Eva Dobell

Bitterness of War

Richard Aldington
One of England’s Great War poets, Richard Aldington, wrote bitterly of the war in an autobiographical novel, Death of a Hero (New York: Covici, Friede, 1929). Like many others Aldington felt strongly about governments, including England’s, that allowed the war to continue.

 
Experience Used as a Spring-Board for New Adventures

It is believed that J.R.R. Tolkien took his experiences in the First World War, and wrote about them in the "Dead Marshes" in the Lord of the Rings. 

 
Those Who Wrote From Different Perspectives

Two of the most haunting works originating during the Great War were not written by those who fought the battles but by those who were witnesses to its tragedy. The two examples that follow, one by a nurse, the other by a journalist, are powerful testimonies. There are a host of other poems, stories and articles that deserve further investigation.


 

The poem Pluck was written by a British nurse, Eva Dobell. Dobell wrote a number of poems about her patients. Here is one called “Pluck.”

 
“Pluck”

Crippled for life at seventeen,
His great eyes seem to question why:
with both legs smashed it might have been
Better in that grim trench to die
Than drag maimed years out helplessly.
 
A child-so wasted and so white,
He told a lie to get his way,
To march, a man with men, and fight
While other boys are still at play.
A gallant lie your heart will say.
 
So broke with pain, he shrinks in dread
To see the 'dresser' drawing near;
and winds the clothes about his head
That none may see his heart-sick fear.
His shaking, strangled sobs you hear.
 
But when the dreaded moment's there
He'll face us all, a soldier yet,
Watch his bared wounds with unmoved air,
(Though tell-tale lashes still are wet),
And smoke his Woodbine cigarette. 



The poem that follows, Five Souls, was written in by British journalist, W.N. Ewer in 1917.


“Five Souls”

First Soul
 
I was a peasant of the Polish plain;
I left my plough because the message ran:-
Russia, in danger, needed every man
To save her from the Teuton; and was slain.
I gave my life for freedom—This I know
For those who bade me fight had told me so.
 
Second Soul
 
I was a Tyrolese, a mountaineer;
I gladly left my mountain home to fight
Against the brutal treacherous Muscovite;
And died in Poland on a Cossack spear.
I gave my life for freedom—This I know
For those who bade me fight had told me so.
 
Third Soul
 
I worked in Lyons at my weaver's loom,
When suddenly the Prussian despot hurled
His felon blow at France and at the world;
Then I went forth to Belgium and my doom.
I gave my life for freedom—This I know
For those who bade me fight had told me so.
 
Fourth Soul
 
I owned a vineyard by the wooded Main,
Until the Fatherland, begirt by foes
Lusting her downfall, called me, and I rose
Swift to the call—and died in far Lorraine.
I gave my life for freedom—This I know
For those who bade me fight had told me so.
 
Fifth Soul
 
I worked in a great shipyard by the Clyde;
There came a sudden word of wars declared,
Of Belgium, peaceful, helpless, unprepared,
Asking our aid: I joined the ranks, and died.
 I gave my life for freedom—This I know
For those who bade me fight had told me so.

 
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