Poems of the First World War
A brief selection
This brief selection of poems derives from work by Tom Rank on First World War poetry for a volume in the York Notes Advanced series, which is based on the selection in The Oxford Book of War Poetry. This volume, published in September 2008, includes detailed commentaries on about fifty poems by thirty poets, extensive background material and guidance on further reading.
The booklet aims to cover a range of responses to the war and includes a brief contextual introduction to each poem. It is assumed that better-known poems by writers such as Owen and Sassoon have already been read. For further information and links to many more resources on the First World War, visit the First World War page
The following poems are included:
- Rupert Brooke: 'Peace'
- Charles Sorley: 'When you see millions of the mouthless dead'
- Edward Thomas: 'As the team's head brass'
- Ivor Gurney: 'Ballad of the Three Spectres'
- Rudyard Kipling: 'Epitaphs of War'
There are also brief notes on the following poems which, for copyright reasons, cannot be included:
- Rose Macaulay: 'Many Sisters to Many Brothers'
- Mary Wedderburn Cannan: 'Rouen' (also found in Scars Upon My Heart)
- E E Cummings: 'next to of course god america i'
- Philip Larkin: 'MCMXIV' (from The Whitsun Weddings)
- Owen Sheers: 'Mametz Wood' (from Skirrid Hill)
- You can hear Owen Sheers introduce and read this poem on the Poetry Archive site
Poetry published during the war
It is instructive to compare the First World War poems that are most widely studied today with work published during the war. You can find some examples here:
Download the poetry booklet here