Tuesday 12 August 2014

Written by Ayena Shaneez, Sophomore Aer, Class of 2016

I was transported a hundred years back to the trenches as my mind led me through a sea of green gas. Around me, men were fumbling for gas masks, people were shouting, screaming, dying. He didn't get his mask on time. 

And then it was over. I was back at home — on my macbook, staring at the pain and sorrow of the great war intertwined in one single poem. I read, and re-read it, and re-read it again, the poem Dulce et Decorum EST by Wilfred Owen. 

There is nothing sweet or righteous about dying for your country.

No pictures can ever portray the raw feelings war poets pour into their poems. A majority of these war poets were soldiers in the great war, scarred by their experiences. Among them were Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon, Edward Thomas, Robert Graves, Ivor Gurney and many more. 

Wilfred Owen

Wilfred Owen was one of the leading poets during World War I. He describes the war as a raging inferno, man against man killing each other like cattle. His words captivate me, they hold my attention like a good movie would only that unlike a movie, his words leave an imprint in my mind that would always be my perception of The Great War. 

Owen isn't just a great poet but a true military hero. One of the significant events that shaped Owen was when he had to take shelter from German artillery fire on the side of a railway embankment. He was trapped there for days with the body of fallen comrade. This experience trigged shell shock, a mental disturbance caused by prolonged exposure to active warfare. He was sent to Craig Lockhart War Hospital and by chance, he met Siegfried Sassoon, a fellow war poet.

Sassoon survived World War I, unlike Owen, who died just a week before it all ended. But the death of Sassoon's companions which included Owen made him bitter and angry, which he expressed in his writing. He wrote 'The Soldier', a poem about the horrors of the trenches and the brutality of warfare. He condemned generals, politicians, and 
churchmen for their incompetence and blind support of the war. 

Sassoon wrote passionately about the effects of war on soldiers and veterans — gassing, shell shock dreams and post trauma. His writing had the power to make the reader enraged as well. His poem 'Glory of Women' is ironic as it accuses the women at home waiting for the soldiers of being blinded by the honour and glory of the men fighting in the war, only to conveniently forget about them upon death or disfigurement.

"YOU love us when we're heroes, home on leave, 

Or wounded in a mentionable place.

You worship decorations; you believe

That chivalry redeems the war's disgrace:

(An excerpt from 'Glory of Women' by Siegfried Sassoon)

The bitterness and compassion that he pours into his writing made it popular among the public. He protested against the government by throwing his Military Cross medal in a river and sending The Soldier's Declaration to his commanding officer, defying the militaristic values of that time. He wanted to end the agony that a soldier had to go through.

In the diary of war poet Siegfried Sassoon - The Soldier's Declaration, which was later read out at Parliament         
By pure coincidence, earlier into the war, Sassoon was sent to the 1st battalion in France where he met another fellow poet, Robert Graves. They quickly became friends, united by their love for poetry. It was through Sassoon that Graves became friends with Owen as well.They exchanged poems and writing as well as their experiences. Graves was also a victim of shell shock but was not hospitalised for it. 

Graves survived the war but never really recovered. His writings about the war were frank, a little crude and highly descriptive. He didn't mention much about how he felt — if he was angry or upset — but from his words one could tell that he was greatly disturbed by the effects of war and the war itself. He wrote :

To you who’d read my songs of War 

And only hear of blood and fame, 

I’ll say (you’ve heard it said before) 

"War’s Hell!”

To me, these poets are like nightingales of the darkest hour. They have managed to convey an impactful message using words and emotions that come from the corners of the battlefield and the depth of the trenches. Their literary talent shall always be remembered.
by Anonymous 21:46 19 comments | in , , , ,


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  16. War Poetry: A Window into the Trenches

    Wilfred Owen's poem "Dulce et Decorum Est" vividly transported me to the horrors of World War 1 trenches, showcasing the brutal reality of war that no picture could capture.

    War poets like Owen, Siegfried Sassoon, and Robert Graves, many of whom were soldiers themselves, used their words to convey the devastating impact of war, both physically and emotionally.

    Owen's poignant descriptions left a lasting impression, capturing the war's human cost and challenging its glorification. Sassoon's powerful prose addressed the toll on soldiers, pushing for an end to the war's suffering. Graves' honest accounts highlighted the war's lasting trauma.

    These poets, like "nightingales of the darkest hour," used their voices to deliver a powerful message against war's brutality, a message that continues to resonate today.
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