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Unformatted text preview: ti-war, his poems and a prose Diary Letter describe the
terror and ugliness of war in words very similar to those of the trench poets. Unlike the trench poets, however, he believes that some wars must be
fought even if they are cruel and undignified. He adds motifs alien to the
protest poetry of WW I, that of an individual’s fight against his social
background, and on a more personal note – a romantic farewell with a
loved one. In the Great War poetry women were either a part of the home
front – increasing the feeling of estrangement of the soldiers at war, or a
part of the idealised and irretrievably lost past. The romantic farewell was
alien to it, but present in earlier war poetry, for example of the Napoleonic
era.15 This motif becomes more popular in World War II (e.g. by Alun
Lewis). In World War I it is replaced with the homoerotic element.
The Second Word War differed from the two previous wars by its
geographical scope and by the fact that it received wide press coverage
by war correspondents. It was also the most mechanised of the wars so
far, which called for a serious restructuring of the army with an increasing number of the logistic units, whose major objective was not to participate in the fighting but to create and maintain the supply and support
lines for the front. It also led to a social change in the British army,
where the skills of the mechanics and mercantile organization of the
stores became more important than a university education. Killing was
done at a distance and the question of responsibility for it, as well as that
15 In Poland the farewell both interpreted at an individual level as a farewell to a
mother or a beloved and at an allegorical level as a blessing from Mother Poland to her
soldiers, was present both in the 19th c. painting and poetry, in the Great War and in the
Warsaw Uprising. The concept of ‘war’ in the humanities 97 of the responsibility of combatant and non-combatant personnel had to
be asked anew. The literature of the period reflected these tendencies.
The poetry of the three major poets of the war, Alun Lewis, Sidney Keyes and Keith Douglas, first describes the tediousness of the prolonged training period of the phoney war, where the army drill is designed to depersonalize soldiers and to immunise them to the moral dilemmas of killing and the apprehension of death. There was no “Rupert
Brooke period”, as the disillusionment with war made a call to arms for
valour and glory seem impossible. The Spanish War discredited fighting
for any ideology, as no matter what lofty rationale had been declared to
justify it, war is always cruel and revolting.
Similarly to the First World War, the Second World War novel
appeared after a time lag. Put out More Flags by Evelyn Waugh is an
exception in this respect, as it appeared in 1942. It is a comic book, inhabited by anti-heroes, in which Waugh ponders over the human propensity for immoral behaviour intensified by war. Anthony Powell’s A
Dance to the Music of Time sequence perceives...
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