Learning Curve, The Great War
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Useful notes: Source2
Poem written by Gilbert Frankau called 'The Voice of the Guns', 1916
The Poetical Works of Gilbert Frankau Volume 1 (1901-1916), published by Chatto and Windus, 1923, by permission of A.P. Watt Ltd on behalf of Timothy D'Arch Smith)
  • Captain Gilbert Frankau was an artillery officer in the British Army in the Great War. He wrote many poems, most of which were published in a collection of poetry in 1917.
  • This particular poem reflects the experience of working constantly with artillery. The poem gets across very powerfully the sense of noise and awesome power of the guns.
  • In the first verse Frankau comments on the fact that dead bodies shattered by shrapnel or explosive shells could be seen everywhere on the battlefield.
  • The poem also comments on the fact that horsemen and foot soldiers were no longer as important as artillery. It comments on the artillery battles, with references to artillerymen being killed (giving their lives) and of other gunners avenging the deaths of their comrades.
  • Poems like this were very common. Many soldiers, especially officers, wrote poetry during the war. However, poetry was interpreted very differently during the war compared to after it. During the war, it was generally seen as a way that soldiers could describe their experiences. The general tone was that war was terrible, but few poets questioned that the war had to be fought. After the war, many poems were seen as criticisms of the war, which may not have been their original intention.
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