War and English Poetry: From old English to modernism

Esmail Zare Behtash • Parivash Zare Behtash

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(English, 9 pages)


War has been the first and oldest subject of literature if not the only at times. This study will navigate the readers around the genre of war poetry in the historical and literary context: starting from the Old Times to early Modern Age, that is, to the Great War in British literature. The significance of war poetry lies not just in its historical value, but also in its contribution to the main trend of English poetry. In Old English war literature showed itself in the form of epic dealing with various subjects as heroic legends. The Battle of Maldon is an Old English war poem celebrating the real Battle of Maldon of 991, at which an Anglo-Saxon army failed to repulse a Viking attack. In the Renaissance, the speaker in “To Lucasta, Going to the Wars” pleads for his lover to understand why he must leave the safe and sweet comfort of her presence and willingly fly to the battlefield. In the Age of Reason, Thomas Penrose in “The Field of Battle” allows his beloved to be in search of her lover’s body on the battlefield among the dying and the dead. Tennyson in the Victorian Period through his “The Charge of the Light Brigade” honors the soldiers who without asking any question, or the reason behind the battle ride through the “valley of death” into the “mouth of death” and return no more. Moving to the modern period, the readers come across with the soldier poets who write in the trenches of their duty and bravery as well as the brutality of the war, mostly writing anti-war poems. All these poems lament on the horror, poignancy and futility of war.





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