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The Lost Poets

Bertram Andrews

Robert H Beckh

Rupert Brooke

Leslie Coulson

Jeffrey Day

Julian Grenfell

Hedd Wyn

W N Hodgson

Cyril Morton Horne

Tom Kettle

Francis Ledwidge

Ewart Mackintosh

Hamish Mann

Wilfred Owen

Nowell Oxland

Isaac Rosenberg

Alan Seeger

We have been unable to find an image.

Louis B Solomon

Robert Sterling

Will Streets

Charles Sorley

Patrick Shaw-Stewart

Edward Tennant

Edward Thomas

Robert Vernede

Gilbert Waterhouse

Arthur Graeme West

T P Cameron Wilson

The First World War is unique in the enormous amount of poetry written during and about it.

The terms "war poets" and "war poetry" are associated almost exclusively with WW1

We have identified over 80 published war poets. Almost all of these were serving men

In addition countless thousands of ordinary 'rank and file' soldiers and sailors whose work has never been published wrote poetry to their wives, sweethearts, mothers and families

These 28 published poets* died during the war. Some of them, like Hedd Wyn, Edward Thomas and Francis Ledwidge would have gone on to literary greatness had they lived. Some, like Wilfred Owen and Rupert Brooke, achieved it in death.

*see 'Links' footnote

These are the 'Lost Poets'

What explains this incredible outpouring of poetry in just 4 bitter years?

Possibly, the early C20th saw an unprecedented number of talented poets who sadly happened to coincide with the Great War.

What is more likely is that it was the nature of war that stimulated so many to write and with such eloquence.

The thousands of ordinary men who wrote from the misery and horror of the trenches is testament both to the indomitable strength of the human spirit . That they chose poetry as the means to express their hopes and feelings is evidence of the redemptive power of poetry summed up half a century later by President J F Kennedy --

The thousands of ordinary men who wrote from the misery and horror of the trenches is testament both to the indomitable strength of the human spirit . That they chose poetry as the means to express their hopes and feelings is evidence of the redemptive power of poetry summed up half a century later by President J F Kennedy --

"When power leads man to arrogance, poetry reminds him of his limitations. When power narrows the areas of man’s concern, poetry reminds him of the richness and diversity of this existence. When power corrupts, poetry cleanses. For art establishes the basic human truth which must serve as the touchstone of our judgment.”

John F Kennedy

What is the nature of 'war poetry'?

It is easy to take the lazy view that the war poets were either jingoistic or anti-war. We need to remember that the prevailing myth at home at the time was of stirring japes fighting the Bosche; a fantasy that imaged the war was if it were a giant cricket match with guns. The truth was screened from mass perception especially as the death toll rose. None of the war poets, both those who died and those who survived, took an anti war stance but they were opposed to this fantasy. Their purpose was to honour the sacrifice not by over sentimentalising it but by facing its enormity and horror. “My subject is war and the pity of war,” wrote Wilfred Owen “The poetry is in the pity”. Occasionally there is anger as well, that righteous indignation that screams from much of Sassoon's poetry and led this decorated war hero to challenge the incompetence of the military high command.

A few of them, like Brooke, took a patriotic pro-war approach or wrote to polish over the dreadful realities of the trenches, Somme, Gallipoli, Verdun, Paaschendaele and Jutland. They are the first eleven listed here.

Some started out with an idealised view but changed confronted with the truth their poetry becoming more realistic and often dark and bitter - the next six listed.

The last nine embody what has become synonymous with the war poets. A recognition of the scale, tragedy and futility of the dying even though served with pride and fought for righteous reasons.

Of the hundreds of published war poems, none is better known than the “Ode To Remembrance” though almost no one knows who wrote it!

"They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning

We will remember them."

It was written by a man who had not fought while on holiday on the coast of Cornwall a few weeks after the war began following the first major casualties but long before the true carnage. It is not an ode but the fourth verse of a poem entitled “For The Fallen”. It was chosen by the Royal British Legion for Remembrance services and given a new title. Its author, Lawrence Binyon was too old to enlist though he did serve later in a non combat role. He died aged 74 in 1943.

