Siegfried Sassoon, "Glory of Women" (151)
From the information provided in the 20th century overview Prezis, the importance of gender roles took a new turn during World War I. Gender roles reversed while men were on the battle front. Women had to replace their jobs in factories to produce war materials. Men partly blamed women for the result of the war, and when they returned from war, men took their places back. English poet Siegfried Sassoon served in several British battles during the war and suffered from several injuries, sending him home multiple times. His poem "Glory of Women"
reveals emotions he held at the time of writing this anti-woman poem in 1918. The first two lines discuss how women love their husbands and support their decision to fight in the war. It was considered a duty to protect women at home in Britain. Lines three and four indicate women "worship decorations" at a time when men are dying on the battle front in treacherous conditions. This could relate to either home decorations or war medals and the like. Home decorations suggest that Sassoon is commenting on materialism, but the war medal decorations show considerable grief over the burdens of being awarded military medals for valor.
I recently read an article on Facebook that shared a Medal of Honor recipient's burdens of wearing the highest honor. Struggling to find that article, I found this one that recounts experiences of Medal of Honor recipient Ty Carter, who fought in the 2009 Battle of Kamdesh in Afghanistan. Ty Carter opens my eyes to an entirely different outlook on the Medal of Honor in that it is both an honor and a heavy burden, given that he was one of very few survivors the day he lost his brothers: a day he considers to be the worst of his life. He comments on how difficult it is to have his war experiences opened so widely to the public eye after receiving the Medal of Honor, and how difficult it is to discuss his experiences of PTSD as a motivational speaker. Nevertheless, Sassoon's poem makes clear that fighting in any war is a lifelong burden that cannot be repaid with material things.
Making shells from line five refers to the women who were working hard in factories to support their men fighting to protect them, but Sassoon views this from a negative approach. When men send home letters of their horrific stories, women "listen with delight, / by tales of dirt and danger fondly thrilled" (lines 5-6). The majority of women had not experienced war at this time, so reading their stories is thrilling to them because of their romanticized notions of war. Sassoon wrote this poem to contradict these flowery depictions to bring attention to the fact that, no matter what women or civilians do to support the men at war, their experiences cannot be healed by "knitting socks to send to [a] son" (line 13). I believe Sassoon entitled this using glory primarily due to the fact that the battles men faced were not glorious, and neither was the support women were sending in return.
In regards to the questions posed on Prezi, the word "mentionable" from line 1 relates to the rest of the poem in that aspects of war are not pleasant subjects to discuss. The "mentionable" items in the poem, the aspects that women/civilians feel more comfortable discussing, are their support for their husbands and brothers. This takes several forms in which they sew socks, make shells, and listen to war stories all in support of their brave men. The women and civilians believe their support should be well received and recognized, but they fail to recognize the hardships that men are already going through who don’t have the energy to extend their grace to receiving this support. The "unmentionable" is the truth of how heinous war experiences are. No woman or civilian can possibly fathom Sassoon's reality because they themselves have not lived his truths.
I think Sassoon discusses the German mother and her son to shed light on how war affects both the heroes and the "enemies" the same, regardless of what side anyone is on. Sassoon probably pities the enemies he has had to kill while on the frontlines because he wouldn't wish that violence on anyone, despite having to fight to protect his country. Placing this at the poem's conclusion shows the humanity that Sassoon finds in the midst of death and in reflections while at home trying to recover. If he were to write about a British mother, that wouldn't reveal his outward revelations about how devastating this war is to not only the soldiers but every soldier's mother, as well.
Isaac Rosenberg, "Break of Day in the Trenches" (156)
Rosenberg discusses humanity found in times of chaos in his poem, "Break of Day in the Trenches." He uses objects like the rat and the poppy to show that humanity still exists in the horrible conditions of the trenches. It is morning, so the fighting has yet to commence. When the narrator wakes for duty, he pulls a poppy flower growing in the dirt, and along comes "a queer sardonic rat" (line 4) in his hand. This rat is sardonic because of its symbolism; with it being a rodent and representing garbage, this neutral rat doesn’t take any sides. Representing peace and civility, the rat has trodden through no man's land, and appears to go back and forth. The narrator shudders at the thought that this rat will most likely touch the enemy's hand. He also describes the rat to "inwardly grin" as he passes strong men fighting. Perhaps the sardonic rat is named so for his knowledge that he will live a life longer than the men he walks over. The narrator also wonders if the rat sees the feat in their eyes, if the rat has any connection to the soldiers' emotions, or their deathly faces on the ground. I find the most striking line to read "poppies whose roots are in man's veins / drop, and are ever dropping" (23-24). The poppies find strength to grow from the same soil where so many fallen soldiers lie and will continue to fall. The poppy the narrator places behind his ear "is safe" from the harm that fills the land between the trenches and is "just a little white with the dust" from the ghostly death that surrounds him.