Book Review – October 2014 – Sallie Eden

Poetry of the First World War An Anthology edited by Tim Kendall – Published in paperback by Oxford World’s Classics (Oxford University Press) in 2014

poetryofWW1A timely collection of classic and familiar poems and songs written during or after WWI , intermingled with some lesser known pieces. It’s an interesting selection and I was surprised how many of the poems were by women. Some are simple and all the more moving because of that, others are (in my view) rather too flowery, but there’s no denying the depth of feeling in all of them.

Although, to my mind, nothing can beat Binyon’s ‘For the Fallen’ (and not just because it was written in Cornwall), the freshness of the less familiar poems adds another dimension to the sometimes idealistic view of war. As Wilfred Owen puts  it “That old Lie: Dulce et decorum est Pro patria mori”. A further bonus is the section on context, in which, for example, it explains that Churchill had argued against the frequent use of that phrase (originally coined by Horace) because he thought there was nothing “sweet or decorous” about death in battle.

Not for everyone, but it’s a thought provoking and moving collection telling the story of war from a personal perspective and in a way that makes you realise how different individual experiences and expectations were.

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