Once considered as a preface to the major poem ‘The Waste Land’ by T.S. Eliot, ‘Gerontion’ effectively deals with the huge psychological, spiritual, and physical destruction caused by the great war.
Here I am, an old man in a dry month,
Being read to by a boy, waiting for rain.
I was neither at the hot gates
Nor fought in the warm rain
Explore more poems about World War One (WWI)
The best inspirations for poetry, or any art, really, as with the case of Owen’s ‘1914,’ come from anything that is real and important in the life of the writer.
War broke: and now the Winter of the world
With perishing great darkness closes in.
The foul tornado, centred at Berlin,
Is over all the width of Europe whirled,
Wilfred Owen wrote ‘A Terre’ about the aftermath of the war. In it, a soldier reminisces about his days before the war – the days when he had full functionality of his limbs, and could do whatever he wanted – to an unknown listener, most likely a young and influential boy.
Sit on the bed; I'm blind, and three parts shell.
Be careful; can't shake hands now; never shall.
Both arms have mutinied against me,—brutes.
My fingers fidget like ten idle brats.
After losing his dear friend in World War I, William Butler Yeats wrote this particular poem, ‘An Irish Airman Foresees His Death. Robert Gregory, an Irish Airman, was accidentally shot down by an Italian Aviator, who happened to be a dear friend of Yeats.
I know that I shall meet my fate
Somewhere among the clouds above;
Those that I fight I do not hate,
Those that I guard I do not love;
‘And There Was a Great Calm’ by Thomas Hardy describes the horrors of WWI, the end of the war, and the ‘Great Calm’ which came on November 11th, 1918.
There had been years of Passion—scorching, cold,
And much Despair, and Anger heaving high,
Care whitely watching, Sorrows manifold,
Among the young, among the weak and old,
Despite Wilfred Owen’s prodigious writing, only five poems were ever published in his lifetime – probably because of his strong anti-war sentiment, which would not have been in line with British policy at the time, particularly in their attempt to gather rather more and more people to sign up for the war.
Move him into the sun—
Gently its touch awoke him once,
At home, whispering of fields unsown.
Always it woke him, even in France,
Wilfred Owen’s poem ‘Inspection’ was drafted at a military hospital Craiglockhart in August 1917, and completed in September, under the influence of wartime poet Siegfried Sassoon. In it, Owen writes about the loss and cheapness of life through war.
"You! What d'you mean by this?" I rapped.
"You dare come on parade like this?"
"Please, sir, it's -' ''Old yer mouth," the sergeant snapped.
"I takes 'is name, sir?" - "Please, and then dismiss."
In ‘Last Post’, the poet winds back the clock so we reimagine fallen soldiers being brought back to life instead of dying in battle in the fields during WWI.
'In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.'
If poetry could tell it backwards, true, begin
that moment shrapnel scythed you to the stinking mud…