Siefried Sassoon


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SASSOON: Siegfried CBE MC

S Sassoon
Born: 8 September 1886, Matfield, Kent, United Kingdom
Died: 1 September 1967, Heytesbury, Wiltshire, United Kingdom

BRIEF BACKGROUND

Siegfried made his mark on World War One poetry by refusing to sentimentalise it. He tackled the subject head-on, sparing no-one with his brutal accounts of the horrors of trench war. He was critical and intensely contemptuous of those in the higher echelons of society who blindly supported the war, and often used satire to get his point across. He received the Military Cross and was injured. While recuperating, he fired off a letter to Parliament refusing to return to battle, becoming one of the first conscientious objectors. He escaped court-martial through the intervention of the poet Robert Graves, and was later hospitalised for shell shock (PTSD). It was here that he met, and inspired the young poet Wilfred Owen.

QUOTATIONS

“I am not protesting against the conduct of the war, but against the political errors and insincerities for which the fighting men are being sacrificed.”

“I am making this statement as an act of wilful defiance of military authority, because I believe that the War is being deliberately prolonged by those who have the power to end it.”

POETRY (Better known)

Sick Leave: When I’m asleep, dreaming and lulled and warm, –
They come, the homeless ones, the noiseless dead.
The Dug-Out: Why do you lie with your legs ungainly huddled,
And one arm bent across your sullen, cold,
Exhausted face? It hurts my heart to watch you.

Rupert Brooke


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BROOKE: Rupert

Rupert Brooke
Born: 23 April 1915, Aegean Sea
Died: 3 August 1997, Rugby, Warwickshire, United Kingdom

BRIEF BACKGROUND

Brooke’s poetry made its mark before the outbreak of the First World War where it was widely panned as being sentimental, and as it so happens, it was only after his death that positive recognition came his way through endorsements from Winston Churchill, Virginia Woolf and Henry James. Brooke died three weeks after his poem The Soldier was read on at an Easter Sunday service in St Paul’s Cathedral. He succumbed to blood poisoning from an insect bite – very similar to Lord Byron.

QUOTATIONS

“Breathless, we flung us on a windy hill, Laughed in the sun, and kissed the lovely grass.”
“Cities, like cats, will reveal themselves at night.”

POETRY (Better known)

The Soldier: If I should die, think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England.

John Mcrae


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McCRAE: John

John McCrae
Born: 30 November 1872, Guelph, Canada
Died: 28 January 1918, Boulogne-sur-Mer, France

BRIEF BACKGROUND

John was a physician, author and artist and is best known for poem In Flanders Fields. Flanders, near Ypres in Belgium is where some of the heaviest fighting took place during the Second Battle of Ypres and is where the Germans used deadly chlorine gas on the enemy. To this day, red poppies are found around the cemetery where the war dead are buried. His poem struck a chord with the general populace and the poppy was adopted as the flower of Remembrance. His premature death was due to meningitis and pneumonia. (He was also present at Isandlawana and wrote a poem with that title.)

QUOTATIONS

“That day of battle in the dusty heat
We lay and heard the bullets swish and sing
Like scythes amid the over-ripened wheat,
And we the harvest of their garnering.” (The Unconquered Dead)

POETRY (Better known)

In Flanders Fields: In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly Scarce heard amid the guns below.

Wilfred Owen


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OWEN: Wilfred (Military Cross 1918)

Wilfred Owen
Born: 18 March 1893, Oswestry, Shropshire, United Kingdom
Died: 4 November 1918, Sambre-Oise Canal, France

This young man produced over 80 poems, only four of which were published in his lifetime, in the year before he was killed – a week before Armistice. The conditions in the trenches were absolutely horrific – reflected by the evocative language describing the physical and psychological making an intense impact on the reader. Two years after he enlisted, Owen underwent treatment for shellshock (PTSD) during which time he met his literary hero, Siegfred Sassoon. Owen returned to the trenches and was awarded the Military Cross for his bravery when he seized a German machine gun killing a number of Germans. Quite a few of his poems amongst which are Insensibility and Apologia Pro Poemate Meo describe the psychological impacts of war. He was killed in the last week of the war.

QUOTATIONS

  • “My subject is War, and the pity of War. The Poetry is in the pity.”
  • “All a poet can do today is warn. That is why the true poet must be truthful.”
  • “Be bullied, be outraged, be killed, but do not kill.”
  • “Ambition may be defined as the willingness to receive any number of hits on the nose.”

POETRY (* Better known)

Anthem for doomed Youth: What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
1914: War broke: and now the Winter of the world With perishing great darkness closes in.
Disabled: He sat in a wheeled chair, waiting for dark,
And shivered in his ghastly suit of grey,

NOTE

Wilfred was very close to his mother and his letters to her give insight into the bravery of this young man.

