The Romantic Vision of World War 1
The Romantic Vision of World War 1 was an idea presented from the beginning of the war. Even when the first shots were fired, a wave of patriotism swept the world when every young man in the world would sign up for the army, which would be the First World War. Most people’s ideas were that the war would be over by Christmas (currently August), so men were encouraged to serve their country and sign up for the army before it ended. Most young boys joining the army were filled with thoughts patriotism, adventure, bravery, riches and killing the “evil” enemy. The generals and leaders of the time perceived the war as a chance to become a man, earn some money, gain some respect among their peers and be admired by the young and old; everyone. These were the ideals and the Romantic Vision of World War 1.
W.N. Hodgson (1893-1916) wrote a poem called “Before the Action” right after the war, which explores the Romantic Vision World War 1 presented.
“Before Action” by W.N. Hodgson
By all the glories of the day
And the cool evening's benison,
By that last sunset touch that lay
Upon the hills where day was done,
By beauty lavishly outpoured
And blessings carelessly received,
By all the days that I have lived
Make me a soldier, Lord.
By all of man's hopes and fears,
And all the wonders poets sing,
The laughter of unclouded years,
And every sad and lovely thing;
By the romantic ages stored
With high endeavor that was his,
By all his mad catastrophes
Make me a man, O Lord.
I, that on my familiar hill
Saw with uncomprehending eyes
A hundred of Thy sunsets spill
Their fresh and sanguine sacrifice,
Ere the sun swings his noonday sword
Must say goodbye to all of this;--
By all delights that I shall miss,
Help me to die, O Lord.
Analysis of “Before Action” by William Noel Hodgson:
William Noel Hodgson (3 January 1893- 1 July 1916) was an English poet who wrote poems during the First World War, under the pen name Edward Melbourne. He served in the 9th battalion, the Devonshire regiment and was given the rank Lieutenant. During the Battle of the Somme, he realised that all the things he was told about by his teacher at school, how great the war was and how it was an honour to fight for the Motherland, Britain, were all totally different to the reality of war. This gave him the inspiration to right the poem before the action on the same day (29th June, 1916) that the battle started. This poem explores the Romantic Vision of War and the reality, what it feels like to be a soldier, preparing to fight on the front line. This was W.N. Hodgson’s last poem, he wrote before he died just 2 days later.
The poem, “Before Action”, by W.N. Hodgson, explores the Romantic Vision of War. The use of emotive and descriptive language portrays the soldiers to be keen for the war and also creates the nervous, tense tone to the poem. The writer describes the war as somewhat heroic as his teachers portrayed it to him as. But he soon realises that the reality is so much different. All it is, is death and destruction, consuming the soldier’s minds until it drove them insane. Emotive language helps the readers to understand the emotions the soldier is feeling. The reader learns that the soldier realises that the war cannot make him a man and turns to God to. With his comrades dying in front of him, he pleads to God to let him die as the war is driving him insane.
As the young men marched into battle although fear was evident, there was a belief that a soldier’s death was a peaceful, honourable way to die rather than the death of a coward. “Must say goodbye, to all of this; By all delights that I shall miss, Help me to die O’Lord”. This quote presents a tone of fearlessness and invisibility by the writer, adding the idea of patriotism to the text. The feeling of invisibility and the thought that the war would be a quick event is also demonstrated by the quote “And all the wonders poets sing, the laughter of unclouded years, and every sad and lovely thing”.
The idea of patriotism was an ideal thrusted upon by the government on both sides, to increase moral among the citizens. Without the citizens contribution to the war it would surely be lost so the governments did everything they could to increase the moral around the civilians. The propaganda encourage young men to fight in the war as it thought to be heroic and the first step into becoming a man. The propaganda became so apparent that the fear of being a disappointment to their family, peers and the whole community ad the fear of being called a coward helped to push the young men into fighting the war.
Background information on “All Quiet on the Western Front”:
WWI officially began in 1914 with the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, but the seeds of conflict were sown in 19th-century conflicts between European imperial powers.
In the novel “All Quiet on the Western Front by Vintage Remarque, the author, Remarque, harshly critiques nationalism through a character named, Paul Baullmer and his friends, who recognize that their real enemies are not across the trenches, but in high offices in their own country. They learn about the Romantic Vision of War and the promotion of it to the people by the governments.
