Wordsworth, World War I, Siegfried Sassoon


The following thesis analyzes how the poetry and aesthetic values of William Wordsworth inspired the Georgian poets who served in World War I and influenced the writings of Siegfried Sassoon.

The first section focuses on how Wordsworth became an essential part of the national literary character as a result of the war and how many Edwardian writers used his more nationalistic poems to defend England’s imperial interests and the war effort against Germany. The following section compares the Edwardians to the Georgians, who were essentially neo-romantics that adopted Wordsworth’s poetic style, particularly the Romantic lyric and the pastoral mode. Georgians like Rupert Brooke continued to write pastoral poems after they enlisted in the British army. However, their writing style and attitudes toward nature and patriotism changed after fighting on the front lines for so long and witnessing so much death and destruction.

Finally, the next section shows how this change in literary tastes occurred within Sassoon’s memoirs and poems. Like the other soldier poets, his earliest poems before the war were very similar to Wordsworth’s. As the war dragged on, he altered the Georgian poetic template to include the sights and sounds of trench warfare and the distortion of pastoral imagery. This led to his adoption of a more satirical tone once he began to protest the war and the late romanticism of his contemporaries. Eventually, Sassoon and the other war poets shifted away from writing neo-romantic poetry altogether, causing the Romantic lyric and Wordsworthian pastoralism to largely fall out of favor with the writers of the Modernist period.

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Peer-Reviewed Article

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Honors 301R: Great War Literature