Yeats – William Butler


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Irish Poet (Nobel Prize Winner) Yeats2 Yeats

YEATS: William Butler – 1865-1939

Born: 13 June 1865, Sandmount (Dublin), Republic of Ireland
Died: 28 January, 1939, Menton, France

Brief biolgraphy

Yeats was one of the few poets whose greatest works were written after he was awarded the Nobel Prize. Yeats fell in love with a woman who later married (then divorced) John MacBride who Yeats intensely disliked. Yeats later married a woman whose fascination with the esoteric matched his own. Much of his work is based on Irish folklore. In a bizarre twist, when Yeats’ body was moved from France where he died, to Ireland, the son of MacBride oversaw the operation.

Quotations

”I hate journalists. There is nothing in them but tittering jeering emptiness. They have all made what Dante calls the Great Refusal…. The shallowest people on the ridge of the earth.”

Selected Bibliography
Yeats wrote over 400 poems

Poetry (* Famous poems)

* When You Are Old: When you are old and full of sleep
* A Drinking Song: Wine comes in at the mouth and love comes in at the eye
* An Irish Airman Foresees His Death: I know I shall meet my fate somewhere among the clouds above; Those that I fight I do not hate
* Youth and Age: Much did I rage when young being by the world oppressed
* A Crazed Girl: That crazed girl improvising her music. Her poetry, dancing upon the shore

Novel

The Celtic Twilight

Short stories

The Crucifixion Of The Outcast
The Curse Of The Fires And Of The Shadows
The Death Of Hanrahan
Hanrahan’s Vision
Red Hanrahan’s Curse
Heart Of The Spring, The
The Old Men Of The Twilight
Out of The Rose
The Twisting Of The Rope
Where There Is Nothing, There Is God

Plays

The Countess Cathleen
The Dreaming Of The Bones
The Green Helmet; An Heroic Farce
The Hour Glass
The Land Of Heart’s Desire
The Unicorn from the Stars

Essays

Ideas from Good and Evil
Forgotten Tales of Long Ago

Shelley – Percy Bysshe


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English Poet Shelley

SHELLEY: Percy Bysshe 1792 – 1822

Born: 4 August 1792 Horsham, Sussex
Died: 8 July 1822 Italy (Drowned)

 

Shelley’s second wife was Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein. He went to Eton where he was bullied unmercifully and he took recourse in his imagination. He was expelled from Oxford for co-authoring a pamphlet titled The Necessity of Atheism. He eloped with 16 year old Harriet Westbrook and by the age of 21 had a daughter, but his wife bored him and he abandoned her! He then fell in love with Mary and due to her parent’s disapproval of the relationship chose to tour Europe with her for three years. On their return to the UK, Mary fell pregnant as did Harriet who promptly divorced him and later committed suicide. There is speculation that his death by drowning was not an accident.

Quotations

“A man, to be greatly good, must imagine intensely and comprehensively; he must put himself in the place of another and of many others; the pains and pleasures of his species must become his own.”
“When my cats aren’t happy, I’m not happy. Not because I care about their mood but because I know they’re just sitting there thinking up ways to get even.”
“Poetry is a mirror which makes beautiful that which is distorted.”

Selected Bibliography
Shelley wrote in excess of 300 poems in his short lifetime.

Poetry (* Famous poems)

* Ode to the West Wind: O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn’s being
* Ozymandias: I met a traveller from an antique land
* Ode to a Skylark: Hail to thee, blithe spirit–
* The Cloud: I bring fresh showers for the thirsting flowers
* Good Night: Good night? Ah! No; the hour is ill which severs those it should unite

T.S Eliot (Thomas Stearns)


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American born poet: later emigrated to the UK. TS Eliot3

T.S.Eliot (Thomas Stearns) 1888-1965

Nobel Prize in Literature 1948
Born: 26 September 1888, St Louis, Missouri, USA
Died: 4 January 1965, Kensington, London, UK

 

Eliot left the US in 1927 and at age 39 (1927) became a naturalised UK citizen. He drew inspirations from poets such as Donne and Baudelaire. His earlier works question the literary and social conventions of Victorian society. The word’ Bullshit’ was coined by Eliot in 1910 in the title of a poem. He converted from American Unitarian (as opposed to Trinitarianism) to Orthodox Christianity. He was a director at Faber and Faber Publishers. His ashes are in St Michael’s Church in East Coker in Somerset from where his ancestor Andrew Eliot emigrated to the US in 1667 and there is memorial to him in Westminster Abbey.

Quotations

“This is the way the world ends, not with a bang, but a whimper.”
“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”
“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”
“Genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood.”
“I have measured out my life with coffee spoons.”
“Television is a medium of entertainment which permits millions of people to listen to the same joke at the same time, and yet remain lonesome.”
“Where is the Life we have lost in living? Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?”
“Poetry may make us from time to time a little more aware of the deeper, unnamed feelings which form the substratum of our being, to which we rarely penetrate; for our lives are mostly a constant evasion of ourselves.”
Eliot’s epitaph: “In my beginning is my end. In my end is my beginning.”

