English Poetry

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WAR POETRY (1915-1918) The poets were struggling to make sense of their own war experience, and nostalgia for the past and for home was very common. Nature became idealized against the destruction carried out by machines and they will try to find beauty in basic natural manifestations. The soldiers resorted to medieval legends (Arthurian knights) and old myths, in order to make sense of what they were witnessing. The poppies became the symbol of the dead as they where the only flowers that could grow up in that barren land. This poetry is divided into 4 phases: Phase 1-Innocence and strong patriotism, war was a glorious duty. Jingoism: trying to glorify war, almost a sport (Brooke). It lasted just a year. Phase 2-Bitterness , anger, rage towards the military authorities (Rosenberg, Sassoon, Owen). Phase 3-Pity, sadness and helplessness (Owen, Gurney). War was going on and there was nothing they could do about it.  Phase 4-Remembrance (Jones, Blunden, Graves). Memoirs written ten years after the war. RUPERT BROOKE (1887-1915)-The Soldier (1914)He is a symbol of the innocent or naïve attitude towards war. He was a very popular poet and the typical tabloid subject because of his handsome appearance and interesting life.He wrote 1914 and Other Poems (1914), in which he will show a nature being replaced with moral values, the typical piece in early war poetry. // It is The Soldier and not A soldier because it is a prototype, a personification of the British soldier, those who were killed (it excludes the rest of the soldiers). All of them had the same education, values, background. Brooke highlights qualities such aseffort, endurance, moral values, happiness, friendship, education and culture. He uses high sounding language and metaphors. The piece of land where the soldier dies will become a part of England, extremely patriotic sentiment. He refers to the English countryside as a heavenly place: flowers, river, sun... (romantic, he glorifies nature). War is depicted as glorious. Death is treated as something positive: there is alliteration of the “h” sound in the last three lines to represent the whispering or death of the soldiers. He promoted war as something good. Afterwards, he would be heavily criticised for promoting war with the old values.


Isaac Rosenberg (1890-1918)-Break of Day in the TrenchesHe was an English Jew, which marked him as a foreigner among his fellow soldiers and had a really bad experience with his platoon ashe was bulleted because of this condition. He didn’t take part in that English patriotic spirit. //The poppy symbolizes death and the past while the rat could represent the author himself (he could not fit among neither English nor Germans and moved through the field without any border). The rat is the only one that survives, it is better off than men, better suited for life than the better human being in a war situation. The soldier dies, and the rat survives. The author says that nationalities are useless, since rats are better off than men due to nationalist obsessions. The rat and the poppies are equalizing symbols: all the German and English soldiers are going to die fighting for their lives and poppies grow equally in all the soldiers. This was the attitude in the second half of the war.  Ivor Gurney (1890-1937)-To His Love He had a nervous breakdown before the war, so it didn’t change his mental state. He wrote poetry of home and of the front in Severn and Somme (1917) the year he was gassed and was sent home. In 1918, he had another breakdown and tried to recover through poetry and music but he was finally confined to a mental hospital until the end of his life. // The sheep recreate a pastoral landscape, one that the dead soldier will not be able to enjoy anymore. From there we move to the war and its shocks. It is a typical elegy showing sadness,full of idyllic images (flowers or river) but we also face reality. The horror of war is overwhelming for the author (that red wet thing), he can’t deal with it. He wants to repress what he has seen and resorts to nature to try and hide it away. He is afraid.  Wilfred Owen (1893-1918)-Futility // He was the most accomplished of the war poets.He was influenced by the Bible and theRomantics but war will change that, making him lose his confidence in humankind. He was an officer, difficult task since loads of men were killed, which affected him severely provoking him neurasthenia (shell-shock). He met Sassoon in his recovery and was encouraged to write about the war in a poetry of anger, bitterness and irony.//Owen is referring to the futility oftrying to bring someone back from death but also of going to war, since fighting is useless. Human race and society are also useless (a failure)because we were created to be constantly fighting among each other. The poet has an impulse to move his friend’s death body to the sun, in order to give him life, as the sun does with nature, but it is impossible. There is a despair and pitiful tone. There is more futility on trying to go back to oldsymbols and rites.The last rhetoric question addressing the sun is also futile, since there’s no answer for it. There are huge forces going on, so the only thing we can do is feel pity.

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