WWI ushered in a new form of battle, and this is where Remarque dwells longest. He serves up long, brutally realistic sections describing the new horrific weaponry--tanks, airplanes, machine-guns, poisonous gas--and the new oppressive strategies and settings--notably trench warfare and the chaos of no-man's-land, the small, bitterly contested area between enemy trenches.
The reader may be shocked by the gory manner in which Paul describes casualties, but he has reason to do so. Death was hardly a rare occurrence; approximately nine million men were killed (not including those from Russia, which is estimated to have lost six million soldiers), and Germany accounted for nearly two million of these casualties. Roughly half of the 70 million men and women serving in the war were killed, wounded, or taken prisoner.
All Quiet on the Western Front was published to great critical and commercial acclaim in 1929. It soon earned the wrath of the Nazi party for its anti-war and anti-nationalistic sentiments. Though burned and banned there, (by Adolf Hitler), it has since sold over 50 million copies in dozens of languages, and is still considered by many the greatest anti-war novel of all time.
Analysis of “All Quiet on the Western Front”:
In Remarque’s novel, “All Quiet on the Western Front”, the ideal of patriotism is raised at the beginning of the novel. Paul Baullmer and his friends are all excited, at first to join the army, thinking they will return as a popular, war legend, with battle scars ad wounds, making them a hero. But when they get into training camp, the stark reality hits them. “When we came out here we were cut off, whether we liked it or not, from everything we had done up to that point.” This quote from the novel All Quiet on the Western Front demonstrates that the recruits often came under prepared, thinking the war would be easy and short, thinking they could return by Christmas to their families and return as a war hero.
The Romantic Vision of War was an ideal carried on altroughout Remarque’s novel, “All Quiet on the Western Front”. This is displayed when Paul returns to his hometown. The idea that the soldiers are better off on the front than the civilians and the idea that the Germans are always winning, this was to keep the moral high in the towns. “And after all, at least you’re all well fed out there, I hear… Naturally things are worst here, of course they are, goes without saying, our soldiers always come first”. The flippant tone towards the soldiers shows the reader the romantic view that the civilians believed; that the soldiers on the front were better off than them. “You lads out there should hurry up a bit with your eternal trench fighting. Jut chuck them out and the war will be over.” Again, the flippant tone demonstrates the blindness and inconsideration the civilians have on the war and on the soldiers, and the idea that the Germans were winning. Also, the idea that trench fighting was a useless way of combat. “Just chuck them out”, says to the reader that the war was an easy place where deaths were not common.
The civilians had no idea of the stark reality of the war. The Romantic view of the war that the civilians believed, was told to everyone by the government of both sides to keep the moral high and recruitment up.
The artwork of the time depicted the propaganda of the time, the ideal of patriotism and the ideal that the war was a somewhat heroic experience.
This is an original World War 1 propaganda poster. It is aimed to encourage young British boys to enlist in the army before conscription became apparent. The mirroring of the boys, the way they are walking and the expressions on their faces indicate that they are keen and looking forward to the war, aiming to promote the war and the excitement it brings. The use of the kilt indicates that the poster is aimed at the Ally forces. These things aim to portray the Romantic Vision of War towards the civilians of Britain.
This propaganda poster of Lord Kitchener (the British Secretary of War), managed to get over 1 million extra men to serve in the army. However, most of them were lost in the battle of Some a bit later. The use of Kitchener pointer at the reader and the phrase “Join your country’s army”, entices the reader to join the army, as it creates a sense of guilt, as if disappointing the man in the poster. These things also appeal to the reader’s sense of patriotism, to serve and save their country.
This propaganda aims to appeal to the young men of Britain’s sense of patriotism. The phrase used in the middle of the poster, “Which picture would your Father like to show his friends”, aims to cause a sense of guilt in all the young men of Britain’s minds. The contrasting photos, one of a man sitting enjoying himself in his lawn chair and the other a man looking proud, fit, a man that every boy wants to be and their father wants them to be. This entices the reader to join the army as they don’t want everybody to think they are cowards.