A reading of a classic war poem
‘Everyone Sang’ is one of Siegfried Sassoon’s most popular and widely anthologised poems. The poem was published in 1919, the year following the end of the First World War, and the jubilant singing that features in the poem has been interpreted as a reference to the Armistice. You can read ‘Everyone Sang’ here.
A few words of summary first, then. ‘Everyone Sang’ is divided into two stanzas, each of five lines. The stanzas rhyme abcbb. The speaker of the poem hears everyone around suddenly burst into song, and the sound of singing fills him with delight. There’s a suggestion that this delight is related to a feeling of relief and, indeed, release: he likens it to the feeling a bird that had been caged must feel when it is freed and allowed to fly away. Read the rest of this entry
A critical reading of a classic poem
‘As the Team’s Head Brass’ is one of the best-loved and most widely-anthologised poems by Edward Thomas (1878-1917), who is viewed variously as a Georgian poet and as a poet of the First World War. Thomas wrote ‘As the Team’s Head Brass’ in 1916, focusing on attitudes to the ongoing war expressed by people back home in England, rather than fighting at the front. Below is the poem, and some words of analysis.
As the team’s head-brass flashed out on the turn
The lovers disappeared into the wood.
I sat among the boughs of the fallen elm
That strewed the angle of the fallow, and
Watched the plough narrowing a yellow square
Of charlock. Every time the horses turned
Instead of treading me down, the ploughman leaned
Upon the handles to say or ask a word,
About the weather, next about the war. Read the rest of this entry
A summary of one of Larkin’s greatest poems
‘MCMXIV’ is one of Philip Larkin’s best-loved poems. Completed in May 1960, the poem was published in Larkin’s 1964 volume The Whitsun Weddings. You can read ‘MCMXIV’ here; what follows is our analysis of the poem.
‘MCMXIV’ is the year 1914 in Roman numerals. As Christopher Ricks has observed, Larkin’s decision to title his poem ‘MCMXIV’ rather than ‘1914’ or ‘Nineteen Fourteen’ means we cannot be sure how to pronounce the poem’s title aloud: calling it ‘1914’ is accurate, of course, but fails to transmit the Latin stylising of the date. Conversely, reciting the individual letters (or numerals) that make up the title makes little sense. Read the rest of this entry