There follows biographies and poems by the poets who gave their lives in the great War, plus links to other sites. They are arranged in the categories listed above and by poetic impact.


1. Patriotic and romanticised

Rupert Brooke

1887 - 1915

Educated at Rugby School and King’s College, Cambridge; Brooke was typical of a new wave of literary talent which emerged at the beginning of the twentieth century – talented, progressive and inspiring -- he was a poet, scholar, dramatist, literary critic, travel writer and political activist. His friends included leading figures of his generation including W B Yeats, Churchill and Virginia Woolf with whom he went 'skinny-dipping' in a moonlit pool while at Cambridge. He was, for a while, part of the legendary "Bloomsbury Group" until the end of a Statue of Brooke in Rugby                 long term relationship with Katherine ('Ka') Cox led to paranoia and breakdown. Possessing Byronic good looks, W B Yeats described him as the “handsomest man in England”. Brooke was bi-sexual, uncertain of and probably uncomfortable with his

sexuality. When war was declared, he was drawn to it with the same fervour that led thousands of young men and boys to sign up for the “great adventure” as if it were all a merry party. He wrote home that ‘It’s all great fun’, of his disgust with the objections raised and of the country’s need for a “blood letting”.

Brooke joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve in 1914 but never 

fought. He served several months in the naval base in Portsmouth and went from there to the Front in France but to observe not fight. In 1915 he set sail for Gallipoli. With almost poetic irony he died on St. George's Day 1915 at the age of 27 before he reached the slaughter at the Dardanelles from an infected mosquito bite on a French hospital ship off the Greek island of Skyros.


His friend, the composer William Denis Browne, wrote of his death -

"I sat with Rupert. At 4 o’clock he became weaker, and at 4.46 he died, with the sun shining all round his cabin, and the cool sea-breeze blowing through the door and the shaded windows. No one could have wished for a quieter or a calmer end than in that lovely bay, shielded by the mountains and fragrant with sage and thyme."


He was buried in an olive grove on Skyros chosen by Browne and Patrick Shaw-Stewart another poet listed here who would die in 1917.


In 1985, Brooke was among 16 First World War poets commemorated on a slate monument in Poet's Corner in Westminster Abbey. When a permanent memorial was erected the wooden cross marking his grave was re-sited to the family plot in Rugby and later given to Rugby school. The first stanza of his poem 'The Dead' is inscribed on the Royal Naval Division Memorial in London 

Brooke was already a published poet by the time he enlisted but became widely known with the publication of his collection of five sonnets, "1914 & Other Poems" shortly before his death. The last of these, "The Soldier" (Also known as "The Soldier 1914") is his most famous poem and one of the best known of WW1. It was quoted by the Times Literary Supplement and read from the pulpit of St Paul's Cathedral on Easter Sunday.

It is suitably patriotic and sentimental for the time and situation. It has none of the anger or sadness that came from other poets as the war progressed. it is impossible to know what sort of poetry Brooke would have written had he lived to see the horrors of Gallipoli! 

The Soldier

IF I should die, think only this of me:

That there's some corner of a

                             foreign field

That is forever England. There shall be

In that rich earth a richer dust


A dust whom England bore, shaped, made


Gave, once, her flowers to love, her

                          ways to roam,

A body of England's, breathing English air,

Washed by the rivers, blest by the

                           suns of home.


And think, this heart, all evil shed away,

A pulse in the eternal mind, no less

Gives somewhere back the

                thoughts by England given;

Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as

                                 her day;

And laughter, learnt of friends; and


In hearts at peace, under an English                                        heaven.


The Rupert Brooke Society

"Into Battle" is Grenfell's best known poem. It equalled Brooke's "The Soldier" in popularity during the early part of the war.

