Part 1/3 of Joanne Gray's lesson plans on First World War poetry. This presentation provides an overview of the war, propaganda and discussion of 'The Soldier' by Rupert Brooke.
This collection of lesson plans aim to provide greater understanding and knowledge of the impact of the First World War on poetry, and provide some insight into the conditions in which it was written. To look at poetry as propaganda
In order to fully appreciate War Poetry it is essential to know something of the context in which it was written. Vast numbers of poems were written about the war so what compelled the people to write down their experiences, feelings and thoughts? Poetry, was used as a way to create a ‘climate of war-readiness,’ or war-fever, used to spread fear and hate while at the same time promoting sacrifice, heroism and patriotism. (Roberts, 2014, p.12) ‘The first world war is beyond the comprehension of a single human being, the conditions were beyond all expectation. Novels, films, museums, diaries, biographies, cemeteries and memorials all contribute towards providing a grasp of it, but it is the poetry which has a special significance as it is written mainly by soldiers in the intensity of the action, using language to encapsulate and communicate as much as humanly possible to provide the reader or listener with a deeply moving sensation of the vast war experience.
World War 1 was declared!
When the announcement came on 5th August 1914, that Britain had declared War on Germany, the military desperately needed soldiers for the army and navy. How did the government go about enlisting volunteers? Do you think many people signed up?
Has everyone seen these before? How effective do you think they were? Lord Kitchener, the Minister for War, was in charge of recruiting and his advertisements billed the conflict as ‘the greatest war in the history of the world.’ (D Roberts: 2014, p.48) The newspapers encouraged recruiting with the confident prediction that it would ‘all be over by Christmas.’ (D Roberts: 2014, p.48) It wasn’t long before public opinion was of enthusiasm and patriotism. Newspapers, posters, poetry, speeches and songs, all proclaimed the need to fight and there was a flood of young men at the recruitment offices signing up to join the army. (Roberts, 2014, p:46) There was even a secret war propaganda bureau that enlisted influential writers to pen support for the war. Definition of Propaganda: information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote a political cause or point of view Propaganda is often associated with the psychological mechanisms of influencing and altering the attitude of a population toward a specific cause, position or political agenda in an effort to form a consensus to a standard set of belief patterns. It's an organized effort to manipulate the public using mass media, including censorship, misinformation. Propaganda relies on images and emotions, especially fear. The easiest examples of propaganda come from government efforts during wars, with the most famous being posters during World War I. A big problem in war is making the population, especially civilians drafted into soldiers, see the enemy as something less than human. Many soldiers can't overcome the cultural and moral prohibitions against shooting and killing other human beings, even when they're being shot at themselves. Thus the nicknames were given to enemies in the war, and the posters showing the enemy soldiers as resembling rats or monsters. Propaganda works by tapping into emotions through images, slogans and a selective use of the facts, or control and censorship of the facts, especially if propaganda is being utilized by a government that is controlling the media by censorship or owns the media outright. So is advertising Propaganda? Advertising is factual. According to Wikipedia, Advertising is a form of marketing communication used to promote or sell something, usually a business's product or service. Propaganda is an opinion. It is a technique to spreading information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view. Or, propaganda is a type of persuasive monologue or one-sided messaged intended to coerce others to agree with an idea or take a particular action.
The Doncaster Chronicle
Article printed January 21st 1916, regarding conscription. Even though vast numbers volunteered, it was not enough so conscription was brought in. Does anyone know what this was? A military service act passed by parliament which stated that all men of a certain age must enlist to help in the war unless medically unfit for duty. The age for enlisting was amended each time more men was required.
Local soldier poem
Poetry was extremely good at portraying the war in a positive way, it was very popular, not only for the troops but with the civilans as well. There was vast amounts of poetry written during the war. The type of poetry written depended on the poets perception and experience. It could be: Patriotic - Gives honour and dignity to the soldiers, ‘celebrates’ the war (sees it as a good thing), emphasises the bravery of the soldiers.
Anti-war – views the war as destructive, portrays the suffering and condemns the war.
Witness – not participants of the war but have been through the wartime experience, eg. Victims of the war, families/children/prisoners.
Soldier poets – first hand war experiences, an expression of their feelings of either their comrades or the conflict.
