The Muse in Arms

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Cover from The Muse in Arms

The Muse in Arms is an anthology of British war poetry published in November 1917 during World War I. It consists of 131 poems by 52 contributors, with the poems divided into fourteen thematic sections. The poets were from all three branches of the armed services, land, sea and air, from a range of ranks (though mostly officers) and from many parts of the UK. Twenty of the poets who contributed to this volume died during the war. The editor was the journalist and author Edward Bolland Osborn (1867–1938), and the book was printed in London by the publishers John Murray. This anthology was one of several collections of war poetry published in the UK during the war. It "achieved large sales",[1] and was reprinted in February 1918. It has been referenced in several analyses of First World War poetry and has been described as "the most celebrated collection of the war years".[1]

Contents[edit]

The anthology's title page describes the book as "A collection of war poems, for the most part written in the field of action, by seamen, soldiers, and flying men who are serving, or have served, in the Great War". The dedication is to the journalist and Times Literary Supplement editor Bruce Lyttelton Richmond (1871–1964).[2]

The first edition of the book contains 38 pages of prefatory material including publication details, the dedication, an introduction by the editor, acknowledgments (several of the poems had been previously published), a list of 46 authors, and a list of contents. This is followed by 131 poems over 295 pages. Eight of the 131 poems are by civilian or anonymous authors, some referenced by name or pseudonym and others only by their initials, bringing the total number of contributors to 52.[2][3]

Osborn's introduction discusses several aspects of the collection and includes a quote from Pericles when considering the cost of the war against the poetry produced:

But the youth we have lost in these dread years has not perished in vain; if "the spring has gone out of the year," as Pericles lamented, yet we are immeasurably the richer for the spirituality they have bequeathed to us, of which the poems in this book are an enduring expression.

— from Osborn's introduction to The Muse in Arms[2]

The book is divided into fourteen thematic sections:[2]

  • The Mother Land
  • Before Action
  • Battle Pieces
  • The Sea Affair
  • War in the Air
  • In Memoriam
  • The Future Hope
  • The Christian Soldier
  • School and College
  • Chivalry of Sport
  • The Ghostly Company
  • Songs
  • Loving and Living
  • Moods and Memories

Poets[edit]

At the time of the anthology's publication in November 1917, the death during the war of sixteen of the forty-six authors was marked in the list of authors with an asterisk, and are so-marked in the following list as well.[2] The deaths during the war of four other authors who were killed or died following publication of the book, or whose deaths had occurred earlier but not been recorded by Osborn, are marked with a double asterisk. The military rank and unit given in the list of authors is also included in the list below.[2]

Gallery

Selection of photographs of some of the poets and titles of their poems from The Muse in Arms:

Poetry[edit]

Grave of Arthur Lewis Jenkins, author of the poem 'The Spirit of Womanhood'. Photographed in Richmond Cemetery.

The poems that mention wartime places, battles, people and events include:[47]

Selected quotations

The opening lines of 'To the Poet Before Battle' by Ivor Gurney, who would survive the war:

Lines from 'Better Far to Pass Away' by Richard Molesworth Dennys, who was killed during the war:

Reception[edit]

