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Old 05-08-2017, 12:52 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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There's a play Not About Heroes by Stephen MacDonald on the relationship between Sassoon and Owen. I played Owen in a production, the play's quite fun to act (at least, i enjoyed it).
Here's my own favorite Sassoon:

"The General

“Good-morning, good-morning!” the General said
When 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 Jack
As they slogged up to Arras with rifle and pack.

But he did for them both by his plan of attack."

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Old 05-08-2017, 01:08 AM
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R. S. Gwynn R. S. Gwynn is offline
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This sonnet was, I believe, based on his correspondence with Thomas.
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Old 05-08-2017, 01:11 AM
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R. S. Gwynn R. S. Gwynn is offline
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The film Behind the Lines is about Owen and Sassoon. It was based on a Booker Award-winning novel by Pat Barker. The film focuses on the psychiatric hospital at Craiglockhart. It is good. Incidentally, John, this is the poem that Fenton quotes in the NYRB article (on American art during the WWI period).

Last edited by R. S. Gwynn; 05-08-2017 at 01:14 AM.
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Old 05-08-2017, 01:15 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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There's quite a bit at Craiglockhart in the play as well, as I recall. Both poets come across quite sympathetically in it.
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Old 05-08-2017, 01:31 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Thank you, Sam, for that interesting article. The contrast between US and UK folk memories of the war is apt, in my experience. Belleau Wood shows up in Mel Gibson's recent Hacksaw Ridge, with the father arriving at the court martial in full WW I uniform and recalling his service at Belleau Wood.
We had a big book on that war in my childhood which as I recall mostly displayed both sides' propaganda. Fenton's tone recalls my childhood memories of those somewhat absurdly jingoistic images. They do something to encapsulate WW I for me, and form a fitting backdrop to Britain's war poets and to Erich Maria Remarque.
Also - could it have been Taps we heard at my UK boarding school every November 11th, as we stood outside for a minute in silence?
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Old 05-08-2017, 03:55 AM
Gregory Dowling Gregory Dowling is offline
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Thanks for this thread, Aaron. Very interesting to see Larkin's and Hardy's poems side by side, so to speak.

Paul Fussell's great book on the literature of the First World War, The Great War and Modern Memory, actually begins with a discussion of Hardy's volume Satires of Circumstance, which came out in November 1914 - meaning that most of the poems were written before the war (there's just one patriotic and seemingly non-ironic poem tacked on at the end, "Men Who March Away", which refers specifically to the war). Analysing poems like "Channel Firing", Fussell says Hardy almost wrote the war before it happened. He says: “One reason modern English poetry can be said to begin with Hardy is that he is the first to invite into poems the sound of ominous gunfire heard across the water.” And Hardy himself wrote about “Channel Firing” that he had not foreseen “the coming so soon of such a convulsion as the war, though only three or four months before it broke out he had printed a prophetic poem […] whereof the theme, ‘All nations striving strong to make / Red war yet redder,’ was, to say the least, a perception singularly coincident.”

It's not surprising that Sassoon was a great admirer of Hardy's poetry.

And the Penguin anthology of First World War Poetry edited by Jon Silkin actually begins with Hardy's poem "Drummer Hodge", which dates from the Boer War, precisely because it seems to anticipate Brooke's sonnet "The Soldier". Here are the two poems:

Drummer Hodge

They throw in Drummer Hodge, to rest
Uncoffined -- just as found:
His landmark is a kopje-crest
That breaks the veldt around:
And foreign constellations west
Each night above his mound.

Young Hodge the drummer never knew --
Fresh from his Wessex home --
The meaning of the broad Karoo,
The Bush, the dusty loam,
And why uprose to nightly view
Strange stars amid the gloam.

Yet portion of that unknown plain
Will Hodge for ever be;
His homely Northern breast and brain
Grow to some Southern tree,
And strange-eyed constellations reign
His stars eternally.

