Please assess the influence of World War 1 upon English poetry?Please assess the influence of World War 1 upon English poetry?

Expert Answers
Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

World War I held a profound impact on English poetry and literature.  The questioning of moral structures and political orders, as well as the re-conceptualization of individual faith in structures that used to possess totality probably end up being the most profound influences on English poetry.  Poets and thinkers used the horrific nature of World War I to bring a sense of doubt and lack of totality to so much of human existence and consciousness, in general.  The faith in nationalism, nation building, imperialism, military strength, and patriotic identity were all brought into severe question through World War I, where death and destruction was wrought on so many levels.  At the same time, there was a genuine belief that the last of the carnage had not been experienced.  In my mind, Yeats' "The Second Coming" is probably the best example of the anguish and ceasless pain that was the legacy of World War I on European poets and English thought.

coachingcorner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The First World War had a profound effect on English poetry. Many of the promising young writers and poets who went into the war as one sort of writer came out at the other end as a deeply different sort of writer. Poets such as Siegfried Sassoon, Rupert Brooke and Wilfred Owen had the tradition of the old English Romantic poets as models and examples. Some had led a blissful life of privilege in the soft lush greenery of England's shires where the only stress was leaving to go off to public boarding schools for rich families. So they had been writing about the delights of such a beautiful pastoral existence, giving thanks for it to God and country. They were prepared to fight and die to preserve it - or so they thought. When they found out the grisly and obscene horror of trench fighting, many began to write more protest poetry. Dulce et Decorum Est by Wilfred is a good example.

amy-lepore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

For one thing, World War I increased the reality and harsh imagery of poetry.  The poet who comes to mind most readily is Wilfred Owen with his gory details of how men died--read "Dulce est Decorum et" to get a more clear understanding.  Up until this time, war was considered glorious and patriotic--see Rupert Brooke's and Seigfred Sassoon's poetry to get a better understanding of this viewpoint. With the WWI poets, we no longer are "protected" from the ugliness, horror, and lies that were hidden from us prior to this time. 

coachingcorner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Yes, I agree. I remember hearing/reading 'Dulce et Decorum Est' for the first time in class and being shocked to read 'bent double, like beggars under sacks' - it was my first introduction to the first world war. I find Owen's poetry particularly vivid.

coachingcorner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Yes, Wilfred Owen's war poetry is a good example. For a good speimen of one of his poems which juxtaposes both sensibilities (green and pleasant land versus shocking death images) in the same poem, 'Anthem For Doomed Youth' is not to be missed.

renoa | Student

The first world war occurred in the 20th century . it was the first war which effected the whole world especially American and Europe . poets at that time wrote lots of poems to show how terrifying the war was .hundred of poets became famous because of their war poems . Those poets were called "war poets " , he is a is a poet writing in time of and on the subject of war. The term, which is applied especially to those in military service during World War I. War had become an everyday affair, life in the line and killed bodies were now routine. There were no heroes, only victims . The war poetry has two different purpose , the first one is to tell people about the ugliness of wars and to encourage them to ask for peace . but the other reason is to encourage people to believe that war was a noble enterprise.

renoa | Student

In peace, sons bury their fathers. In World War one and even two, fathers bury their sons. This quote was said by Herodotus about wars . Wars had changed all the meanings of life . It changed whole nations , their lives and even their literature.

From the beginning of this history war was a way of life . It has been used for hundreds of thousands of years as a way of attaining a certain goal through the use of force.  people fought each other to win a land or to take revenge , they also  fought for money and gold . The important thing is that war  justified killing.


War is death, horror, destruction, pain and suffering. It is something that no one in his right mind would wish to happen. In wars , people usually suffer by the loss or disablement of sons, husbands, and fathers, by the destruction of crops, houses, and other property and sometimes by increased taxation, due to the increased productions of weapons.


In the other hand , lots of poets appeared and wrote in the theme of war , victims and killed soldiers . That period between the World War one and World War two in poetry was called War poetry or War period . The tone and the style of these poems were divided into two types : Sad poems that described the ugly wars and the killed innocent people , the second types are the poems which encourage soldiers to kill and win the wars .

epollock | Student

The impact of World War 1 had tremendous effects on visual poetry reflected in poems that deal with the harsh reality of trench warfare and the beginnings of the use of poison gas. Owen's poem is rich in visual imagery.