The Muse in Arms has been described as one of several "important anthologies in the canonization of poetic taste",[58] including work by Siegfried Sassoon and Rupert Brooke. While other major war poets such as Wilfred Owen and Isaac Rosenberg are absent from the book,[59] the collection has also been noted for its inclusion of poems by "servicemen who perished during wartime and whose literary output was strictly limited".[60] The collection was published at the point in the war where there was a shift from "patriotism and romanticism" to a more realistic verse that reflected the "brutal reality" of trench warfare,[61] answering "to a public demand, particularly strong during the period of the great battles of 1915–17, for poetry from the trenches".[62] The introduction by Osborn has been described as articulating the "appallingly anachronistic concept of war as a game".[63] In his 2007 work, Sillars draws further attention to the imagery used in the introduction by Osborn, and concludes that The Muse in Arms and similar anthologies of that period of the war used poetry to locate the war "within a spiritual landscape that makes mystical the English countryside by endowing it with heroic virtues".[1] The symbolic meaning of the anthology and the works it contains has also been examined, with Haughton (2007) describing the title of the work as representing a "muse enlisted in the service of the State, Church and British Army".[64]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Fields of Agony: British Poetry of the First World War, Stuart Sillars, 2007
  2. ^ a b c d e f The Muse in Arms, E. B. Osborne (Ed), 1917
  3. ^ The contributors not mentioned in the list of authors are: I.C., O. (two poems), C.A.A., A.J., Imtarfa, Dorothy Plowman (wife of Max Plowman), and Roma White. In the acknowledgments, Osborn identifies A.J. as a soldier and Imtarfa as a naval officer, with the others being civilian authors. Osborn acknowledges "Mr. Ian Colvin" for the poem attributed to I.C. and acknowledges the "Head Master of Eton" for the poem attributed to C.A.A. (Cyril Argentine Alington). Of the 52 contributors, more than half account for only one or two poems, but several provided more, with Harvey (6), Weaving (7) and Nichols (8) providing a total of 21 poems between them.
  4. ^ The year of death for Alchin is sourced to his entry at Poetry of the First World War: English Poets A-C, Scuttlebutt and Small Chow, accessed 02/03/2010
  5. ^ Herbert Asquith was the second son of H. H. Asquith, the British Prime Minister from 1908 to 1916.
  6. ^ a b c d e f One of six poets published in this anthology to be commemorated at Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey.
  7. ^ Brooke died on 23/04/1915 of sepsis while travelling with the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force to Gallipoli, and is buried on the Greek Aegean island of Skyros. Further biographical details for Brooke are available from the records of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission: Casualty Details: Rupert Chawner Brooke, accessed 02/03/2010.
  8. ^ Corbett's year of birth is sourced from an auction catalogue entry for a set of his medals: Life Saving Awards (W. H. Fevyer Collection), Lot 21, 25 Sep 08, Dix Noonan Webb, accessed 02/03/2010. Corbett's year of death is sourced to: Faroe Islands, Chronology, British Naval officers-in-charge, World Statesmen.org, accessed 02/03/2010.
  9. ^ Coulson was killed in action on 07/10/1916 "in the forefront of a charge against the German position near Lesboeufs"[1], part of the Somme Offensive. Further biographical details for Coulson are available from the records of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission: Casualty Details: Leslie Coulson, accessed 01/03/2010.
  10. ^ Dennys died on 24/07/1916 of wounds received on 12/07/1916 "in Somme advance"[2] as part of the Somme Offensive. Further biographical details for Dennys are available from the records of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission: Casualty Details: Richard Molesworth Dennys, accessed 01/03/2010.
  11. ^ Frankau's mother was Julia Frankau, his brother was Ronald Frankau and his daughter was Pamela Frankau.
  12. ^ Graham's death year is sourced to Nominal roll, 573 (Cornwall) Royal Engineers, an archive record from Cornwall County Council referring to the "Company Royal Engineers commanded by Captain H S Graham". Graham's name was "Henry S. Graham" and further family details are available at Graham and Graham, solicitors, St Austell, which includes the details that Graham "had served in France with the Cornwall (Fortress) Royal Engineers, a territorial unit which he had joined in peacetime" and had been training to join the family law firm before the war, and joined his elder brother on demobilisation, but later "died in Fowey Hospital on the 29th of August 1928, after an operation".