Into Battle

The naked earth is warm with Spring,

And with green grass and bursting trees

Leans to the sun's gaze glorying,

And quivers in the sunny breeze;

And life is Colour and Warmth and Light,

And a striving evermore for these;

And he is dead who will not fight,

And who dies fighting has increase.

The fighting man shall from the sun

Take warmth, and life from glowing earth;

Speed with the light-foot winds to run

And with the trees to newer birth;

And find, when fighting shall be done,

Great rest, and fulness after dearth.

All the bright company of Heaven

Hold him in their bright comradeship,

The Dog star, and the Sisters Seven,

Orion's belt and sworded hip:

The woodland trees that stand together,

They stand to him each one a friend;

They gently speak in the windy weather;

They guide to valley and ridges end.

The kestrel hovering by day,

And the little owls that call by night,

Bid him be swift and keen as they,

As keen of ear, as swift of sight.

The blackbird sings to him: "Brother, brother,

If this be the last song you shall sing,

Sing well, for you may not sing another;

Brother, sing."

In dreary doubtful waiting hours,

Before the brazen frenzy starts,

The horses show him nobler powers; —

O patient eyes, courageous hearts!

And when the burning moment breaks,

And all things else are out of mind,

And only joy of battle takes

Him by the throat and makes him blind,

Through joy and blindness he shall know,

Not caring much to know, that still

Nor lead nor steel shall reach him, so

That it be not the Destined Will.

The thundering line of battle stands,

And in the air Death moans and sings;

But Day shall clasp him with strong hands,

And Night shall fold him in soft wings.

Julian Henry Francis Grenfell DSO

1888 – 1915

Julian Grenfell was typical of the Victorian officer class from background to stiff upper lip. Born in St James's Square, London, educated at Eton (where he was good friends with fellow officer-poet Patrick Shaw-Stewart also listed here). and at Balliol College Oxford where he bullied Phillip Sassoon (brother of Siegfried).

He joined the army in 1910 and was awarded a Distinguished Service Order in 1914 for bringing vital reconnaissance information from behind enemy lines.

Grenfell’s attitude to war was a world away from the likes of Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon. It is best understood from a letter in 1914 -

I adore war. ... It is like a big picnic ….. I have never been more well or more happy. ... It just suits my stolid health and stolid nerves and barbaric disposition. The fighting-excitement vitalizes everything, every sight and action. One loves one's fellow man so much more when one is bent on killing him."

It should be remembered that unlike most war poets who enlisted when war was declared Grenfell was a professional soldier. That and his background explain his very different attitude to war.

On 13 May 1915 a shell landed a few yards away and shrapnel from it hit him in the head. He died of his wounds 13 days later with his mother, father and sister at his bedside. He was 27 years old and was buried at the Boulogne Eastern Cemetery. The Times published his most famous poem “Into Battle” the day after his death. Two months later his bother Billy was also killed in action less than a mile away from where Julian had been wounded.

Julian Grenfell is one of the 16 Great War poets commemorated in Poets Corner Westminster Abbey.

Two School friends - W N Hodgson & Nowell Oxland

W.N. Hodgson


William Noel Hodgson was educated at Durham School (where he was friends with Nowell Oxland also listed here) and Christ Church College, Oxford. He volunteered for the British army on the outbreak of the First World War and served in the 9th Battalion of the Devonshire Regiment, landing at Le Havre in July 1915. He was awarded the Military Cross after the Battle of Loos and later promoted to Lieutenant.

He was killed on the 1st of July 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme. His posthumous volume "Verse and Prose in Peace and War" was published in 1916, but he is probably best remembered today for his poem ‘Before Action’ which is believed to have been written two days before he died.

Into Action 

By all the glories of the day

And the cool evening’s benison

By that last sunset touch that lay

Upon the hills when day was done,

By beauty lavishly outpoured

And blessings carelessly received,

By all the days that I have lived

Make me a soldier, Lord.

By all of all man’s hopes and fears

And all the wonders poets sing,