One of the most remarkable things that came from World War One is the incredible influence it had on literary and poetic styles of the following century. It was during the First World War that the concept of the anti-war poet first came about and the volumes of prose and poems written about that most brutal of conflicts is massive. Here are some of the most moving and incisive quotes from those volumes.
“You'd think, to hear some people talk/ That lads go West with sobs and curses/ And sullen faces white as chalk/ Hankering for wreaths and tombs and hearses/ But they've been taught the way to do it/ Like Christian soldiers; not with haste/ And shuddering groans; but passing through it/ With due regard for decent taste.”
How to Die – Siegfried Sassoon.
“If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood/ Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs/ Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud/ Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues/ My friend, you would not tell with such high zest/ To children ardent for some desperate glory/ The old lie: Dulce et decorum est/ Pro patria mori.”
Dulce et Decorum Est – Wilfred Owen.
“They ask me where I've been/ And what I've done and seen/ But what can I reply/ Who know it wasn't I/ But someone just like me/ Who went across the sea/ And with my head and hands/ Killed men in foreign lands/ though I must bear the blame/ Because he bore my name.”
Back - Wilfred Gibson.
“The air is loud with death/ The dark air spurts with fire/ The explosions ceaseless are/ Timelessly now, some minutes past/ These dead strode time with vigorous life/ Till the shrapnel called 'an end!/ But not to all. In bleeding pangs/ Some borne on stretchers dreamed of home/ Dear things, war-blotted from their hearts.”
Dead Man's Dump – Isaac Rosenberg