There were too many wonderful questions to limit them to three, so I went ahead and listed everything that I thought was applicable to ask. Feel free to pick your favorites to answer!
1. What do you make of the poem On the Belgian Expatriation? Is this poem about the shattering of innocence where songs of peace are silenced by the presence of war? What did you make of the rhyme suddenly ending when the soldiers were introduced as an end to the dancing tune? Did you notice it, whether consciously or subconsciously?
2. Why is the moon consistently considered as something that overlooks the war? It is constantly a negative signifier, whether as something judgemental like in I Looked Up From My Writing or as a symbol of a lover’s moon or a reminder of peacetimes that is then resented? Is the sun too cheery for that endeavor, or do humans focus on the moon since people typically sink into depression at night when they are getting ready to rest?
3. Was anyone surprised by Rudyard Kipling’s involvement in the war? Do you think if he had written the Jungle Book, not in 1894, but sometime during or after The Great War, that the content would somehow be different?
4. After reading the poem For All We Have and Are and the previous books assigned for class, how do you feel about Kipling’s gung-ho attitude toward war, filled with patriotic propaganda? Could he be compared to someone like Kantorek from All Quiet on the Western Front? The poem My Boy Jack complicates this question further; clearly, Kipling is glorifying sacrifice for one’s country. Why or why not? Let’s try to dig into the nuance of this attitude as well.
5. In the poem Justice, he writes
“For agony and spoil
Of nations beat to dust,
For poisoned air and tortured soil
And cold, commanded lust”
Is he romanticizing the loss and agony of these men? He acknowledges their sacrifice but is this still dangerous like Kantorek’s rhetoric?
6. Binyon’s For the Fallen is evidently famous, especially his 4th stanza which reads:
“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.”
Why do you think this specific part of the poem gained fame? Would you consider this a respectful and beautiful inscription on a tomb, or would you consider this another piece of propaganda that aided in these deaths that may be deemed unnecessary and avoidable to others?
7. Charlotte Mew suffered a tragic life, yet in her poem May, 1915 she sprinkles in great optimism. Despite this, The Cenotaph is a little darker in this regard. Would you still argue that her poem The Cenotaph is a little more realistic in terms of loss in the war since her experiences with death made her more understanding and less eager to romanticize it? Or do you think she is still guilty, like other authors, of doing so?
8. Would you say Robert Service’s Tipperary Days reads like bitter satire? Does the tone of the poem change when you learn his brother Albert died in 1916 in the war? His poem Tri-color reads far more despairingly. Would you argue that that poem shows his true feelings more than Tipperary Days?
9. Wilfrid Gibson wrote The Messages, which uses repetition and periods to draw out the sense of a traumatized and shocked mind. He wanted “the War’s tragedies in a language freed from patriotic afflatus.” Do you think this uncomfortable honesty contributed to him falling out of fashion so quickly? How well does he cover PTSD in his writings?
10. Between the Lines by Gibson creates a poignant story with ease, capturing the awful state of war. Do you think this is impressive, considering Gibson had to imagine much since he only served clerical duties in the war? What are your thoughts on how he captured anxiety in each of his poems? Also, stars are mentioned in this poem. Why do you think celestial bodies are a main piece in many of the stories we read? The moon as a taunter and stars as hope in the darkness?
11. The repetition of stanzas and lines can be seen in Gibson’s work and Cannan’s. Why do you think that tool is used? Does it build tension and anxiety, etc?
The link for ‘Historiana Timeline in Postcards’ drops you into a simple yellow page with a few paragraphs describing the purpose of the site, along with thirteen postcards to click into. Some titles are in English and others are written in German. Postcards are time capsules into people’s thoughts and cultural norms of the time. The typical uniforms and perspectives on the war are revealed in both the propaganda riddled art and grim realistic writing on the other side. The introductory paragraphs discuss how, as the war went on, the writings on the back of the postcards became bleaker. There was a clear dip in morale. The color scheme is immensely telling of this shift in behavior, with the first postcard in 1914 filled with bright yellows, reds, blues, and purple to a black and white image of the ruins from a fire in 1917. In order to read the contents of the postcard, you must click the image and then the highlighted blue source at the bottom. This seems to bring you to a white page. Sadly, these all contain broken links. I was shocked to find this and decided to look into the website Historiana itself.
With a quick Google search, I found the updated website with the now fixed link: https://historiana.eu/historical-content/source-collections/world-war-i-postcards. A new introductory paragraph is written here with relatively the same message. Postcards from World War I function as conduits from the Front to civilians at home. The paragraph then delves into the history of the postcard and discusses the pre-printed messages that began to spring up, as well as the censorship of the men who wrote more realistic accounts of the horror on the battlefield. The images are valuable to historians and students alike who wish to glimpse a snapshot of the time. In the updated link, they carry many different languages rather than just British, American, and German. Plenty of Italian postcards grace this webpage.
There were different themes on display with many images containing religion or pulling upon the heartstrings in other photos. One of my favorite postcards was the embroidered ones. ‘1918’ was sewn into silk that was glued to the postcard with the different flags of the nations involved. This was a very popular souvenir amongst British soldiers but was not a cheap purchase due to the silk. Another unique postcard was a set of ten that created one image of a French soldier blowing a horn. Each card was from Ireland to France for soldiers to collect along the way.
Patriotism was a common and popular thing to depict on postcards, selling especially well amongst the British soldiers and civilians alike. Men marching and doing valiant deeds, whether drawn or photographed, were at the center of many. Women were consistently depicted as countries as allegories for peace or patriotism. Other forms of women functioned as encouragement with depictions of their families eagerly waiting for their men to return home. This was particularly common in the array of sentimental Christmas Cards you could explore. One of the more particularly moving pieces of propaganda depicted a little girl praying for her dad to return safely with a small image of a generic man.
Since the original link: https://historiana.eu/collection/world-war-1-postcards is not working properly, I will be giving the strengths and weaknesses between both the old and new sites. Within the old site, what makes it truly unique is the ability to follow along with the changing moods of the postcards as the war progressed. They are in a linear timeline that helps someone unfamiliar with the war visualize the chipper propaganda to the bleakness of the rising slaughter. I think reading the contents of the postcard would have allowed a closer and more intimate look at people’s minds of the time. The broken links stop this further inquiry. I’m sure when things worked properly this page was immensely insightful and showed the gradual degeneration of morale on all sides as the death toll rose. As of right now, all that is available is seeing the images of some postcards in linear order.
In the new link, the list of cards is not in a structured timeline but instead just labeled as different themes such as religious postcards or sentimental ones. The strengths lie in the descriptions. When you click on an image, there is a bit of history and details about the particular card itself. It also sources where the postcards are from in different archives giving it reliability.
I think both websites could have added more information, and the newer site could have added a more linear aspect to it. So far, there are only twenty-two examples on the new site when they could instead make proper categories to place an array of postcards in them, hopefully in chronological order. The first site boasted personal writings on the back of the cards that were never explored due to the broken links. I thought on the updated site they would have the personal writing, only to find historical descriptions. I feel like I was left out of the intimate conversation between people of The Great War. The new site could improve with the addition of the translated and transcribed writings of the former senders of the postcard.