  13. ^ Julian Grenfell was the eldest son of William Grenfell, 1st Baron Desborough and brother of Gerald Grenfell. Julian Grenfell died on 27/05/1915 of head wounds received on 13/05/1915 when a shell exploded nearby.[3] Further biographical details for Grenfell are available from the records of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission: Casualty Details: Julian Henry Francis Grenfell, accessed 02/03/2010.
  14. ^ Gerald Grenfell was the second son of William Grenfell, 1st Baron Desborough and brother of Julian Grenfell. Gerald Grenfell was killed in action on 30/07/1915 while serving in the Ypres Salient, and is commemorated on the Menin Gate. Further biographical details for Grenfell are available from the records of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission: Casualty Details: Gerald William Grenfell, accessed 01/03/2010.
  15. ^ a b As stated in Osborn's introduction, one of two of the authors listed to have been a prisoner-of-war at the time of the book's publication.
  16. ^ Audrey Herbert was the second son of Henry Herbert, 4th Earl of Carnarvon.
  17. ^ William Hodgson was the fourth and youngest child of Henry Bernard Hodgson, the Bishop of Saint Edmundsbury and Ipswich. Hodgson was killed in action on 01/07/1916, the first day of the Somme Offensive.[4] Further biographical details for Hodgson are available from the records of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission: Casualty Details: William Noel Hodgson, accessed 02/03/2010.
  18. ^ Howard is only mentioned in the introduction and list of authors, with Osborn quoting from his poem 'England'. Howard had at least two other poems published as well: 'The Beach Road by the Wood' and 'Without Shedding of Blood', all three appearing in Soldier Poets (1916).
  19. ^ Hussey had previously published a collection of his poems as Fleur de Lys (1916)
  20. ^ Lessel Finer Hutcheon survived the war and according to Flight magazine, married Doris Vera Carropus in 1921. One of his poems from this collection, 'Flight to Flanders' was mentioned in a newspaper column in 1931 ('The Raconteur, The Montreal Gazette – 6 June 1931), where the columnist stated the opinion that the poem was "quite openly modelled on" 'The Feet of the Young Men' by Rudyard Kipling. According to this family genealogy website (which has details of spouse and children), Hutcheon was born circa 1895.
  21. ^ Further biographical details for Hopwood are available from oldpoetry.com: Rear Admiral Ronald Arthur Hopwood (1868–1949), accessed 01/03/2010.
  22. ^ James had a distinguished career in the Royal Navy, reaching the rank of admiral and being knighted, but is also well known for featuring in a famous advert for Pears soap, based on the artwork Bubbles.
  23. ^ Arthur Lewis Jenkins was the son of Lady Jenkins and Sir John Lewis Jenkins, KCSI, and brother of David Jenkins (later Baron Jenkins). Arthur Jenkins died on 31/12/1917 – his poem 'The Sending' was published in The Children's Story of the War (1918). Jenkins died on active duty in an airplane accident while serving in a home-defence squadron of the Royal Flying Corps.[5] He is buried in Richmond Cemetery, London. Further biographical details for Jenkins are available from the records of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission: Casualty Details: Arthur Lewis Jenkins, accessed 01/03/2010.
  24. ^ Joseph Johnston Lee was a Scottish poet who had published before the war. He later published poetry collections titled Ballads of Battle and Work-a-Day Warriors. Like Harvey and Rose-Troup, he became a prisoner-of-war, later publishing a book on his experiences.
  25. ^ Littlejohn was killed in action on 10/04/1917 when he was "sniped at the Battle of Arras".[6] Further biographical details for Littlejohn are available from the records of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission: Casualty Details: William Henry Littlejohn, accessed 01/03/2010.
  26. ^ MacGill was an Irish journalist, poet and novelist who had a docu-drama about his life made in 2008.
  27. ^ Further biographical details for Matthews are available from the Australian Dictionary of Biography: Harley Matthews (1889–1968), accessed 01/03/2010.
  28. ^ The introduction and list of authors names Colin Scott-Moncrieff (Charles's brother), but the name credit for the poems in the book itself is for "Charles Scott-Moncrieff".
