English Literature, Key Poems List
Thomas Hardy: Men Who March Away
- Volunteers marching to war tell those who watch them pass by of their faith in the justice of their cause.
Thomas Hardy: In Time of ‘The Breaking of Nations’
- The routines of life and love continue during conflict, and will continue long after it is over.
Rupert Brooke: Peace
- This sonnet is an expression of thanks for being able to respond to the call to arms and leave behind the stale and empty concerns of civilian life.
Rupert Brooke: The Dead
- Celebrates those who have given their lives. The sacrifice of the lowliest of them has given the world honour and nobility.
Rupert Brooke: The Soldier
- A ...view middle of the document...
A. E. Housman: Another Epitaph on an Army of Mercenaries
- This is a reply to Housman’s poem previous. It is a political poem that takes an uncompromising communist stance on the events of 1914.
W. B. Yeats: An Irish Airman Foresees His Death
- An airman reflects on his fate; it is the joy of flight that has drawn him to the clouds.
Siegfried Sassoon: They
- Satirically contrasts the moral improvement to British soldiers promised by a Bishop with the physical damage and moral degradation that they actually experience.
Siegfried Sassoon: The Hero
- An officer visits a dead soldier’s mother to tell her how he died. She is proud of her son’s supposed gallantry, though in truth ‘Jack’ was a coward and the officer has lied to her.
Siegfried Sassoon: The Rear-Guard
- A soldier, stumbling along a captured trench in the dark, sees what he thinks is a sleeping soldier and demands to be given directions. The man is dead; in horror, the soldier staggers up to the surface.
Siegfried Sassoon: The General
- The General seemed a cheerful character when the soldiers saw him on their way to battle but his incompetent planning led to the deaths of most of them.
Siegfried Sassoon: Glory of Women
- Sassoon comments that women love soldiers as heroes and they delight in war stories; they have no appreciation of the horrors of war. A German mother also has no idea of the fate of her son.
Edward Thomas: Rain
- The poet lies awake listening to the rain, thinking of his own mortality and of all those he loves who may also be listening to it.
Edward Thomas: As the Team’s Head Brass
- As a couple walk together into the wood beyond, a walker rests at the edge of a field. There, a farmer is methodically ploughing his fields with a team of horses, and the narrator and farmer fall into conversation about the war.
Ivor Gurney: To His Love
- The poem is an elegy for a fellow-soldier, and is addressed to the dead soldier’s ‘love’. It asks that his body be covered with flowers from the banks of his native River Severn.
Ivor Gurney: Ballad of the Three Spectres
- A soldier meets three apparitions who foretell different futures for him: to be wounded and sent home, to die or to live until the last days of the war and die in an ‘hour of agony’.
Ivor Gurney: The Silent One
- During an attack one officer is killed crossing the barbed wire whilst the private lies flat. A second officer asks the pirate to crawl through a gap, but he refuses until he retreats and then comes back to the same place.
Isaac Rosenberg: On Receiving News of the War
- Describes Rosenberg’s reaction to the outbreak of the First World War, conveying the poet’s sense of anxious foreboding of the horrors ahead through a series of symbols of life, death and rebirth.
Isaac Rosenberg: August 1914
- Reflects on the beginning of the First World War, questioning the consequences of its destruction.
Isaac Rosenberg: Break of Day in the Trenches
- At dawn a...