The Great War (1914-1918) - Episode 2: Stalemate

·The Schlieffen Plan ("Paris for lunch, dinner in St. Petersburg").
·Belgium – Big Bertha and innocent victims.
·Representations of the Germans. ·British volunteer Army – Lord Kitchener.
·The "pals" movement.
·Songs for a War.
·Alsace and Lorrain.
·Mons – retreat.
·The battle of the Marne.
·The trenches (a new kind of war is born).
·John Lucy's brother – the return of the Dead.
·The Russian Army – NCOs (Non-commissioned officers).
·The battle of Tannenberg.
·Life in the trenches – the sky.
·Christmas 1914.

We can see in this episode the first reactions of people towards the war, the way in which propaganda affected people’s opinion and how the beginning of war starts to shape and change that view.
This episode is also the graphic representation of a lot of poems of the second section of the Anthology, that begins with 'Channel Firing' by Thomas Hardy (a poem that mixes most of Hardy's elements: elements of the previous Romantic and Enlightenment periods of literature, such as his fascination with the supernatural), a poem that expresses the feeling of gloomy foreboding that some, at least, felt in the months before the First World war; Hardy injects a recollection of what war was to those who fought and died in bygone years under the thunder of other guns, and how much worse it might be this time, and he provokes that feeling by evoking the broken quiet of a country churchyard on a dark night, but after saying the nations are 'striving strong to make/Red war yet redder' he condemns the threatening fire of the gunnery practice just offshore going so far as to put words in God's mouth saying that Hell awaits the warriors for their threatening.
We continue reading biblical references in Geoffrey Faber's 'The Eve of War', a poem that shows a sense of impending doom and uncertainty because of the feeling that war is to come.
And the sensation explodes with Rosenberg’s 'On receiving the First News of the War', a reaction to the outbreak of the First World War, conveying the poet’s sense of anxious foreboding of the horrors ahead through a series of symbols of life, death and rebirth.
'The Marionettes' by Walter de la Mare, has a satiric power drawn from Hardy and shows the first discordant voice with the majority sensation that going to war was something related to honour and patriotism.
But with the poem 'August, 1914' by John Masefield we come into war. This is a poem were the tragedy had begun to drag out its weary length and to become a commonplace stoically accepted even by sensitive minds. We have to point out that this poem fuses Masefield's characteristic qualities: his love of the English soil and its traditions, his passionate humanity, and his keen sense of tragedy resolved by spiritual vision.
And following that love to the English soil (that he will develop in 'The soldier'), we can read '1914: Peace' by Rupert Brooke, a sonnet that is a clear testimony -as we can see in the episode- of how happily war is received by people, a reaction that comes from the Victorian Era's ideology of the glory that is to be acquired through battle. It also happens in 'Happy is England Now' by John Freeman, another Georgian poet that gives us in his poem a significant evidence of patriotism and propaganda which were common in the early war poems before the realities of the brutal war were known about. And we can see one of the other sides of this encouraging to join the army in 'For All We Have and Are' by Ruyard Kipling, where the I voice in the poem encourages people to serve the country during those times of great war and violence, saying that all of them have to be brave and fight with their souls.
In 'This is no case of petty Right or Wrong' we can see a little difference in relation to other poems of this section because if it is true that the poem is truly patriotic, it is also true that Thomas disdains the sort of populist hate of Germans (as we cann see in the episode, in the one which is considered to be the first substantial propaganda campaign) and love of England that are made “to please newspapers”, arguing for a quieter form of patriotism which deals with the love for the earth in which he was born. As it happens in 'To Germany' by Charles Hamilton Sorley, where the poet contradicts the idea of genetic German evilness.

After two poems that make use of irony as 'The Poets are Waiting' by Harold Monro and the epigram 'The Dilemma' by J. C. Squire, we can see once again how poets encouraged people to enlist; this time, we see poems as 'The Trumpet' by the Georgian poet Edward Thomas, who using the memory of old wars encourages people to revive old glorious moments, or 'The Call' by Jessie Pope, a poem used as a means of coerceing the "laddies" into war through cowardice and bravery that would be responded by Wilfred Owen.

