Wilfred Owen, ‘Spring Offensive’

Halted against the shade of a last hill, They fed, and, lying easy, were at ease And, finding comfortable chests and knees Carelessly slept. But many there stood still To face the stark, blank sky beyond the ridge, Knowing their feet had come to the end of the world. Marvelling they stood, and watched the […]

Siegfried Sassoon, ‘The Hero’

‘Jack fell as he’d have wished,’ the mother said, And folded up the letter that she’d read. ‘The Colonel writes so nicely.’ Something broke In the tired voice that quavered to a choke. She half looked up. ‘We mothers are so proud Of our dead soldiers.’ Then her face was bowed.  Quietly the Brother Officer […]

Wilfred Owen, ‘Mental Cases’

Who are these? Why sit they here in twilight? Wherefore rock they, purgatorial shadows, Drooping tongues from jaws that slob their relish, Baring teeth that leer like skulls’ tongues wicked? Stroke on stroke of pain, — but what slow panic, Gouged these chasms round their fretted sockets? Ever from their hair and through their hand […]

Ford Madox Ford, ‘Antwerp’

Ford enlisted in his mid-forties, and was wounded in action. In his poem ‘Antwerp,’ which T.S. Eliot described as “the only good poem I have met with on the subject of the war,” Ford examines the resistance of the Belgians to the German invasion, and in this extract describes the scenes in London as the […]

Isaac Rosenberg, ‘Break of Day in the Trenches’

The darkness crumbles away. It is the same old druid Time as ever, Only a live thing leaps my hand, A queer sardonic rat, As I pull the parapet’s poppy To stick behind my ear. Droll rat, they would shoot you if they knew Your cosmopolitan sympathies. Now you have touched this English hand You […]

Rudyard Kipling, ‘My Boy Jack’

‘My Boy Jack’ by Rudyard Kipling “Have you news of my boy Jack?” Not this tide. “When d’you think that he’ll come back?” Not with this wind blowing, and this tide. “Has any one else had word of him?” Not this tide. For what is sunk will hardly swim, Not with this wind blowing, and […]

‘Premature Rejoicing’ by Edmund Blunden

What’s that over there? Thiepval Wood. Take a steady look at it; it’ll do you good. Here, these glasses will help you. See any flowers? There sleeps Titania (correct – the Wood is ours); There sleeps Titania in a deep dugout, Waking, she wonders what all the din’s about, And smiles through her tears, and […]

Three Outsiders

Prof. Anthony Grant of Edge Hill’s English Language department, writes here about the writer H.H. Munro, who wrote under the pen-name Saki; the nurse Edith Cavell; and the author René Schickele. In his novel When William Came, Saki imagined an England which had succumbed to Germany. This extract gives a flavour of his vision:  Murrey Yeovil […]

Vera Brittain, ‘The Lament of the Demobilised’

Roger Spalding, Programme Leader for History at Edge Hill, discusses this poem by Vera Brittain, who worked as a nurse in the war. She is best known for her memoir, Testament of Youth (1933), which tells the story of her wartime experiences. The Lament of the Demobilised “Four Years,” some say consolingly. “Oh well, What’s […]

Wilfred Owen, ‘Parable of the Old Man and the Young’

  So Abram rose, and clave the wood, and went, And took the fire with him, and a knife. And as they sojourned both of them together, Isaac the first-born spake and said, My Father, Behold the preparations, fire and iron, But where the lamb for this burnt-offering? Then Abram bound the youth with belts […]