How does Keith Douglas reconsider the chivalric tradition in "Aristocrats"?

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In "Aristocrats," Douglas's attitude towards the chivalric tradition is ambiguous. On the one hand, he admires the bravery of the heroes, but he also recognizes that their chivalry is foolish in the face of modern warfare.

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Douglas wrote "Aristocrats" while fighting in North Africa during World War II. Douglas's handling of this material is by turns sympathetic and ironic. The chivalry of men like Peter is partly to be admired but is also plainly "stupid." Like the knights in the old stories, these men, both "fool and hero," will be remembered. In the final stanza, where the poet contemplates the battlefield that was "their cricket pitch," he makes clear that the aristocratic background of these men is both a strength and weakness. On the one hand, their chivalrous nature makes them brave, but on the other, their "famous unconcern" for the perils of war is stupid.

The final line of the poem, in which gunfire is confused with the "hunting horn," is deeply ambiguous. To mistake gunfire for the call to the hunt is to suggest, first, that the men making this mistake are deluded and, second, that they have everything backward: instead of the hunters, these men are in fact the hunted, and the call to the hunt is also a call to slaughter. At the same time, to answer the call at all is an act of extreme bravery.

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