Then we come to 'Recruiting', by E. A. Mackintosh, a poem that gets darker and darker and is focused on the propaganda and how everyone seems to make the war seem fine, whilst the author sees behind the lies. It also uses guilt very well, showing how such propaganda was created effectively to make men feel like they were "only" going into a war. This last idea repeated in 'Youth in Arms I' by Harold Monro, where we can read 'Well, you're going to the wars-/That is all you need to know'.
But we can find a feeling diametrically opposed to that one in the soldiers' song 'I don't want to be a soldier': 'I don't want to be a soldier,/I don't want to go to war./I'd rather stay at home,/Around the streets to roam,/And live on the earnings of a well-paid whore./I don't want a bayonet up my arsehole,/i don't want my bollocks shot away./I'd rather stay in England,/In merry, merry England,/And fuck my bleeding life away.' that seems a quite more realistic point of view about war.
After that, we find the first reference to death. Bearing in mind the Battle of the Marne (that we can see in the episode), we can see in 'The Conscript' by Wilfrid Gibson three relevant points: one referred to the crucifixion, one referred to conscripts (The army in those days was made up of a number of volunteer (career) soldiers and many men who were called upon by the government and forced to serve in the armed forces. This process was known as conscription and the men were conscripts!), and another one referred to the medical (in the poem, Gibson is describes the medical that those men would go through to ensure they were fit enough to serve: he is saying that it doesn't matter who the man is or what is condition is, some doctors would even declare -he writes in a funny and insolent way- Jesus Christ fit to be a soldier.).
And then we come to face the first poem about war showing a feminine perspective, 'Now that you too must shortly go the way' by Eleanor Farjeon. This is a poem that shows a kind of fatalism in the use of the verb must, as if it were inevitable to go to war, but it uses another perspective to the male one by confronting the public and the private, Farjeon shows war from the women's perspective: saying goodbye to their men, never knowing if they would see each other again, drinking in the way they look, ingesting every thing about them to file away and open each time they have dark, desolate moments. Then it is disturbing to find, next to Farjeon, a poem such as 'The Kiss' by Siegfried Sassoon, a poem where Sassoon calls brother a bullet and sister the bayonet; maybe an ironical poem that shows us the crazyness of war: every soldier has a gun and is 'useless' without it.
A line continued in a more delicate way in 'Arms and the Boy' by Wilfred Owen, although the poetic height is superior to the previous poem because of the two possible readings of the poem: a literal one, pointing that children are trained with guns, and a metaphorical one, that should lead us to think that soldiers are like children.
Immediately after we find two ways of expressing the vision of soldiers going to war. The first one in 'All the hills and vales along' by Charles Hamilton Sorley, who criticises the praising made to death in some soldiers' songs, and a soldiers' song called 'We are Fred Karno's army'.
Then we find a very interesting selection of poems that show the beginning of war from different points of view. As we can see in the episode, in 1914 it begins life in the trenches, and its poetic description, with the concept of the Old Men, and the error of war are described in 'Song of the Dark Ages' by Francis Brett Young. That life on the trenches is encouraged, as care for companions, in 'Sonnets 1917: Servitude' by Ivor Gurney (this time, in a propagandistic way). However, the perspective used in 'In Barracks' by Siegfried Sassoon is completely different, because monotony is what rules life in the trenches and there is no ironic use in the poem ('Up comes the dark; down goes the sun.'). But life and war are mixed in war and that's the point in 'The Last Post' by Robert Graves, a poem about the funeral of a soldier who has dead in France and the fears soldiers going to France begin to have. Because as we have seen, France is the centre of WWI, and the hard weather conditions are the setting to describe the life of soldiers in 'In Training' by Edward Shanks. But Harold Monro gives us the same theme in a poem inflected with pastoral images and sentiments in 'Youth in Arms II: Soldier', a poem that ends consigning the corpse of the soldier to a second birth in natural renewal.

After that we have a series of poems that deal with soldiers marching to the front. The first one of them is 'Men Who March Away' by Thomas Hardy, a poem where we see two perspectives: the first is that of the onlookers, who watch the marching men; the second, that of the soldiers themselves. Then we can read 'Marching Men' by Marjorie Pickthall, where the religious comparison of the soldiers and the sorrows of Mary, the mother of Christ, reminds us of those who watched as their sons marched off to fight the Great War. The next one is 'The Send-Off' by Wilfred Owen, where the poet uses a quiet, melancholic, almost resigned tone to instil in the reader a sense of hopelessness, and where the lack of brashness and volume (with the exception of the alliterative line “beatings of great bells”) could be likened to the sombre serenity of a battlefield after action has ceased, and the soldiers have departed. And that one is followed by 'Fragment' by Rupert Brooke, a poem that from the beginning it shows a menacing atmosphere.

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