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First World War Poetry Essay Sample

Essay on A Comparison of World War I Poetry

2088 Words9 Pages

Literature and poetry are a reflection of society. The words are reflected in numerous feelings that we can almost touch and can be deeply felt in its reach. Most poets expressed their perception and emotion through their writings. Unfortunately the art and poetry describes one of the worst things that human can do to one another. The legalized murder called "war." Hence, this type of self-reflection called "poetry" has help create new fundamental ideas and values towards our society. In this essay, I will discuss the issue of the "War Poetry" during the "Great War" along with comparing and contrasting two talented renowned poets; Wilfred Owen (1893-1918) and Siegfried Sassoon (1886-1967).

We tend to focus on the definition of "War…show more content…

This "Great War" was the true beginning of our 20th century of stunning crime.

However, the result of the War had produced some outstanding poets and Wilfred Owen (1893-1918) was a of the war poets who was widely regarded as one of the best poets of the World War One period. He wrote out of his intense personal experience and memory as a soldier and wrote with unrivalled power of the physical, moral and psychological trauma of the First World War . Heavily influenced by Keats and Shelly, a young Owen intrigued to become a poet began to absorb himself in poetry. He did not go into religious life like his mother. Instead, he left for Bordeaux, France to teach English in the Berlitz School after the war had erupted. Although he thought of himself as a `Pacifist', he enlisted in the Artist's Rifles in October 1915 and later in 1917 changed to France. There he began writing poems about his war experiences. Owen finally suffered from shell-shock in the summer of 1917 and was sent to Craiglockhart War Hospital and met his friend Siegfried Sassoon, who shared his feelings about the war and who became interested in his work. Reading Sassoon's poems and discussing his work with Sassoon revolutionized Owen's style and conception of poetry .

His poetic theme, the horror and the pity of war is set forth in strong verse that transfigured traditional meters and diction . In his poem, "Disabled", consists of 7 stanzas, which Owen remarks in a letter to

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Roughly 10 million soldiers lost their lives in World War I, along with seven million civilians. The horror of the war and its aftermath altered the world for decades, and poets responded to the brutalities and losses in new ways. Just months before his death in 1918, English poet Wilfred Owen famously wrote, “This book is not about heroes. English Poetry is not yet fit to speak of them. Nor is it about deeds, or lands, nor anything about glory, honour, might, majesty, dominion, or power, except War. Above all I am not concerned with Poetry. My subject is War, and the pity of War.”

To mark the WWI centenary, we’ve put together a sampling of poems written in English by both soldiers and civilians, chosen from our archive of over 250 poems from WWI. We’ve also compiled a sampler showcasing the poets who served and volunteered in World War I.

While many of these poems do not address a particular war event, we’ve listed them by year, along with a selection of historical markers, to contextualize the poems historically. You may notice that more poems in 1914 and 1915 extoll the old virtues of honor, duty, heroism, and glory, while many later poems after 1915 approach these lofty abstractions with far greater skepticism and moral subtlety, through realism and bitter irony. Though horrific depictions of battle in poetry date back to Homer’s Iliad, the later poems of WWI mark a substantial shift in how we view war and sacrifice. 

Archduke Ferdinand assassinated. Outbreak of war in July/August. Germany invades Belgium. First Battle of the Marne, First Battle of Ypres. United States remains neutral. Trench warfare begins. The Siege of Antwerp. The Christmas truce.

“Channel Firing” by Thomas Hardy
“On Receiving News of the War” by Isaac Rosenberg
“Peace” by Rupert Brooke (published in Poetry)
“The Soldier” by Rupert Brooke (published in Poetry)
“The Dead” by Rupert Brooke
“Joining the Colours” by Katherine Tynan
“Men Who March Away” by Thomas Hardy
“War Girls” by Jessie Pope
“On Heaven” by Ford Madox Ford (published in Poetry)
“To Germany” by Charles Sorley
“For the Fallen” by Laurence Binyon
“Phases” by Wallace Stevens (published in Poetry)
“Iron” by Carl Sandburg (published in Poetry)
“The Bombardment” by Amy Lowell (published in Poetry)
“War Yawp” by Richard Aldington (published in Poetry)
“Fallen” by Alice Corbin Henderson (published in Poetry)
“August 1914” by Mary Wedderburn Cannan
“August 1914” by Isaac Rosenberg
“August, 1914” by Vera Mary Brittain

Germans sink RMS Lusitania. The Dardenelles campaign. Battle of Gallipoli. Second Battle of Ypres. First use of poison gas.

“In Flanders Fields” by John McCrae
“Absolution” by Siegfried Sassoon
“Home” by Edward Thomas
“Champagne, 1914-15” by Alan Seeger
“Belgium” by Edith Wharton
“Before Marching and After” by Thomas Hardy
“In Memoriam (Easter, 1915)” by Edward Thomas
“The Owl” by Edward Thomas
“A Lament” by Katherine Tynan
“The Spring in War-Time” by Sara Teasdale
“Into Battle” by Julian Grenfell
“On Being Asked for a War Poem” by William Butler Yeats
“Rouen” by Mary Wedderburn Cannan
“Marching” by Isaac Rosenberg (published in Poetry)
“Such, Such is Death” by Charles Sorley
“The Falling Leaves” by Margaret Postgate Cole
“When You See Millions of the Mouthless Dead” by Charles Sorley
“This is No Case of Petty Right or Wrong” by Edward Thomas

Battle of Verdun, Battle of the Somme. President Wilson re-elected with campaign slogan, “He kept us out of the war.” Rasputin is murdered.

