War and Modernism

920 Words4 Pages
During World War I, many poems were written on the horrors both heard of and encountered first hand. Some poets, like William Butler Yeats, did not experience the war by themselves yet still choose to write about it; others, like Wilfred Owen, were part of the dreadful war and were urged by their memories to start writing (Academy of American Poets). Both were part of the modernist movement, of which Yeats is often regarded as one of the founders. Modernism was a movement that outstretched literature and poetry, yet provided a new amount of freedom for war poets, as it allowed them to express themselves in the modernist fashion of free forms and room for criticism on the modern world (Matterson). William Butler Yeats’ “The Second Coming” is an example for the modernist war poetry typical for the movement, as the work criticizes the horrors of the war in new artistic ways. This poem paints the depressing picture of a world falling apart at the fault of anarchy, until even the Sphinx awakens from its seemingly eternal slumber, as seen here: [T]wenty centuries of stony sleep Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle, And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born? (“The Second Coming” 19-22) The Second Coming seems to be a reference to Jesus Christ’s return at the end of time, although it is not Christ himself who comes back after two millennia but a monstrous creature made of stone. This vision of war is fitting for the modernist era. First of all, this poem is written without structure. There is no real meter is there, nor does it follow the rules of a predetermined form. While the poem does rhyme, it was freely written in the way the poet felt was most fitting. Secondly, this poem... ... middle of paper ... ...er than any time before, yet the people were not ready for the reality of that destiny. The greater the world became, the greater wars would be fought. It meant that protest was necessary. Even though Modernist poetry had its origins in the 1890s, the war was its fuel later on. Both Yeats and Owen were capable of showing this. Works Cited Anonymous. "Wilfred Owen." Poets.org. Academy of American Poets, n.d. Web. 02 Mar. 2014. Matterson, Stephen. "1890-1940s Modernism." PBS. PBS, 2007. Web. 02 Mar. 2014. http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americannovel/timeline/modernism.html Owen, Wilfred. “Dulce et Decorum est.” War Poetry. Saxon Books, n.d. Web. 01 March 2014. Rahn, Josh. "Modernism." - Literature Periods & Movements. The Literature Network, 2011. Web. 01 Mar. 2014. Yeats, William Butler. “The Second Coming.” Poetry Foundation. Poetry Foundation, n.d. Web. 01 March 2014.
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