  29. ^ Mackintosh was killed in action on 21/11/1917 during the Battle of Cambrai.[7] Further biographical details for Mackintosh are available from the records of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission: Casualty Details: Ewart Alan Mackintosh, accessed 02/03/2010.
  30. ^ Robert Palmer was the son of William Palmer, 2nd Earl of Selborne. Palmer was injured in battle "on the Tigris River" and was taken prisoner. He died of his wounds on 21/01/1916 in a Turkish camp, and is commemorated on the Basra Memorial.[8] Further biographical details for Palmer are available from the records of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission: Casualty Details: Robert Stafford A. Palmer, accessed 01/03/2010.
  31. ^ Other sources, such as Sense and incense, give Perowne's full name as "Victor Tait Perowne". Perowne was educated at Eton and was a friend of Sitwell. Both Perowne and Tennant are discussed in the 1916 anthology Wheels, edited by the Sitwell siblings and later covered in Battles for Modernism and "Wheels", Kathryn Ledbetter, Journal of Modern Literature, Vol. 19, No. 2 (Autumn, 1995), pp. 322–328.
  32. ^ Colwyn Philipps was the eldest son of John Philipps, 1st Viscount St Davids. Phillips was killed in action on 13/05/1915 in the Ypres Salient "near Ypres"[9] and is commemorated on the Menin Gate. Further biographical details for Philipps are available from the records of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission: Casualty Details: Colwyn Erasmus Arnold Philipps, accessed 01/03/2010.
  33. ^ Plowman was a pacifist who served in the army with reluctance. He produced a poetry collection A Lap Full of Seed, while recovering from shell shock. He was later court-martialled for resigning his commission on the grounds of conscientious objection. His wife, Dorothy, contributed a poem to The Muse in Arms.
  34. ^ Ratcliffe was killed in action on 01/07/1916, which was the first day of the Somme Offensive. Further biographical details for Ratcliffe are available from the records of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission: Casualty Details: Arthur Victor Ratcliffe, accessed 01/03/2010.
  35. ^ Robertson was killed in action "near Albert"[10] on 01/07/1916, which was the first day of the Somme Offensive. He is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial. Further biographical details for Robertson are available from the records of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission: Casualty Details: Alexander Robertson, accessed 01/03/2010.
  36. ^ Robins was killed in action (gassed) on 05/05/1915 during the Battle for Hill 60 in the Ypres Salient.[11] Further biographical details for Robins are available from the records of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission: Casualty Details: George Upton Robins, accessed 01/03/2010.
  37. ^ Before the war, Shanks had been the editor of Granta, and he worked as a literary reviewer and author after the war.
  38. ^ Shanks' rank of Second Lieutenant was temporary at the time of publication. He had been invalided out in 1915, and when able to work again, did administrative work for the rest of the war.
  39. ^ Osbert Sitwell was the eldest son of Sir George Reresby Sitwell, 4th Baronet.
  40. ^ Charles Sorley was the son of the British philosopher William Ritchie Sorley. Sorley was killed in action on 03/10/1915 "at Hullach" during the Battle of Loos.[12] He is commemorated on the Loos Memorial. Further biographical details for Sorley are available from the records of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission: Casualty Details: Charles Hamilton Sorley, accessed 02/03/2010.
  41. ^ Sterling was killed in action on 23/04/1915 "after holding his trench all day against the enemy onslaughts".[13] Further biographical details for Sterling are available from the records of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission: Casualty Details: Robert William Sterling, accessed 01/03/2010.
  42. ^ John William Streets is credited both in The Muse in Arms (1917) and in The Undying Splendour (1917) as the author of the poem 'Love of Life'. He was reported missing on the first day of the Battle of the Somme (01/07/1916), and his body was recovered the following year, as recorded in the opening pages of The Undying Splendour. Sources disagree on his year of birth, but his Commonwealth War Graves Commission entry records his age as 31 when he died: Casualty Details: John William Streets. Further biographical details are available from John William Streets, The Great War 1914–1918, A Guide to WW1 Battlefields and History of the First World War. Sources accessed 02/03/2010.