“Rain” by Edward Thomas
“Break of Day in the Trenches” by Isaac Rosenberg (published in Poetry)
“The Troop Ship” by Isaac Rosenberg
“The Kiss” by Siegfried Sassoon
“The Poet as Hero” by Siegfried Sassoon
“As the Team’s Head Brass” by Edward Thomas
“Sonnet 9: On Returning to the Front after Leave” by Alan Seeger
“In Time of ‘The Breaking of Nations’” by Thomas Hardy
“Easter, 1916” by William Butler Yeats
“The Trumpet” by Edward Thomas
“The Messages” by Wilfrid Wilson Gibson
“The Death Bed” by Siegfried Sassoon
“Lights Out” by Edward Thomas
“The Night Patrol” by Arthur Graeme West
“The War Films” by Henry Newbolt
“The Twins” by Robert Service
“Ode in Memory of the American Volunteers Fallen for France” by Alan Seeger
“At the Movies” by Florence Ripley Mastin

Germans issue Zimmerman Telegram to Mexico, United States declares war on Germany, draft begins. U.S. troops land in France. Third Battle of Ypres. Bolshevik uprising in Russia, led by Lenin, headed by Trotsky.

“Dulce et Decorum Est” by Wilfred Owen
“I Have a Rendezvous with Death” by Alan Seeger
“Blighters” by Siegfried Sassoon
“Two Fusiliers” by Robert Graves
“Anthem for Doomed Youth” by Wilfred Owen
“Returning, We Hear the Larks” by Isaac Rosenberg
“The Dead Kings” by Francis Ledwidge
“Servitude” by Ivor Gurney
from Battle of the Somme: The Song of the Mud” by Mary Borden
“Dead Man’s Dump” by Isaac Rosenberg
“Counter-Attack” by Siegfried Sassoon
“Sergeant-Major Money” by Robert Graves
“The Work” by Gertrude Stein
“To His Love” by Ivor Gurney
“After the War” by Mary Wedderburn Cannan
“To Any Dead Officer” by Siegfried Sassoon
“Photographs” by Ivor Gurney
“Breakfast” by Wilfrid Wilson Gibson

U.S. President Wilson issues Fourteen Points to peace. Germany launches Spring Offensive, bombs Paris. United States launches attacks at Belleau Wood and Argonne Forest. Bolsheviks murder Tsar Nicholas II and Romanov family. Kaiser Wilhelm II abdicates, Germany signs armistice on November 11. Paris Peace Conference.

“Strange Meeting” by Wilfred Owen
“Futility” by Wilfred Owen
“Attack” by Siegfried Sassoon
“The Veteran” by Margaret Postgate Cole (published in Poetry)
“Repression of War Experience” by Siegfried Sassoon
“Grass” by Carl Sandburg
“Dawn on the Somme” by Robert Nichols
“God! How I hate you, you young cheerful men” by Arthur Graeme West
“Lettres d'un Soldat” by Wallace Stevens (published in Poetry)
“Ypres” by Laurence Binyon
“Spring Offensive” by Wilfred Owen
“Epitaph On My Days in Hospital” by Vera Mary Brittain
“Roundel” by Vera Mary Brittain
“War Mothers” by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
“Glory of Women” by Sigfried Sassoon
“Smile, Smile, Smile” by Wilfred Owen
“S. I. W.” by Wilfred Owen
“And There Was a Great Calm” by Thomas Hardy

1919 and After
Armies demobilize, return home. Peace Treaty of Versailles ratified by Germany; U.S. Senate votes to reject treaty and refuses to join League of Nations. Proposal and constitution for League of Nations. The Cenotaph unveiled in London. Treaty of Sevres in 1920 ends war on Eastern Front.

“January 1919” by Christopher Middleton (1919)
“Everyone Sang” by Siegfried Sassoon (1919)
“The Cenotaph” by Charlotte Mew (1919)
“First Time In” by Ivor Gurney (1919)
fromEpitaphs of the War, 1914-18” by Rudyard Kipling (1919)
“Gethsemane” by Rudyard Kipling (1919)
“Hugh Selwyn Mauberley (Part I)” by Ezra Pound (1920)
“A.E.F.” by Carl Sandburg (1920)
“To E.T.” by Robert Frost (1920)
“In Memory of George Calderon” by Laurence Binyon (1920)
“War and Peace” by Edgell Rickword (1921)
“Trench Poets” by Edgell Rickword (1921)
“Soldier-Poet” by Hervey Allen (1921)
“For a War Memorial” by G.K. Chesterton (1921)
“Festubert, 1916” by Edmund Blunden (1921)
“Elegy in a Country Churchyard” by G.K. Chesterton (1922)
“Epitaph on an Army of Mercenaries” by A.E. Housman (1922)
“Soldier from the wars returning” by A.E. Housman (1922)
“I Saw England — July Night” by Ivor Gurney (1922)
“Champs d’Honneur” by Ernest Hemingway (1923) (published in Poetry)
“Laventie” by Ivor Gurney (1925)
“A War Bride” by Jessie St. John (1928) (published in Poetry)

Read more poets who served or volunteered in WWI

Browse moreWar Poems


Poet's Choice: Of Love and War: D.A. Powell reads poems from Rupert Brooke and Gwendolyn Brooks.

Anything But Sweet: Wilfred Owen's “Dulce et Decorum Est” and modern warfare.


“100 Years of Poetry: The Magazine and War”: A historical look at the role of poetry in wartime.

“How Should We Write About War and Trauma?”: Tom Sleigh Looks to David Jones

“Now Online: Siegfried Sassoon’s War Diaries”

“Poetry in the First World War” from Poetry magazine (1940)


PBS: The Great War and the Shaping of the 20th Century

Oxford University: The First World War Poetry Digital Archive

U.S. National WWI Museum

The Telegraph: Life on the Eve of War

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