblical associations of plenitude, health and preciousness (Canaan is the “land of milk and honey”). August 1914, Rosenberg may be suggesting, is ushering the “hard and cold” Age of Iron, defined by callousness and cruelty.
  7. 7. • Iron are our lives Molten right through our youth.- A burnt space through ripe fields A fair mouth’s broken tooth. Passion of youth or struggle for life The burnt field s of France or Young mend cut down in their prime. Civilization being destroyed or Young men being mutilitated with bullets
  8. 8. • The Volunteer
  9. 9. Structure • STRUCTURE: Written in a rather rigid iambic pentameter— obviously attempting a high- flown, elevated style— this is comprised of two octet stanzas of the same rhyme scheme, ABBACDCD
  10. 10. Form • Epitaph- poem which honours the dead
  11. 11. Summary • This poem tells the story of an office worker who has died in battle on the front. Once he was a frustrated clerk living a boring life, living out his heroic fantasies through books. Dying for his country he finds true satisfaction, having lived out his heroic dreams.
  12. 12. Context • Asquith wrote this poem in 1912 when working as a lawyer in the City. Asquith is the son of former Prime Minister Herbert Asquith, who led Britain from 1910-1916.
  13. 13. Structure • Written in a rather rigid iambic pentameter— obviously attempting a high-flown, elevated style— this is comprised of two octet stanzas of the same rhyme scheme, ABBACDCD. • First stanza focuses on boring life and job • Second stanza focuses on a dream fulfilled
  14. 14. The Volunteer Here lies a clerk who half his life had spent Toiling at ledgers in a city grey, Thinking that so his days would drift away With no lance broken in life’s tournament Yet ever ‘twixt the books and his bright eyes The gleaming eagles of the legions came, And horsemen, charging under phantom skies, Went thundering past beneath the oriflamme. Flag of the King of France-medieval term
  15. 15. • And now those waiting dreams are satisfied From twilight to the halls of dawn he went; His lance is broken; but he lies content With that high hour, in which he lived and died. And falling thus, he wants no recompense, Who found his battle in the last resort Nor needs he any hearse to bear him hence, Who goes to join the men of Agincourt. Halls at work are being compared to the afterlife He is elevated to a place among the greatest heroes that have died in France for England: the men of Henry V, who though outnumbered defeated the French army on French soil at the Battle of Agincourt.
  16. 16. Rosenberg • Rosenberg was born to working class parents and studied as an apprentice. He joined up, primarily to provide money for his family. He was in France by early 1916 as a private soldier; in contrast to many of the most famous soldier poets, Rosenberg experienced the war not as an officer but in the ranks.
  17. 17. Structure • A precise and very regularly constructed poem, comprising five quatrains of simple, alternating rhyme (ABAB). Each alternates between an iambic trimeter (three stressed and six unstressed beats per line) and iambic dimeter (four syllable lines).
  18. 18. On Receiving News of the War’ • • Snow is a strange white word. No ice or frost Has asked of bud or bird For Winter’s cost.
  19. 19. • Yet ice and frost and snow From earth to sky This Summer land doth know. No man knows why. • Implied comparison of snow in Europe to snow in SA-Implied result death is on the way
  20. 20. • In all men’s hearts it is. Some spirit old Hath turned with malign kiss (Judas) Our lives to mould. • Suggests human motivation for the war
  21. 21. • Red fangs have torn His face. God’s blood is shed. He mourns from His lone place His children dead. • God has been attacked: and he sheds blood. The implication here is perhaps that God’s blood is that of those who will die in the war; but the image is uncompromising, and emphasises the power of evil, and the vulnerability of God. The use of a short end-stopped statement emphasises this. • The image of God here is of a deity distraught, alone and removed, who mourns the death of “his children.
  22. 22. • • O! ancient crimson curse! Corrode, consume. Give back this universe Its pristine bloom. • Interjection shows strong feeling