In this week’s Dispatches from The Secret Library, Dr Oliver Tearle heads to Leicestershire in search of that county’s finest poet of the Great War
Arthur Newberry Choyce (1893-1937) is not a famous name, even among readers of WWI poetry. The Wikipedia page for his birthplace says nothing about him. His poetry is not widely known or read. Yet Choyce is perhaps Charnwood’s great forgotten poet of the First World War – maybe, even, Leicestershire’s greatest poet of WWI.
Choyce was born in Hugglescote, a small village near Coalville and located some ten miles to the west of Loughborough, in 1893, the same year as Wilfred Owen. As a young man he joined the Leicestershire Regiment (known as ‘The Tigers’), and became a Second Lieutenant in the 9th Battalion. At the outbreak of war, the regiment appointed Choyce their official war poet. In 1917, he published the first of several volumes of poetry, Crimson Stains, which carried the subtitle Poems of War and Love.
Crimson Stains shuttles between life in the trenches and the world back home for which Choyce was fighting. Several of the poems mention Read the rest of this entry
The best poems of Wilfred Owen
Previously, we’ve selected ten of the best poems about the First World War; but of all the English poets to write about that conflict, one name towers above the rest: Wilfred Owen (1893-1918). Here’s our pick of Wilfred Owen’s ten best poems.
‘Futility’. This is a brief lyric that focuses on a group of soldiers standing over the dead body of a fallen comrade, and is one of Owen’s finest uses of his trademark pararhyme (or half-rhyme). Although the speaker and his fellow soldiers seem to think that the ‘kind old sun’ will be able to revive their dead comrade, we readers know that this is hopeful optimism if not naivety on the part of the speaker.
‘Strange Meeting’. Siegfried Sassoon called ‘Strange Meeting’ Owen’s passport to immortality; it’s certainly true that it’s poems like this that helped to make Owen the definitive English poet of the First World War. The poem is narrated by a soldier who dies in battle and finds himself in Hell. There he meets a man whom he identifies as a ‘strange friend’. This other man tells the narrator that they Read the rest of this entry
A reading of a classic war poem
‘Strange Meeting’ is one of Wilfred Owen’s greatest poems. After ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ and ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’ it is one of his most popular and widely studied and analysed. Siegfried Sassoon called ‘Strange Meeting’ Owen’s passport to immortality; it’s certainly true that it’s poems like this that helped to make Owen the definitive English poet of the First World War. As Owen himself put it, the poetry is in the pity.
It seemed that out of battle I escaped
Down some profound dull tunnel, long since scooped
Through granites which titanic wars had groined.
Yet also there encumbered sleepers groaned,
Too fast in thought or death to be bestirred.
Then, as I probed them, one sprang up, and stared
With piteous recognition in fixed eyes,
Lifting distressful hands, as if to bless.
And by his smile, I knew that sullen hall,—
By his dead smile I knew we stood in Hell. Read the rest of this entry