The Soldier

If I should die, think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England’s, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.
And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.
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Old 05-08-2017, 04:22 AM
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Ann Drysdale Ann Drysdale is offline
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May I bring in Robert Graves's anger...

A Dead Boche

To you who’d read my songs of War
And only hear of blood and fame,
I’ll say (you’ve heard it said before)
”War’s Hell!” and if you doubt the same,
Today I found in Mametz Wood
A certain cure for lust of blood:

Where, propped against a shattered trunk,
In a great mess of things unclean,
Sat a dead Boche; he scowled and stunk
With clothes and face a sodden green,
Big-bellied, spectacled, crop-haired,
Dribbling black blood from nose and beard.

And a personal favourite...

Sergeant-Major Money

It wasn't our battalion, but we lay alongside it,
So the story is as true as the telling is frank.
They hadn't one Line-officer left, after Arras,
Except a batty major and the Colonel, who drank.

'B' Company Commander was fresh from the Depot,
An expert on gas drill, otherwise a dud;
So Sergeant-Major Money carried on, as instructed,
And that's where the swaddies began to sweat blood.

His Old Army humour was so well-spiced and hearty
That one poor sod shot himself, and one lost his wits;
But discipline's maintained, and back in rest-billets
The Colonel congratulates 'B' Company on their kits.

The subalterns went easy, as was only natural
With a terror like Money driving the machine,
Till finally two Welshmen, butties from the Rhondda,
Bayoneted their bugbear in a field-canteen.

Well, we couldn't blame the officers, they relied on Money;
We couldn't blame the pitboys, their courage was grand;
Or, least of all, blame Money, an old stiff surviving
In a New (bloody) Army he couldn't understand.

I think the latter adds a touch of outraged humanity to Sassoon's "General".
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Old 05-08-2017, 04:25 AM
Clive Watkins Clive Watkins is offline
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On Edward Thomas’s “Adlestrop”(See Post 4 above.) – According to his most recent editor, Edna Longley, “Adlestrop” was written on 8 January 1915, some two years before Thomas shipped out to France. He was killed on 9th April 1917.

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Old 05-08-2017, 05:23 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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"Or, least of all, blame Money, an old stiff surviving
In a New (bloody) Army he couldn't understand."
Great ending.
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Old 05-08-2017, 08:02 AM
Mark McDonnell Mark McDonnell is offline
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Dulce et Decorum Est

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly 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 flound’ring like a man in fire or lime.—
Dim 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.

If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

When I first read this Wilfred Owen poem at school I assumed (and don't recall being told otherwise) that the second person address that begins in the final stanza (If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace / Behind the wagon that we flung him in) was simply directed at a generic 'reader' who might harbour Romantic ideas about warfare.

It fascinated me to later discover that it's actually very specifically addressed to a female poet called Jessie Pope, whose jingoistic 'recruiting' verse was widely published in British newspapers of the time. This sort of thing...

Who's for the Game?

Who’s for the game, the biggest that’s played,
The red crashing game of a fight?
Who’ll grip and tackle the job unafraid?
And who thinks he’d rather sit tight?
Who’ll toe the line for the signal to ‘Go!’?
Who’ll give his country a hand?
Who wants a turn to himself in the show?
And who wants a seat in the stand?
Who knows it won’t be a picnic – not much-
Yet eagerly shoulders a gun?
Who would much rather come back with a crutch
Than lie low and be out of the fun?
Come along, lads –
But you’ll come on all right –
For there’s only one course to pursue,
Your country is up to her neck in a fight,
And she’s looking and calling for you.

The original handwritten manuscript has the words 'To Jessie Pope etc' scrawled at the top. Fascinating stuff.

Edit: the academic in the video doesn't actually mention the Jessie Pope dedication but if you pause at about 35 seconds you clearly see 'to Jessie Pope etc' which is crossed out and replaced with 'to a certain Poetess'

Last edited by Mark McDonnell; 05-08-2017 at 08:32 AM.
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