Two war poets were born on this day. Joyce Kilmer, born 1886, was a well known poet before he shipped for France. He died in July 1918 at the 2nd battle of the Marne. Best known for his poem “Trees” he has been widely quoted and as widely ridiculed. His “War Poems” are paeans of sacrifice where he celebrates death and compares troopers to Christ on the Cross. Well known but no longer well respected. If you want to read his poetry you will not find it on this site.
Osbert Sitwell was born in 1892 and joined the war in 1914. He began his poetry career in the trenches and his poems are anything but a celebration of that hell. He went on to become a well known and highly respected writer. Well connected in English society and inheriting a baronetcy himself, he moved in illustrious circles in his lifetime.
Today Kilmer is famous, a household name, although often parodied and mocked. Sitwell, who has heard of him? His name has faded. A solid but unremarkable poet.
Fame is a fickle mistress.
This Generation: by Sir Osbert Sitwell
Their youth was fevered – passionate, quick to drain
the last few pleasures from the cup of life
before they turned to suck the dregs of pain
and end their young-old lives in mortal strife.
They paid the debts of many a hundred year
of foolishness and riches in alloy.
They went to the death; nor did they shed a tear
for all they sacrificed of love and joy.
Their tears ran dry when they were in the womb,
for, entering life – they found it was their tomb.