Rupert Brooke was one of the early poets in the war. He felt privileged like many to fight for their country. He died of illness in 1915 before having seen any action. He wrote in a romantic style of optimists towards war. He is remembered as a “war poet” who inspired patriotism in the early months of the Great War. He was good at poetry but had not seen the fear of the war. He would have been shocked to see what became of the war. His view towards war would have changed if he had.
If I should die, think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Washed by the rivers, blest by the suns of home.
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Mc Crae wrote about Flanders Fields in 1915. It is the most famous poem. Mc Crae didn’t see the worst of the war. In one year 60 000 English men were going to die in one day. This was written after the first major battle in Belgium. His poems show a change of attitude, unlike the Soldier Flanders Fields talks about guns. It uses poignant irony (emotional power) to explain how he is feeling. It is a bittersweet poem. It does not contempate death in a future sense like The Soldier but talks about the past. It is sad but still jingoistic Through the sense of tragedy there is something brighter. The value is that war is tragic, but not pointless like Owen points out. It is only pointless if we do not carry out what the soldiers began. .
There is a value, that death is tragic. He justifies the wretched sacrifice by explaining that is it is necessary to carry on and win the war, or the sacrifice will be in vain. The symbols he uses are poppies and crosses, which are still seen today in Flanders Fields. At the time when he was writing this poem, the fields were not so beautiful. The once flat terrain had become the land of shells and bodies. Torrential rains turned Flanders into a swamp. This became a death whole for tried soldiers. Hundreds of men drowned in mud blood and slime.
(Shermer.D (1973) p 190)
In Flanders Fields
In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark out place: in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scares heard amid the guns below.
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders Fields.
Take up our quarrels with the foe:
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders Fields.
It reminds us that the soldiers had feelings. It is ambiguous and patriotic. He is talking to the next soldiers that will take his place and fight for his country. His images have become part of the collective memory of war. Each image accurately triggers off its expected emotional response. The red flowers, of traditional pastoral elegy and the crosses, which suggest the idea of Calvary and sacrifice. The skies from the trenches- the birds sing, in the midst of the horror and terrors, of man’s greatest folly. “The conception of soldiers as lovers; and the antithesis drawn between beds and graves. The poem sails across the imagination laden with literary associations ransacked from the riches of the past.” It is tragic but not pointless like Owen, he justifies the sacrifice.
(Fussell.P (1997) p1)
Wilfred Owen offered an arguable point- whether Christianity could survive. He grew up emotionally and spiritually during his war experiences. He uses irony in the poem Le Christianisme. A church is holy and a sacred quiet place that has been destroyed and is in damage. This change is quite ironic. Someone placed a helmet on the Virgin Mary in aid of protecting her. This would have been a site for Owen and the eyewitness’ who actually saw this aftermath. This causes an individual to think about who is protecting us and whether Christianity still can survive during the war. Whether there really is a God. This was a nationwide attitude that changed at the starting of the battle.
So the church Christ was hit and buried
Under its rubbish and its rubble.
In cellars, packed-up saints long serried,
Well out of hearing of our trouble.
One Virgin still immaculate
Smiles on for war to flatter her.
She’s halo’d with an old tin hat,
But a piece of hell will battle her.
(Given sheets p. 12)