This study will examine the poetry which was written as a result of and in response to World War I. The study will consider the effects of the horrors of modern war on poets such as Wilfred Owen and Rupert Brooke, the impact of nationalism, the value of the considered poems both aesthetically and politically, and the mutual impact of the poems and society (i.e., what impact did these poems have on society, and what impact did society have on these poems).
What the first World War did was to alter the perception of what war is and what role men played in making war. The first World War brought an end, says Bergonzi, to the notion that war was a context for heroism, for fighting and dying valiantly and proudly for country and other high ideals.
Writing specifically of the British experience (the poets to be discussed are British), Bergonzi says that "The war of 19141918 can still very properly be referred to by its original name of the Great War; for despite the greater magnitude of its more truly global successor, it represented a far more radical crisis in British civilization. In particular, it meant that the traditional mythology of heroism and the hero . . . had ceased to be viable." Since that war, says Bergonzi, "Anti-heroic attitudes to war have become dominant . . ." (17).
One critic compared the poetry of the Victorian Age with that of the poetry which issued from British poets who actually fought in war: "The Victorian poets wrote of war as though it were something splendid and ennobling; but as a matter of fact they knew nothing whatever about it. The georgian poets know everything there is to know about war, and they come back and report it to us as an unspeakable horror, maiming and paralyzing the very soul of man" (Bergonzi 40).
Poets such as Brooke did not go into the war already confirmed doubters of the value and honor of war. To the contrary, as Bergonzi notes, Brooke was taken up by nationalisti...