Vera Brittain The Times Literary Supplement - Essay

The Times Literary Supplement

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Miss Brittain deprecates the idea that [the poems in Poems of the War and After] have any special distinction. They are published, she tells us in her foreword, chiefly for those readers of Testament of Youth who have asked where they can obtain a little volume, "Verses of a V.A.D.," which has long been out of print. She has included here the best of the poems from that earlier collection composed during the War, together with a few of more recent years. The book begins and ends with a hail and farewell to the War generation, and its appeal will be primarily to those who belonged to that generation or who suffered unforgetable loss in "a world's upheaval." Literary criticism, indeed, is hardly applicable to such a personal record of loss as this. We could point to places where the rhythm falters or the form is fumbled; we could say of many of the verses that they were written rather to relieve a stricken heart than to wring truth out of anguish. But to any who have passed through the same desolation they will speak with an authentic voice. It is a voice of unconsolable regret, but it is a voice of comfort too. For it speaks of the undying beauty of youth as well as of its wounding and its death. And it rises eventually above any lingering self-pity to affirm [the strength of man]….

"Poetry: 'Poems of the War and After'," in The Times Literary Supplement (© Times Newspapers Ltd. (London) 1934; reproduced from The Times Literary Supplement by permission), No. 1685, May 17, 1934, p. 363.