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Remembered Today:

POETS AND POEMS OF FIRST YPRES


Fred van Woerkom
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No and no but happy to be proved wrong as it's an interesting idea.

There was a tidal wave of patriotic poetry published on the outbreak of war, most of it forgettable. The poem most closely associated with, and written in a direct response to First Ypres was A.E. Housman's 'Epitaph on an Army of Mercenaries' but Housman was an established poet and not a 'soldier poet'. Of those Brooke went to Antwerp and both Rosenberg and Sorley enlisted as war broke out but did not go on active service until later.

The German poet Alfred Lichtenstein was killed in September 1914 but in France.

He was serving in a Bavarian Regiment and to a certain extent his early death reflects the different conditions of service in the respective Armies. In other words as Housman was saying the British who defended Ypres in 1914were not reservists, volunteers but sacrificed themselves,

"for the sum of pay".

All of the poets named above wrote poems in 1914 about the war, though not specifically about Ypres.

Ken

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Ken,

Thanks for your interest.

The idea is that when our Dutch WFA is in the Westhoek this spring I am going to read a poem by a poet who fought there. This has become a tradition the last few years. I have read poems by Lichtenstein and Rosenberg and others at their graves.

The possibility that a poet had written signiificant work at this period of time is practically nil. I can do another of Lichtenstein's Abschieds or read some of Ernst Stadler's Aufbruch of 1913. Stadler is interesting because of his Oxford days.He was killed late October 1914 at Zandvoorde. There may be some extracts of his diaries.

I'll try to find Houseman's poem on line. Is there an online English library?

I'm interested to finf if you have another suggestion.

All the best,

Fred

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Fred

I know he died and was buried in Boulogne having been wounded during 2nd Ypres but how about Julian Grenfell and his poem 'Into Battle'. He won the DSO in the November battles and the poem is supposed to have been written while he and his men were waiting to go up the line at Ypres.

Just a thought

David

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Long ago on Radio 4, there was a writer of comedies who did a programme on poetry and/or WW1. Amond the poems read was one where the British participant were told to 'Play up and play the game!' I have found the author,

Sir Henry Newbolt, but who was the comedy writer?

All the best,

Fred

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Whenever the words "Play up and play the game!" were read by the presenter, they were greeted with peals of laughter by the audience. They knew better than the naïve people at the outbreak of war.

Was this poem so popular in 1914?

The presenter/writer of comedies was one half of a team of two, not Galton and Simpson, but... Norden and Muir? What were their first names? What did they write?

All the best,

Fred

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The presenter/writer of comedies was one half of a team of two, not Galton and Simpson, but... Norden and Muir? What were their first names? What did they write?

They were Frank Muir and Denis Norden and they wrote 'Take it from Here' which featured 'Professor' Jimmy Edwards and ran throughout the fifties. Whenever Tony Hancock was angry with Galton and Simpson he used to threaten 'to get Muir and Norden' to write for me.

David

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Fred,

Grenfell's "Into Battle" is mentioned in : P. & W. Chielens, De Troost van Schoonheid, pp. 25-27.

But ... as I am not sure I understand your question ... Do you want a poem written during First Ypres ? (I've read that Grenfell wrote Into Battle end of April 1915, Second Ypres.) Or any poem written in Oct - Nov 1914, or maybe even later, by a poet who fought in First Ypres, but who also may have fallen in Second, Third or Fourth Ypres ?

Aurel

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David,

Thank you for the answer! 'Take it from Here', the Goons, 'Hancock's Half Hour'and 'Beyond our Ken' : those were the days!

We were young and there were peals of laughter in the audience.

Aurel,

I will rephrase my question.

I have just been lent 5 (five) slim volumes of "1914, Der Deutsche Krieg im Deutschen Gedicht", starting with 'Ausbruch und Anfang' and ending with 'Die lange Schlacht', printed on cheap paper for ready distribution. One volume has a few pages missing with in their place a piece of paper inserted with the tekst: Die hier fehlenden Zeiten muszten auf Wunsch des Generalkommanods entfernt werden. (... omitted by the GHQ).

The difficulty here is that it there is hardly a way of knowing whether the poems were written by soldiers or by 'patriots'at home. There were a million poems in German newspapers alone in 1914.

All the best,

Fred

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Fred,

I would have thought of providing you with the missing pages after going through the collection of In Flanders Fields Kenniscentrum in Ypres (I'll be going there next Wednesday), but I see ( in their catalogue on line) that they don't have the book ... :-(

Aurel

P.S. And as to my question in posting # 10 ?...

