Poetry & The Great War, a series: 6 Victory?
¨One is left with the horrible feeling now that war settles nothing, that to win a war is as disastrous as to lose one ¨.
On the 11 th day of the 11th month in the Year of Our Lord 1918 the Great War came to an end and the guns fell silent on the Western Front. Initially there was a jubliant celebration throughout the country. It was accompanied by a tremendous sense of relief that the war to end all wars was finally over. It was time to take stock of what had brought this bloody conflict into being, how it had been fought and most important the long term effect of the war on the nation as a whole. The survivors returned home, many of whom bore the scars and wounds of incessant butchery and slaughter. Men disfigured for life, limbs lost, many terminal conditions and those psychologically damaged by the vehemence of the war. Hospitals were full to capacity as thousands returned from France and other parts of the globe.
The Germans, who had launched an offensive in the last year of the war had been repelled. Their Navy refused to leave port and fight. The people were close to starvation- The Kaiser abdicated and took refuge in the Netherlands. The allies were determined that Germany should pay heavily for the war that they had brought about. King George V called his cousin the Kaiser the ¨Greatest War Criminal in History ¨and the Prime Minister of the Day Lloyd George wanted the Kaiser to be hanged.
Many writers and Poets had lost their lives during the conflict but their work endures. Those who survived returned home to continue to write. There was no sense of victory in their verse, no celebratory language. They were determined to express their feelings and the mood of the nation, especially those responsible for the conduct of the war and the bereaved. World War One Memorials and cenotaphs were erected in nearly town and village of the land in churches, public buildings, factories, railway stations, colleries and schools. More than 60,000 in all. Stark reminders of the cost of the war in human terms.
Here a few poets who wrote at the time of victory and immediately after the Armistice:
Lord Dunsnay - The Dirge of Victory
Osbert Sitwell - This Generation
A E Housman - Here dead we lie
Rudyard Kipling - Common Form
¨ A Dead Statesman
Wilfrid Gibson - Back
Wilfrid Owen - Dulce et decorum est Pro Patria mori
Read the words of Siegfried Sassoon in his poem ¨On Passing the New Menin Gate ¨. In this poem you will discover his opinion of this Great War Memorial...... a sepulcre of shame.
The British Empire lost one and a half million men and women dead. 8 million horses, mules and donkeys with the British Force were killed. The survivors, the casualties lived on for years and through other generations. The war had scarred the nation.
In his "Poem For the Fallen" Laurence Binyon writes, ¨ They shall not grow old as that are left grow old. Age shall not weary them nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning we will remember them ¨.