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Doncaster 1914-18: War Poetry Lesson 2

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Part 2/3 of Joanne Gray's lesson plans on First World War poetry. This presentation provides an overview of life in the trenches, a history of Wilfred Owen, and the poem 'Exposure' by Wilfred Owen.
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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

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Doncaster 1914-18: War Poetry Lesson 2

  1. 1. WAR POETRY By Joanne Gray
  2. 2. CENSORSHIP • Field postcard • Honour envelope • Self-censorship
  3. 3. LIFE IN THE TRENCHES • Life was often very monotonous and dull • Conditions were shocking • Soldiers in the trenches did not get much sleep • Trenches were very muddy and smelly • Soldiers were always hungry • In constant danger from gas attacks, shells and snipers • Had to battle the weather, diseases, rats as well as the enemy
  4. 4. ‘The bitter winter was the coldest in living memory for the soldiers in France. Soldiers suffered from frostbite and exposure, causing them to lose fingers. The trenches did little to provide shelter or warmth from the extreme low temperatures, especially at night, when even clothes and blankets froze solid. The muddy walls became hard as bricks, and any food and water became almost impossible to eat or drink. Vehicles also succumbed to the cold: engines wouldn’t start, prompting soldiers to attempt to revive them using hot water bottles.’
  5. 5. WILFRED OWEN • Born 18 March 1893 • Enlisted in the British Army in 21 October 1915 (aged 18) • On 30th December 1916, he sailed to France, he experienced much front line action • Awarded the military cross October 1918 in recognition of his courage and leadership • Killed in battle on 4th November 1918 • A realistic perception of war portrayed in his poetry • Virtually unknown during the war as he wanted to show the ‘Pity of War’ • He is now widely recognised as one of the greatest voices of WW1
  6. 6. Exposure - By Wilfred Owen Our brains ache, in the merciless iced east winds that knive us . . . Wearied we keep awake because the night is silent . . . Low drooping flares confuse our memory of the salient . . . Worried by silence, sentries whisper, curious, nervous, But nothing happens. Watching, we hear the mad gusts tugging on the wire, Like twitching agonies of men among its brambles. Northward, incessantly, the flickering gunnery rumbles, Far off, like a dull rumour of some other war. What are we doing here?
  7. 7. The poignant misery of dawn begins to grow . . . We only know war lasts, rain soaks, and clouds sag stormy. Dawn massing in the east her melancholy army Attacks once more in ranks on shivering ranks of grey, But nothing happens. Sudden successive flights of bullets streak the silence. Less deadly than the air that shudders black with snow, With sidelong flowing flakes that flock, pause, and renew, We watch them wandering up and down the wind's nonchalance, But nothing happens.
  8. 8. Pale flakes with fingering stealth come feeling for our faces— We cringe in holes, back on forgotten dreams, and stare, snow-dazed, Deep into grassier ditches. So we drowse, sun-dozed, Littered with blossoms trickling where the blackbird fusses. —Is it that we are dying? Slowly our ghosts drag home: glimpsing the sunk fires, glozed With crusted dark-red jewels; crickets jingle there; For hours the innocent mice rejoice: the house is theirs; Shutters and doors, all closed: on us the doors are closed,— We turn back to our dying.
  9. 9. Since we believe not otherwise can kind fires burn; Now ever suns smile true on child, or field, or fruit. For God's invincible spring our love is made afraid; Therefore, not loath, we lie out here; therefore were born, For love of God seems dying. Tonight, this frost will fasten on this mud and us, Shrivelling many hands, and puckering foreheads crisp. The burying-party, picks and shovels in shaking grasp, Pause over half-known faces. All their eyes are ice, But nothing happens.

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