Fighting Songs and Warring Words: Popular Lyrics of Two by Brian Murdoch

By Brian Murdoch

The accredited canon of conflict poetry often comprises basically these underlining patriotic or nationalistic perspectives. This research opens up the view of battle poetry with the inclusion of such fabric as Nazi poetry and music, and the poetry of the atomic bomb.

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Verb and noun are repeated nine times and echoed acoustically. The sentiment is hardly admirable, but as a war poem it manifests a sustained attitude, albeit an hysterical one, in an undeniably functional way. Its reception as a war poem on both sides in its 34 WE HATE AS ONE own time, and by a modern reader merit consideration. It remains one of the most important pieces of the First World War. Of the many responses to Lissauer’s poem in English, some were predictable: A song of hate is a song of Hell; Some there be that sing it well.

It is not particularly enlightening to be told that the girl left behind is a woman, and the idea of ‘mother’ is uncomfortably linked with that of serving the King (both Victoria and Mary would have been better models as mothers of the country, but short of ‘granny’ or ‘missus’, ‘mother’ is required metrically). Given the implications of the last line, ‘whimper’ is ridiculous. In fact that song was not popularly known, but it serves as a demonstration. Neither is morally acceptable: one poem is about hatred, the other about war as a game.

With the fall of the Weimar Republic the Nazi regime revived with programmatic uniformity that poetry of the First World War which stressed the heroism, the love for and the willing death for the homeland. In Britain some of the heroic poets survived to write about a new war, while Brooke, Newbolt, and Kipling were still imitated. Patriotic poetry was also widely read, and now-forgotten poets like John Oxenham, whose little volumes of verse sold in large numbers in the First World War, were reprinted and sold as well in the Second.

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