Essay The Changing Role of Poetry in the First World War

Essay The Changing Role of Poetry in the First World War

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The Changing Role of Poetry in the First World War

In this essay I will discuss the changing attitudes of poets during
the First World War. I will select a range of poems that will cover
the early days through to the end of the war and explain how the texts
were used for different purposes. I will also show how the language of
the poetry went through gradual changes.

Poetry written in 1914-1918 about the war had four basic phases:
expectation, experience, protest and finally reflection. I will cover
all four in this essay.

Britain's entry to the war was forced upon us. The army was sent into
action after Germany threatened Belgium, a country we had promised to
be allies with, Britain seemed to dive into an unplanned and very
vulnerable situation.

The people seemed to have no idea of what was about to happen. The
attitude across the country seemed to be one of all the young men
going off to fight the enemy, and all of them coming home heroes.
There was an attitude that war was a patriotic sacrifice and almost a
passage that young men should go through, to come out as civilised,
and experienced, human beings. The poets writing at the time, such as
Julian Grenfell wrote of the warmth of comradeship and left alone the
possibility of actually dying over there. The poems are so airy and
warm, speaking of the spring and new beginnings, and even of death
being an ultimate honour.

In "Into Battle" Grenfell uses romantic language, opening the first
stanza with: "The naked earth is warm with spring," is hardly the way
to describe a war. This was at the beginning of the war and the
attitude was very patriotic and an enthusias...

... middle of paper ...

suffered by many in the trenches. Sassoon is worried that the memory
of this might be lost to future generations:

'But the past is just the same--and War's a bloody game...

Have you forgotten yet?

Look down, and swear by the slain of the War that you'll never

The First World War did bring about many changes- socially,
politically and technologically. As well as this, 1914-1918 saw a
complete change in the style and structure of poetry. The strictness
of rhythm and rhyme were cast aside in favour of more accessible and
straightforward forms as the war progressed. The language became more
colloquial. These ideas and many oh coupled with the free verse style
of Rosenberg finally freed the poet from the earlier restraints and
allowed them to more easily express their feelings and to the public.

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