Selected Bibliography (*Best known)

Poetry

Eliot wrote nearly 60 poems – some very long!
*Gerontion: Here I am, an old man in a dry month, Being read to by a boy, waiting for rain.
*The Waste Land: April is the cruellest month,
*The Hollow Men: We are the hollow men We are the stuffed men Leaning together
*Ash Wednesday: Because I do not hope to turn again Because I do not hope
*Four Quartets: They shut me up in Prose
*The Love song of J Alfred Prufrock: Let us go then, you and I, When the evening is spread out against the sky Like a patient etherised upon a table;
*Gus: The Theatre Cat: Gus is the Cat at the Theatre Door. His name, as I ought to have told you before, Is really Asparagus. That’s such a fuss To pronounce, that we usually call him just Gus.
*Preludes: The winter evening settles down with smell of steaks in passageways. Six o’clock. The burnt-out ends of smoky days.
Song: Memory (Cats): recorded by both Barbra Streisand and Elaine Page, Lloyd Webber’s lyrics are inspired by lines in TS Eliot’s Preludes
Books
*Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats (On which Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s musical Cats is based)
Drama
*Murder in the Cathedral

Letter and Essays

There are numerous books about Eliot as well as collections and collations of his work and his literary criticisms.

Browning – Robert


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English Romantic and Classical Poet Robert Browning

BROWNING: Robert 1812 – 1889

Born: 7 May 1812, Camberwell, United Kingdom
Died: 12 December 1889, Venice, Italy

Browning and Elizabeth Barrett married in secret and a week later eloped to Italy. He is buried in Westminter Abbey’s Poet’s Corner.

Quotations

“Ignorance is not innocence but sin.”
“What Youth deemed crystal, Age finds out was dew.”
“Perhaps one has to be very old before one learns to be amused rather than shocked.”
”You called me, and I came home to your heart.”

Selected Bibliography
Robert Browning wrote nearly 150 poems

POETRY (* Famous poems)

* The Pied Piper of Hamelin Hamelin Town’s in Brunswick
* How They brought the Good News from Ghent to Aix: I sprang to the stirrup, and Joris, and he; I galloped, Dirck galloped, we galloped all three
Rabbi Ben Ezra: Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be
My Last Duchess: That’s my last Duchess painted on the wall
A Woman’s Last Word: Let’s contend no more, Love, strive nor weep
Childe Roland To The Dark Tower Came: My first thought was, he lied in every word
* If Thou Must Love Me: If thou must love me, let it be for naught except for love’s sake only
(Sonnet 14 from The Portuguese Cycle)

PLAYS

Pippa Passes
The Pied Piper of Hamelin

Emerson – Ralph Waldo


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American Poet, Essayist, Philosopher and Lecturer Emerson2

Ralph Waldo Emerson 1803-1882

Born: 25 May 1803, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
Died: 27 April 1882, Concord, Massachusetts, USA

 

Emerson’s philosophy was heavily influenced by his fascination with the Orient which is reflected in his journals. He entered Harvard at the age of 14 where he was exposed to a curriculum focused on Greek and Roman writers in addition to Euclidean geometry and British philosophers! He is probably better known for his quotations than for his poetry.

Quotations

“It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them.”
“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”
“The only way to have a friend is to be one.”
“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”
“What lies behind you and what lies in front of you, pales in comparison to what lies inside of you.”
“The earth laughs in flowers.”
“Men are what their mothers made them.”
“The age of a woman doesn’t mean a thing. The best tunes are played on the oldest fiddles.”

Selected Bibliography (*Best known)
Emerson produced about 120 poems

Poetry

*The Rhodora: In May, when sea-winds pierced our solitudes, I found the fresh Rhodora in the woods
*The Apology: Think of me not unkind and rude, That I walk alone in grove and glen;
Fable: The mountain and the squirrel had a quarrel;
Song of Nature: Mine are the night and morning the pits of air, the gulf of space,
Good-bye: Good-Bye proud world! I’m going home; Thou art my friend and I’m not thine.

Prose

Nature

Essays

The American Scholar

Newbolt – Sir Henry


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English Poet English poet Henry Newbolt
Lawyer, Novelist, Playwright, Magazine Editor, Poet.

NEWBOLT: Sir Henry 1862-1938

Born: 6 June 1862, Bilston, Staffordshire, United Kingdom
Died: 19 April 1938, Kensington, United Kingdom

 

Newbolt was a barrister. After World War 1 he was commissioned to complete Great Britain’s official naval history. His marriage to Margaret Duckworth was unusual as she was in love with another woman and only agreed if Ella Coltman was an accepted part of their intimate lives. Newbolt eventually made Ella his mistress but this was further complicated when Newbolt fell in love with another woman, while Margaret fell in love with a sculptor, Henry Furse. Henry grew to hate his poem Vitae Lampada when he was asked to recite it at every stop on a lecture tour of Canada.

“To set the cause above renown.”

Selected Bibliography
Sir Henry produced over 80 poems

POETRY (* Famous poems)

* Vitae Lampada: There’s a breathless hush in the Close tonight, ten to make and the match to win
*Drake’s Drum: Drake he’s in his hammock an’ a thousand miles away, (Capten, art tha sleepin’ there below?)
*The Fighting Téméraire: It was eight bells ringing, For the morning watch was done,