Poetry of the Great War







Poetry from The Great War has had a lasting impression on literature around the world that continues today. No one really understands why so much war poetry was written during the war itself about the war but there is thought to be over 3 million poems written in Germany alone during the first six months, 2,225 English poets, over half of whom were civilians. Although there was more written academically about The Second World War, the Great War produced much more literature, especially verse. This could be due to a few different factors including that warfare was finally accepted as a literature subject and not just covered briefly in newspapers. Chauvinism was not necessarily more prevalent before and during The Great War but because war was an accepted topic for literature, it seemed to be more prevalent to readers. Compared to the Second World War, the literacy and artistic styles may have become outdated because The Great War literature illustrated a vision of hell and the soldiers of the Second World War experienced that hell, leaving not much to write about that would be different from before. In this scrapbook there is poetry that was published from the time that resonated with soldiers as well as Clarke and poetry from the soldiers whom Alma A Clarke tended to in American Military Hospital no.1.


Private Clarence E. Meyers, a member of the 74th company 6th regiment U.S.M.C. This company was placed in the 1st battalion and fought in the Battle of Belleau Wood. They fought day and night with little food or water and virtually no sleep against some of the best German Divisions using strategically placed machine guns. Despite injury, fatigue and hunger these men held the line as ordered. In the poem, Clarence E. Meyers writes about bursting shells, gas bombs, trench life and never abandoning duty which can be read as a description of the Battle of Belleau Wood.

Supposedly, as a marker of grudging respect, the Germans began to refer to such Marines as Teufelhünden or "Devil Dogs". While there is no actual historical evidence for the precise origins of the term, the nickname is said to stem from the response of the Germans to their attackers. The Marines who were forced to climb up a hill on all fours due to the terrain, also sweated profusely, foamed at the mouth due to the excessive heat and had bloodshot eyes. The Germans are said to have described these attackers as "dogs from hell." Historians now dispute that the phrasing is one that would not have been in common usage at the time. German Military Historian Jürgen Rohwer has argued that soldiers would have been far more likely to refer to the Marines simply as “devils”. Still The Marines have adopted the label as a badge of honor and it continues to be used today.




Raymond Gauger along with twenty-three other men from the University of Illinois, sixteen of whom were in the same unit (Section Sanitaire (etas) Unis) traveled to France during WWI to join the American Field Service in 1917. These men stayed in touch with their families through letters, while simultaneously writing poetry about their experiences. The included poem received Honorable Mention in the New York Herald Literary Contest while Gauger was still in active duty over in France. The poem was supposed to appear in a book whose profits would have benefited the wives and mothers of the men fighting abroad.

According to an article in The Daily Illini Gauger’s inspiration for the poem is about the death of a French woman whom with Gauger spent his week of permission in March of 1918. Unfortunately, the Germans killed the woman and her secretary in a Catholic Church in Paris on Good Friday, leaving another blemish on Gauger’s already bleak war experience.


Sergt.Wm.E.Shiflet was part of the First Infantry Division, which was known as the First Expeditionary Division during the Great War. Constituted in May 1917 and officially organized June 8, 1917 in New York, New York, the division did not engage in battle until October 3 that same year, where two days later, they suffered the first American causality of the Great War. When the Germans were within forty miles of Paris, the First Infantry moved into the town of Cantigny to aid the French army, resulting in the first American casuality. The Infantry was also involved in the Soissons victory, the Battle of St. Mihiel, and the Meuse-Argonne battles in which the division lost a total of over 7,600 men. By the end of the war they had suffered 22,668 casualties plus countless injuries.

There is no exact indication as to what the flower drawing is connected to but extensive research suggests there may be a connection to a song entitled “The Allies’ Flower Song,” whose words and music were written by Edith M. Gibbs. The lyrics mention flowers from all the different countries in the war as well as all the State Flowers of the men from the United States; coincidentally, the illustration portrays just that. The words underneath read as a memorial to all the men who died on the fields of France: “Dying A Real mans death/While taking a Real mans/chance/The Flower of Allied manhood lies/Neath the Battle Fields of/France.”
References
Cover – Literary Digest Cover. Box 1, Folder 2. Alma A. Clarke Papers, 1914-1946, Special Collections Department, Bryn Mawr College Library.

Page 3 Harvey, A. D. "First World War Literature." History Today 1 Nov. 1993. Print.

Page 4 image AlmaClarke_BMC_023v English WWI Scrapbook, Alma A. Clarke Papers, 1914-1946, Special Collections Department, Bryn Mawr College Library.

Page 5 "1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment". Marines The official Website of the United States Marine Corps. http://www.6thmarines.marines.mil/Units/1stBattalion/History.aspx Clark, George B. "Belleau Wood." Devil Dogs: Fighting Marines of World War I. Novato, CA: Presidio, 1999. Print. Simmons, Edwin H., and Joseph H. Alexander. "Belleau Wood." Through the Wheat: The U.S. Marines in World War I. Annapolis, Md.: Naval Institute, 2011. Print. Simmons, Edwin H., and Joseph H. Alexander. "Belleau Wood." Through the Wheat: The U.S. Marines in World War I. Annapolis, Md.: Naval Institute, 2008. 100-125;269. Print.

Page 6 image AlmaClarke_BMC_14r English WWI Scrapbook, Alma A. Clarke Papers, 1914-1946, Special Collections Department, Bryn Mawr College Library.

Page 8 image AlmaClarke_BMC_01r English WWI Scrapbook, Alma A. Clarke Papers, 1914-1946, Special Collections Department, Bryn Mawr College Library.

Page 9 "Society of the 1st Infantry Division." Society of the 1st Infantry Division: History. 1 Jan. 2007. Web. 17 Nov. 2014. . The Allies' Flower Song. 1917. By Edith M. Gibbs.
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