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The evolution of War Poetry

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Irene Randi

on 21 November 2014

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Transcript of The evolution of War Poetry

The evolution of War Poetry
-War had been sung in all ancient cultures, from Homer’s Iliad and Virgil’s Aeneid, like a celebration of martial merit and heroism.
-In the Age of Enlightenment literary production presented greater realism about terrible impact of war on soldiers and their families.
-During Victorian era war was both ennobling and horrifying.
-When the Great War began, dominant atmosphere was one of patriotic zeal, but in 1916 poets started to communicate his sense of the reality of war to men at home.
-By the close of the Great War, the poet has moved from being an observer to being a victim.
RUPERT BROOKE (1887-1915)
The Soldiers (1914)
If I should die, think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is forever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed ;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to
A body, of England’s, breathing English air.
Washed by the rivers, blest by the 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
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.
-The key themes of the poem are death and love.
-Written in the first person (the speaker is the soldier).
-Written at the time in support of the war, expressing love for the mother country.
-Principal theme is the exaltation of the homeland.
WILFRED OWEN (1893 – 1918)
-He was born in 1893 at Plas Wilmot, in Shropshire.
-He became an official and he was killed in 1918, one week before the Armistice was signed.
-His experiences of the war led him to represent the war through crude and realistic details (negative vision of war).
During the First World War there were two kinds of poets: the former made an exaltation of the war, as we can see in Rupert Brooke, the latter felt the no sense of war, as we can see in Wilfred Owen.
-He was born at Rugby, England, and he became an officer in the Royal Navy.
-In 1914 he wrote the “war sonnets” showing the heroic side of war.
-In 1915, at the age of 28, he died of an infection on a troopship and was buried in the Greek island of Skyros.
- He didn't get in touch with the horrors of the war because he wasn't a simple soldier.
Se dovessi morire, pensa solo questo di me:
che c’è qualche angolo del campo straniero
che sarà per sempre Inghilterra. Ci dovrebbe
In quella ricca terra una più ricca polvere
una polvere di cui l’Inghilterra si fece, si formò,
diede, una volta, i suoi fiori all’amore, le sue vie
al vagabondaggio,
un corpo inglese, respirante aria inglese,
lavato dai fiumi, benedetto dal sole di casa.
E pensa, questo cuore, tolto tutto il male,
un battito nella mente eterna, nondimeno
restituisce da qualche parte i pensieri dati
le sue visioni ed i suoi suoni; sogna felice come
il suo giorno;
e la risata, imparata dagli amici; e gentilezza,
nei cuori in pace, sotto un cielo inglese.
I soldati
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 disappointed shells that dropped 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 floundering 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.
Quanto dolce e amabile è morire per la propria patria (1917-1918)
Piegati in due, come vecchi accattoni sotto sacchi,
con le ginocchia ricurve che si toccavano, tossendo come streghe, bestemmiavamo nel fango,
fin davanti ai bagliori spaventosi, dove ci voltavamo
E cominciavamo a trascinarci verso il nostro lontano riposo.
Uomini marciavano addormentati. Molti avevano perso i loro stivali
ma avanzavano con fatica, calzati di sangue. Tutti andavano avanti zoppi; tutti ciechi;
ubriachi di fatica; sordi anche ai sibili
di granate stanche, distanziate, che cadevano dietro.

Gas! Gas! Veloci, ragazzi! – Un brancolare frenetico,
mettendosi i goffi elmetti appena in tempo;
ma qualcuno stava ancora gridando e inciampando,
e dimenandosi come un uomo nel fuoco o nella calce...
Pallido, attraverso i vetri appannati delle maschere e la torbida luce verde,
come sotto un mare verde, l’ho visto affogare.

In tutti i miei sogni, prima che la mia vista diventasse debole,
si precipita verso di me, barcollando, soffocando, annegando.

Se in qualche affannoso sogno anche tu potessi marciare
dietro al vagone in cui lo gettammo,
e guardare gli occhi bianchi contorcersi nel suo volto,
il suo volto abbassato, come un diavolo stanco di peccare;
se tu potessi sentire, ad ogni sobbalzo, il sangue
che arriva come un gargarismo dai polmoni rosi dal gas,
ripugnanti come un cancro, amaro come il bolo
di spregevoli, incurabili piaghe su lingue innocenti, -
amico mio, tu non diresti con tale profondo entusiasmo
ai figli desiderosi di una qualche disperata gloria,
la vecchia Bugia: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.
-“Dulce et Decorum est” is an example of what Owen thought about the horror of war and the hypocrisy and ignorance of patriotism.
-It focuses on the terrible new chemical weapon of World War I: Gas.
-The poem is divided in four irregular stanzas, each stanza deals with a precise point.
-The narrator is the poet himself so the scene is described from his point of view.
-In the poem he uses the first person and second singular and plural persons.
- "you" is refers to Jessie Pope.
-Often contrasted with Brooke's The Soldiers.
Randall Jarrell (1914-1965)
-He was born in 1914 at Nashville, in Tennessee.
-In 1942 he became a control tower operator working with bomber crews.
-In 1965 Jarrell was struck by a car and killed.
The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner (1945)
From my mother's sleep I fell into the State,
And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze.
Six miles from earth, loosed from its dream of life,
I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters.
When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose.
Morte del mitragliere della torretta sferica (1945)
Dal sonno in mia madre caddi nello Stato,
accoccolato nel suo ventre col giubbotto ghiacciato.
A sei miglia da terra, sciolto dal suo sogno d’amore,
mi destai alla contraerea, all’incubo nero dei caccia.
Mi lavarono dalla torretta con getti di vapore.
-The poem treaty about a soldier who goes into battle in the ball turret of a WWII bomber and he is killed.
-Issues: life's fragility, inescapability of death, power and role of the state in our lives, horrors of war.
-Metaphors: mother, fell, ball turret.
- "The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner" isn't a simple death but it is about the death of an unborn entity.
Also Italian poets wrote about the horror of war:
the poetry of Ungaretti and Quasimodo.

The status of anxiety and fear.
The composition of gas and its applications.
Abortion: laws and controls in different countries.
An important poet wrote about the Second World War:
Full transcript