Alec Waugh, War Poet

A weblog called “Behind Their Lines” which specializes in WWI poetry has posted a poem by Alec Waugh entitled “The Other Side”. He wrote the poem in March 1917, so this is now its centenary. 

The poem was included in a 65-page volume of Alec’s poetry entitled Resentment and published in 1918 (following the success of his public school novel Loom of Youth published the year before). It is now largely forgotten but it was praised at the time and is said to have influenced the writing of Siegfried Sassoon’s memoirs. The poem was also included in the 2008 collection The Winter of the World–Poems of the Great War. As described in the weblog, the poem:

argues that perhaps the only ones who can understand war are those who cannot speak of it: the dead…Waugh’s poetry is seldom read today, but in December of 1918, the Bookman published the essay “Poets in Khaki,” which reviewed the work of 44 soldier poets.  Citing “Cannon Fodder” and “The Other Side,” St. John Adock said that Waugh’s poems “strip the romance of war to the bone.” Adock included Waugh as one of “Three poets who I think do represent as faithfully and potently as any the later, essentially modern attitude towards war.” The other two writers singled out for this praise were Gilbert Frankau and Siegfried Sassoon.

The full text of the poem is in the weblog article. If you read it, don’t give it up in the middle. It gets much better toward the end. The other poem (“Cannon Fodder”) mentioned in the quoted 1918 article  is reproduced in Alexander Waugh’s Fathers and Sons: The Autobiography of a Family (2004).  Does any one recall Alec Waugh mentioning these poems in his memoirs or other writings?

Another weblog specializing in clothing appearing in literature (Clothes in Books) discusses the recent publication of a “lost” volume of Erle Stanley Gardner entitled The Knife Slipped. After a critique of the clothing described in that book, the blogger addresses the mutual admiration of Gardner and Evelyn Waugh for each other’s works. These matters were also considered in an earlier post (q.v.) on the subject of the new Gardner book.

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