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Subject: Anthem for Doomed Youth
Date: Thu, 28 Nov 2002 11:56:42 -0500
From: Yoshie Furuhashi <[log in to unmask]>
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Anthem for Doomed Youth: Twelve Soldier Poets of the First World War
Edmund Blunden, Rupert Brooke, Robert Graves, Julian Grenfell, Ivor
Gurney, David Jones, Francis Ledwidge, Wilfred Owen, Isaac Rosenberg,
Siegfried Sassoon, Charles Sorley, Edward Thomas
31 October 2002 - 27 April 2003
A major exhibition of manuscripts, letters, diaries, works of art,
photographs and personal mementoes. Including an accompanying programme
of music and poems, letters and diary extracts read by Michael Maloney.
£4.00 for concessions
All groups must pre book on 020 7416 5439
***** Siegfried Sassoon, 1886-1967
I am making this statement as an act of wilful defiance of military
authority... I have seen and endured the suffering of the troops, and I
can no longer be a party to prolong these sufferings for ends which I
believe to be evil and unjust. -- Siegfried Sassoon, July 1917
Sassoon was brought up in Kent and was educated at Marlborough College.
He went to Clare College, Cambridge, but left without taking a degree.
His family's wealth meant that he did not need to work, so he followed
country pursuits, especially hunting, as well as spending time in
London. His first collection of verse was published privately in 1906.
He enlisted in the Sussex Yeomanry the day before war was declared. In
May 1915 he transferred to the infantry and was commissioned into the
Royal Welch Fusiliers, where he later met a fellow officer, Robert
Graves. Sassoon was awarded a Military Cross for his bravery during a
trench raid on the Western Front in May 1916. In April 1917 he returned
to England with a bullet wound. Twelve weeks later, he made a public
'act of wilful defiance of military authority' by writing to his
commanding officer to protest at the prolongation of the war. A Medical
Board deemed this the result of 'neurasthenia' (shell-shock), and sent
him to Craiglockhart War Hospital. Realising that his protest had failed
and not wishing to abandon his men, he rejoined his regiment in November
1917 and returned to France in 1918. Despite being accidentally shot by
his own sergeant, Sassoon
survived the war and went on to write several volumes based on his
Siegfried Sassoon Fellowship
For information on events and membership
Tel: Deborah Fisher, 01656 659286
***** They shall not grow old
Sunday November 10, 2002
9/11 has become, at least for now, the twenty-first century's defining
moment, but no one who grew up in the twentieth century can escape the
numinous power of 11/11, Remembrance Day and its incredible iconography.
9/11 is a Dies Irae, but 11/11 is an entire requiem.
It's now 84 years since the sound of gunfire ceased along the Western
Front, but the four years of unimaginable horror that preceded the
Armistice have contributed to our collective aesthetic inheritance in a
way that no other recent conflict, with the possible exception of the
Vietnam War, has done. Hardly a family in Britain was not touched by the
Great War. We are still surrounded by its language and its legacy.
So every year, in November, there is always a flurry of opportunistic
publishing associated with the First World War and our memory of it.
This season is no exception, with this difference. The Imperial War
Museum has mounted a major exhibition ('Anthem for Doomed Youth') to
illustrate the life and work of perhaps the 12 most notable 'soldier
poets' from the 'more than 400' the IWM claims were inspired to write
war poetry by the experience of the trenches.
The 12? Most of them are those only too familiar, astonishingly young,
boy-soldiers: Edmund Blunden, Rupert Brooke, Robert Graves, Julian
Grenfell, Ivor Gurney, David Jones, Wilfred Owen, Isaac Rosenberg,
Siegfried Sassoon, Charles Sorley, Edward Thomas and (a new one to me)
the Irishman, Francis Ledwidge. As poets, their
reactions ranged from the romantic idealism of Brooke and Grenfell to
the outraged indignation of Sassoon and Owen.
They came from diverse social backgrounds. Three (Graves, Blunden and
Sorley) were Oxford scholars. Two (the Irish patriot, Ledwidge and the
East Ender, Rosenberg) left school at 12 and 14 respectively. Eight were
officers; four came from the ranks. Grenfell was the only regular
soldier. The rest were amateurs, almost all volunteers, and it's the
mundane effects they left behind that are most hauntingly indicative of
their ill-preparedness for the cataclysm that engulfed them.
Like secular saints, they are memorialised by the IWM with here a khaki
uniform, a lock of hair or a pair of boots, there a medal, a blood
stained map, an olive branch from Brooke's Greek grave - and a lot of
fascinating holograph material.
Here you will find the only surviving manuscript page from Graves's
Goodbye to All That, intimate letters from Brooke to one of his
girlfriends; a draft of Owen's 'Dulce et Decorum Est'; and laconic Army
telegrams announcing the deaths of the seven who did not survive the war
and who, in some cases, saw only a handful of their poems published.
If it's the youth of these men (at 28, Brooke was one of the oldest; at
20, Sorley was the youngest) that is so moving about their brief lives,
it's the rusty technology that somehow connects the Great War to our own
time, making it real. Here, in prototype, are the instruments - the
field telephones, the gas masks, the revolvers and timepieces - that
link those battlefields to the cellphones and digital weaponry of our
own killing grounds.
War, as this exhibition reminds us, has been a theme for poets since
Homer, and a pretty good commercial prospect since Thucydides.
Associated with the exhibition is a handsome coffee-table book by
Professor John Stallworthy, Anthem For Doomed Youth (Constable &
Robinson, £14.99, pp192) which tells again the story of the young
Britons whose response to their experience on the Western Front has
become a crucial part of our 'myth' of the Great War.
As befits a national institution, the IWM makes no allusion to the war
poetry of France and Germany. French and German war poets were, I
believe, as intensely affected as our '400', but we don't hear about
them. Just as the Flanders poppy is at once a heartbreaking badge of a
great national trauma and a discreet emblem of patriotism, so an
exhibition such as Anthem For Doomed Youth is fundamentally a sombre but
quietly triumphant celebration of an English lyricism.
As Professor Stallworthy rightly points out, it is at times of national
crisis, that 'large numbers of people seldom seen in church or a
bookshop will turn for consolation and inspiration to religion and
What's always interested me is that while the war poetry came as a
painful and immediate response to the hell of battle, most of the prose
we now associate with the First World War, books like Goodbye to All
That and Memoirs of a Fox-hunting Man did not appear until the late
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* Calendar of Events in Columbus:
* Anti-War Activist Resources:
* Student International Forum: <http://www.osu.edu/students/sif/>
* Committee for Justice in Palestine: <http://www.osu.edu/students/CJP/>