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From Larger Day to Huger Night


Monika Varma

SPIRIT ABOVE WARS: A STUDY OF THE ENGLISH POETRY OF THE TWO WORLD WARS
By A. Banerjee
Macmillan, New Delhi, 1975, 232, 55.00

VOLUME I NUMBER 2 April - June 1976

Each age has poets and poems circumscribed by environmental pressures and the politics of the emotions of the age. It is not just the manner in which feelings are expressed but these feelings—the very impact of a situation, seems to be different in every age. But a poet or poets survive through their magic with words through and beyond the time factor of an age, a war, or even two wars. The Spirit Above Wars can only mean being outside the clutch of immediacy, the clutch of a personal horror or pain and seeing the whole experience as a human, universal factor. Dr. Banerjee's style is very pleasant and the whole book is in easy-to-read English, which quality is not so common in the academic world that it may go unremarked. It is to any reader interested in English literature that this work will appeal for it deals in a different way with poetry which can be categorized and typed. Dr. Banerjee has done a commendable piece of work in digging up the half-forgotten, and holding up to readers time-blurred facets of the work of innumer­able poets of both the wars. And though opinions may differ whether he should have paid so much attention to so many poets, it is very meticulous work and will be extremely useful for both reference work and in depth study. It is the last paragraph of the second part which flashes a sword down on any preconceptions and unclear thinking of the reader when Dr. Banerjee writes: ‘But it is to 'war poetry' as such that the poets of the First World War made their greatest contribution. They stripped war of all its tinsel and romance and showed for all times to come what it actually was.’ And again when he says: ‘When war came, again in 1939, the modern poet had no illusions about it, thanks to the First World War, so that he was able to see it just as another aspect of the tragedy of life, and devote himself to an explanation of the nature of that tragedy.’ These are very important statements which go into the heart of the subject and distils the matter into clear precise words. It is also good to be reminded of Rosenberg's ‘None saw their spirit's shadows shake the grass’... or the memorable phrase: ‘Their soul's sack Emptied of God-ancestralled essence ... ‘ Wilfred Owen was ...


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