  43. ^ E. Wyndham Tennant was a son of Edward Tennant, 1st Baron Glenconner. Tennant was killed in action on 22/09/1916 "in battle on the Somme" during the Somme Offensive.[14] Further biographical details for Tennant are available from the records of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission: Casualty Details: Edward Wyndham Tennant, accessed 02/03/2010.
  44. ^ Weaving published several collections of his poetry, including The Star Fields and other poems (1916) and The Bubble and other poems (1917).
  45. ^ Wilkinson was killed in action on 09/10/1917 "leading his company in the attack on Passchendaele Ridge".[15] He is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial. Further biographical details are available from the records of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission: Casualty Details: Eric Fitzwater Wilkinson, accessed 01/03/2010.
  46. ^ Winterbotham was killed in action on 27/08/1916 and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme (those missing killed during the Somme Offensive). Further biographical details for Winterbotham are available from the records of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission: Casualty Details: Cyril William Winterbotham, accessed 01/03/2010.
  47. ^ All poems are from The Muse in Arms, E. B. Osborne (Ed), 1917
  48. ^ MacGill, who served as a stretcher-bearer in the London Irish and was wounded at Loos in October 1915, also described the battle in his autobiographical novel The Great Push (1916).
  49. ^ The battles and campaigns referred to are: the Battle of Río de Oro, the Battle of Más a Tierra, the Battle of Rufiji Delta, the Battle of Coronel, the Pursuit of Goeben and Breslau and the Dardanelles Naval Campaign.
  50. ^ The three battles are: the Glorious First of June (1794), the Capture of USS Chesapeake (1813), and the Battle of Jutland (1916), with only the latter being from World War I.
  51. ^ Thomas was a close friend of Graves and Sassoon. Robert Graves: Copy, in Captain Robert Graves's hand, of the poem, 'Goliath and David', Imperial War Museum, accessed 05/03/2010. The poem is subtitled "for D.C.T., killed at Fricourt, March 1916". Thomas died on 18/03/1916, according to the Imperial War Museum and his CWGC entry: Casualty details: David Cuthbert Thomas. Sources accessed 06/03/2010.
  52. ^ John Neville Manners was the son of the third Baron Manners. The CWGC record of his death is at John Neville Manners. Other memorials to John Neville Manners are described at Memorial to the Hon. John Neville Manners, Lieutenant 2nd battalion, Grenadier Guards (Bertram Mackennal catalogue, Art Gallery NSW) and more information (same source).
  53. ^ Charles Alfred Lister was the youngest son of Thomas Lister, 4th Baron Ribblesdale. The CWGC record of his death is at Charles Alfred Lister. A collection of his letters and a memoir was published by his father as Charles Lister – Letters and Recollections (1917). In the latter, the poem 'To C.A.L.' from this collection is republished and Lister's father identifies the author as "the Rev. Cyril Alington, the new Head Master of Eton".
  54. ^ For details of some of these communions, see The "Padre" in the Fighting-Line (F. A. McKenzie, from 'The Great War' (1914–1919, edited by Hammerton and Wilson), volume 7, chapter 132). For a picture showing holy communion being administered at Suvla Bay, see picture G01432 at the Australian War Memorial.
  55. ^ The poem includes references to Dunvegan and the waters of Loch Dunvegan. The nearby Dunvegan Castle is the seat of the chiefs of Clan Macleod, the clan pipers being the MacCrimmons. The poem title is Gaelic, and means 'MacCrimmon will not return'.
  56. ^ 'To the Poet Before Battle', Ivor Gurney, The Muse in Arms (1917)
  57. ^ 'Better Far to Pass Away', Richard Molesworth Dennys, The Muse in Arms (1917)
  58. ^ Female Poets of the First World War, Randy Cummings, American Council of Learned Societies, Occasional Paper No. 29
  59. ^ Robert Graves and Literary Survival, Paul O'Prey, War Poetry Review, 2007
  60. ^ The Muse in Arms – Introduction, FirstWorldWar.com, accessed 01/03/2010
  61. ^ "Went to War with Rupert Brooke and Came Home with Siegfried Sassoon": The Poetic Fad of the First World War, Argha Banerjee, Working With English: Medieval and Modern Language, Literature and Drama 2.1: Literary Fads and Fashions (2006): pp. 1–11
  62. ^ Anthologies of British Poetry – Critical Perspectives from Literary and Cultural Studies, Peter Preston, 2003
  63. ^ Survivors' Songs – From Maldon to the Somme, 2008, Jon Stallworthy, Cambridge University Press
  64. ^ The Oxford handbook of British and Irish war poetry, Tim Kendall (Ed), Chapter 22 'Anthologizing War', Hugh Haughton, Oxford University Press, 2007

External links[edit]