A local soldier wrote a poem considered to be propaganda which was printed in the Doncaster chronicle on 11th February 1916.
How effective is this poem? The poems rhyming couplets make it flow, it sounds catchy and likeable, not very complex. The simplicity of the language means it is easy to understand therefore appealing to the everyday man with little or no education. It aims to make the local men who have not yet signed up for the army, feel very guilty and worthless whilst praising the soldiers for their bravery, comparing them to ‘lions’ which are considered courageous, proud, powerful and ferocious. Known as ‘kings of the jungle’.
Before we read his poem, ‘The Soldier’, I will give you some context.
Limited warfare experience. October 1914, he was in charge of a platoon in Antwerp but was ordered back to England as the German guns pounded the city to ruins. He had witnessed a city being destroyed and people fleeing for their lives but in his own words, he had been ‘barely under fire’. This solitary experience is the basis in which he created his most famous poems, ‘1914’, which publicly portrayed his idealistic view of the war. However, he personally and privately was not in favour of the war and before writing ‘1914’, he wrote of his ‘resentment that he might have to volunteer for military training and service’. (Roberts: 2014, p. 39) The War sonnets became a focal point for idealism and patriotism as they were promoted by the church and government. His reputation now, is only a pale shadow of what it was during the First World War. At the time he was the most celebrated poet. Today, although his poetic talent is still recognised, his confused and idealistic ideas can be seen for what they are: an heroic and self-less front which concealed a tragically lost young man. (Roberts, 2014, p16)
Play recording of poem – you tube – war poems The Soldier by Rupert Brooke -give handout The poem was originally called ‘The Recruit’ What is the about this poem? Is it propaganda? How does the poet feel about the war and fighting for his country? Why does the poet feel this way? Does the poem reflect the reality of war? What poetic devices are used in the poem? Is Brooke an idealistic poet or a glorifier of war? Analyse and discuss the poem.
Doncaster 1914-18: War Poetry Lesson 1
By Joanne Gray
With kind permission of Doncaster Heritage services
With kind permission of Doncaster Heritage Services
Rupert Brooke was born 1887, died 1915
Attended Cambridge university in 1906
1912, he suffered with suicidal depression caused by rejection from a woman he loved
Convinced by Winston Churchill to join the navy – 27/09/1914
October 1914, experienced his one and only period of warfare
Wrote a group of 5 sonnets entitled ‘1914’ – most famously remembered for his idealistic war poetry
He had a good head for business (commercially motivated)
He published his sonnets in his poetry magazine, ‘New Numbers’
April 1915, sailed to Egypt , suffered sunstroke and got a mosquito bite that went septic
Sailed to the Greek island Skyros to await orders of attack but became ill with acute blood-poisoning
Died April 23rd 1915, was buried on the island
The Soldier by Rupert Brooke - 1914
Give some context of the Trench Warfare by
analysing Wilfred Owen’s ‘Exposure’
Look at a letter from a local soldier,
in relation to censorship
Roberts, D. (ed.) (1998) Out in the dark: Poetry of the First world war in context and with basic notes. 7th edn. London, United
Kingdom: Saxon Books.
Roberts, D. (ed.) (1996) Minds at war: The poetry and experience of the First world war. 2nd edn. United Kingdom: Saxon Books.
Kind permission of Doncaster Heritage Services
Brooke, R. and Magazine, P. (2016) The soldier by Rupert Brooke. Available at:
https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poems/detail/13076 (Accessed: 27 November 2016).
David (no date) Wilfred Owen - greatest of all English war poets. Available at: http://www.warpoetry.co.uk/Owena.html (Accessed:
13 October 2016).
Rupert Brooke (2016) in Wikipedia. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rupert_Brooke (Accessed: 27 November 2016).
The soldier: Rupert Brooke - summary and critical analysis (no date) Available at:
http://www.bachelorandmaster.com/britishandamericanpoetry/the-soldier.html#.WDsVD4XXLIU (Accessed: 27 November 2016).
Wilde, R. (2016) Rupert Brooke: Poet-soldier. Available at: http://europeanhistory.about.com/od/rupertbrooke/a/biorupbooke.htm
(Accessed: 27 November 2016).