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Aurel,

As ever you are helpful! In your post #10 you include all the aspects that I'm looking for, except that at least one poet should be buried near Ypres as our visit will include a visit to a number of cemeteries.

Other criteria:

-the language (English, French, German) should not be too complicated as the poem will be read aloud and nothing is as boring as long-winded explanations. I will translate or paraphrase some bits or even the whole text in writing. Therefore the poem should not be too long.

-the poem should be typical of the mood just before or at the outbreak of war: enthusiasm, weariness of the old world decadence, etc,. So it may not have been written by a soldier on active service as long as it is typical of the very first wave of enthusiasm or the very first symptoms of disappointment or dislillusionment. It need not even be great poetry. Lissauer's 'Hymn of Hatred' may be included.

-quotes from diaries of soldiers are welcome as long as they illustrate this (changing) mood. After all a poet has less time for composing a poem than for jotting down a few thoughts in his diary. See for example Julian Grenfell or Ernst Stadler. The difficulty is to find these diaries. Any help in this direction will be much appreciated.

Unfortunately all this excludes your two Boezinge poets.

All the best,

Fred

-

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You've mentioned Sir Henry Newbolt the poem you referred to was written before the war, and published in the previous century.

Shortly after war broke out he was recruited to the War Propaganda Bureau and in 1914 wrote a similar, but shorter poem called 'The Schoolfellow'

http://www.famouspoetsandpoems.com/poets/sir_henry_newbolt/poems/15756.html

Brooke of course wrote '1914' , five sonnets, the one most often quoted is number 5 (V) 'The Soldier' usually only the first few lines 'If I should die,think only this of me:...etc'

I don't think you have to read the whole poem whichever one you choose, everyone can quote Binyon's fourth stanza 'They shall not grow old...etc' but how many know the other five verses of 'They went with songs to battle'.

Owen also wrote a poem entitled '1914' which has much more foreboding than Brooke's superpatriotism.

The sticking point is that I can't think of a poet, famous or not, who fell on the Ypres battlefield in 1914.

Acknowledging David's suggestion of Grenfell you also have Edmund Blunden who wrote 'Third Ypres' (very long) and 'Zonnebeke Road', disillusionment is there alright but it was 1917. I'm not sure there was that much disillusionment before the winter of 1914 set in.

I still favour my first suggestion, it's short, complete and your group could certainly honour Housman's 'Merecenaries', e.g. the 2nd Worcesters or the 1st South Wales Borderers sadly only a handful have a known grave the great majority are on the Menin Gate, although Perth Cemetery (China Wall) has a few together with over a thousand 'unknowns'. Unfortunately Fabian Ware was yet to fulfil his vision when they fell at First Ypres.

Ken

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Thanks, Ken, for the useful tips. As you said there is no need to read the whole poem: last year I skipped a number of lines in BREAK OF DAY IN THE TRENCHES, for my money, one of the truly great poems of the war. The whole poems was printed in our excursion magazine, so that our members could read it on the coach. So there is a possibilty of some extra information.

For our publication , which appears twice a year, I discussed Rosenberg's poem and compared it with an earlier version.

Your idea of the well-known lines from TO THE FALLEN, is another suggestion I am thankful for. Some audience participation (repetition of the well-known answer) may be called for.

Your first suggestion about Housman's MERCENARIES is also valuable.

Such a powerful poem!

I can also add some of Jessie Pope's early 'patriotic' poetry, which was highly popular in 1914. I read somewhere that Owen dedicated DULCE ET DECORUM to her. Irony?

All the best,

Fred

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I am in the process of selecting German and English poems.

I am trying to translate or findind translations of Lichtenstein's ABSCHIED and DI E SCHLACHT BEI SAARBURG.

All the best,

Fred

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Here is Die Schlacht bei Saarburg by Alfred Lichtenstein

THE BATTLE NEAR SAARBURG

The earth's getting mouldy in the fog,

The evening weighs like lead..

Round about ring elecric explosions

And, whimpering, everything breaks in two.

Like old rags the villages

Smoulder on the horizon.

I lie God-forlorn

In the cackling frontline.

Many little copper birds from the enemy

Swirl round heart and head.

I brace hard against the grey

And face death squarely.

Translated by Peter Lack-Newinsky. See www.peterlacknewinsky.wordpress.com/2010/09

Fred

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