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The poets of the First World War: A.E. Housman



This week marks the centenary of the beginning of the First World War. It is a week in which many will think of the horrors endured by so many in that first industrialised conflict, and of the millions who lost their lives. Few can reveal the truth of the war better than the war poets.

To commemorate the anniversary, Blue & Green Tomorrow will this week review some of the finest works of the soldier poets. 

Unlike the young men listed so far in this series, A.E. Housman did not serve in the trenches. When war broke out, he was in his fifties.

Housman was a classical scholar and a revered, traditional poet. He published articles on Horace, and Euripides. He taught at Cambridge. He was, in many ways, far removed from the frontline.

And yet, with Here dead we lie, Housman frankly exposes the spirit of sacrifice and heroism and the ugly futility of war.

“Here dead we lie,
Because we did not choose,
To live and shame the land,
From which we sprung.

Life, to be sure,
Is nothing much to lose,
But young men think it is,
And we were young.”

Photo: Paul Arps via Flickr

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Further reading:

The poets of the First World War: Rupert Brooke

The poets of the First World War: Siegfried Sassoon

The poets of the First World War: Wilfred Owen

Lights Out event marks centenary of the outbreak of World War One

D-day 70th anniversary: world leaders gather in Normandy