Tuesday, February 13, 2007

War Poetry: "[Tietjen's] had a rule: Never think on the subject of a shock at the moment of a shock"

Siegfried Sassoon
War Poet
(1886-1967)




"And Inbetween our carcass and the moil
of marts and cities, toil and moil and coil

Old Spectre blows a cold protecting breath

Vanities of vanities, the preacher saith

No more parades, not any more, no more oil

Unambergrise'd our limbs in the naked soil

No more funeral struments cast before our wraiths..."
(318,19)

Tietjens says about the poem: "the general idea was that, when you got into the line or near it, there was no room for swank, typified by expensive funerals. As you might say: No flowers by compulsion.. No more parades" (320)

How the Poem came about in the story:
Tietjen's is just handed a slip of paper from Mackenzie marked private. Tietjens sank down bulkily on his bully-beef case. He read on the buff at first the initials of the singnature,"E.C. Genl.,: and then: "For God's sake keep your wife off me. I will not have skirts round my H.Q.You are more trouble to me than all the rest of my command put toether"(314).

........"The hut was moving slowly up and down before the eyes of Tietjens. He might have just been kicked in the stomach. That was how shocks took him. He said to himself that by God he must take himself in hand, He grabbed with his heavy hands at a piece of buff paper and wrote on it in a coloumn of fat, wet letters

a
b
b
a
a
b
b
a and so on. He said opprobriously to Captain Mackenzie: "Do you know what a sonnet is? Give me the rhymes for a sonnet. That's the plan of it." Mackenzie grumbled: "Of course I know what a sonnet is. What's your game?" Tietjen's said: "Give me the fourteen end rhymes of a sonnet and I'll write the lines in under two minutes and a half." Mackenzie said injuriously: "If you do I'll turn it into Latin hexameters in three. In under three minutes"(315).

"Mackenzie had tossed the sheet of rhymes under his nose.Tietjens read: Death, moil, coil,breath, Saith-" The dirty Cockney!" Oil, Soil, wraith..."(317).

Ideas on how Trench war poerty originated:

Taken from the Journal of Modern Literature; Fall2006, Vol. 30 Issue 1, p104-128, 25p. Written by Nils Clausson "Perpetuating the Language": Romantic Tradition, the Genre Function, and the Origins of the Trench Lyric.
http://web.ebscohost.com.proxy.lib.sfu.ca/ehost

Modernist writers for the most part rejected the whole idea of genres. This essay examines several major and minor trench poets that show consitency of "code" through them.

*"Without a code, without a language, not only is it impossible to express what one wants to say, but it is also impossible to have anything to say in the first place- a view of language that those still in the grip of expressivist, Romanitc, and humanist theories of literature find threatening".
*"To write a trench lyric, it is not enough to have experienced the reality of trench warfare: one must...be enamoured of the poetic form, the genre, that one must imitate in order to say anything poetic about one's experience....The would be poet must imitate a model. When World War One broke out , not only was there no tradition of soilders writing poetry, but there was simply no English tradition of was poetry upon which a modern poet could draw on to write about trench warfare"(3).
*So therefore a "code" had to be made.

*"For it is the conventions(the code) that create the "content"; content does not come unmediated from experience through the poet and then into the poem"(3).
*"the dominant poetic models available to them for writing about their war experience, the patriotic sonnet and the Romantic lyric, were designed neither to critocize the war nor represent it realistically"(4).

*The Romantic lyric was kept as a primary inspiration, but it was transformed into a new lyric form, the trench lyric, "that was capable of representing what had only seemed alien and ungraspable"(4).
*M.H. Abrams in his essay "Structure and Style in the Greater Romantic Lyric": The greater Romantic Lyric typically consists of the first person utterance of a thoughtful, sensitive, and perceptive speaker who is usually alone in (or close to) a natural landscape. This landscape is described in some detail, usually in the opening lines. Then some particular aspect of the landscape (flowers, a bird) attracts the attention of the speaker who is moved to reflect, speculate, or otherwise respond to this arresting aspect of the natural scene. The rest of the poem consists of his reaction, reflection, or analysis, as the peom shifts from the preceived object to the preceiving mind(8,9)".

*"So strongly had this genre enforced itself upon the literary consciouness of poets and readers alike that, by the end of the nineteenth century, it had virtually synonymous with the lyric poem. The solider poets of the Great War took this model with them, along with their rifles, kitbags, and copies of the Oxford Book of English Verse, into the trenches of France and Flanders"(9).
*"Sassoon for the most part abandoned the nineteenth-century nature lyric and turned instead to eighteenth-century epigram and satire as models, [though] he sill wrote several poems in this Romantic tradition" (9).
*"Owen rarely wrote first person lyrics in the manner of the Romantics and Victorians, and therfore the pattern is less evident in his poetry"(10).
*"Rosenberg and Blunden however, never abandoned the form; instead they transformed it and therby accommodated an unprecedented subject matter to a familiar literary precedent" (10).

War Poetry as a diversion:

*In part two of No More Parades Tietjen's uses poetry in order to divert his thoughts from his wife's four in the morning departure.
"He had a rule: Never think on the subject of a shock at the moment of a shock. The mind was then too sensitised. Subjects of shock require to be thought all round. If your mind thinks when it is too sensitised its then conclusions will be too strong. So he exclaimed to Mackenzie: "Haven't you got your rhymes yet? Damn it all" (315).

*I imagine poetry was used as a diversion as well from the war itself. It was also a good healing mechanism. A way to deal with the overwhelming emotions of the war and shock.

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