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Module 01 Content


Top of Form

Write a 2-page elements of fiction essay on one of the short stories, or the poem, from the assigned readings for Module 01. Explain the following in your paper:

· Key historical events which influenced the piece: Expand on how the key historical events influenced the plot and theme.

· Setting: Why is the setting important to the story? (The setting is where the story takes place).

· Theme: What is the major theme or idea of the story? Here are some examples of themes you might find in literature: loss of innocence, love, loss, grief, man vs. nature, man vs. technology, death, old-age, coming of age, alienation, overcoming the odds, a hero’s quest, etc.

Note: The theme of a work of fiction is different from the plot—the plot tells you the sequence of events or what happened. The theme tells you the main lesson or message of the narrative. It is the main point that the author wants you to understand from reading the short story, poem, or novel.

· Also, select one of the terms to include in your story analysis from Literary Terms in this module (Allegory, Ambiguity, Antagonist, Archetype, Diction, Flashback, Foreshadowing, Protagonist, and Regionalism). Explain how this was used in the story, with examples and lines illustrating your claims. Use in-text citations where needed.

Your paper must be written in APA format. Use the APA template from your Course Guide to complete this assignment. You should have an APA cover page; 2 full pages of essay text with in-text citations, quotes, and lines from the readings; and a References page. No additional resources other than the assigned readings are required; however, you may want to include additional resources from the Rasmussen library. All papers are to be written in Times New Roman 12 pt. font and be double-spaced.

Rasmussen’s Library and Learning Services team has developed a LIT3382 Modern World Literature Course Guide with links to resources to help support students’ academic endeavors. To help you in writing a literary analysis, you will find a link to the Literary Analysis Guide in the Module 01 tab of the Course Guide. The Writing Guide and APA Guide may also assist you with the writing requirements. You can access the course guide in your Module 01 course tab.

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There’s night and day, brother, both sweet things; sun, moon, and stars,

brother, all sweet things; there’s likewise a wind on the heath. Life is

very sweet, brother; who would wish to die?

George Borrow, Lavengro, Chapter xxv1

Though here there are some patients very seriously ill, the fear and

horror of madness that I used to have has already lessened a great deal.

And though here you continually hear terrible cries and howls like beasts

in a menagerie, in spite of that people get to know each other very well

and help each other when their attacks come on.

Vincent Van Gogh, May 2

On the morning of Monday 25 June, Wilfred Owen left Netley and took the train to London. Arriving after lunchtime, he had an afternoon as a gentleman of leisure, shopping and gallery- going,

spending his officer’s pay. Even at Dunsden, he had rarely had the time

or the money to pop up to Town for an afternoon of self- indulgence.

Nonetheless, his description of his afternoon in London shows that,

had he so wished, he could have written the kind of very English social

comedy, revolving around class, clothes, cream teas, chatter and curates,

that would be mastered by his fellow Oswestrian, the novelist Barbara

Pym (born in Oswestry in 1913, she was, like Owen, the grandchild of

c h a p t e r  

Brock’s Folk

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C o p y r i g h t 2 0 1 4 . Y a l e U n i v e r s i t y P r e s s .

A l l r i g h t s r e s e r v e d . M a y n o t b e r e p r o d u c e d i n a n y f o r m w i t h o u t p e r m i s s i o n f r o m t h e p u b l i s h e r , e x c e p t f a i r u s e s p e r m i t t e d u n d e r U . S . o r a p p l i c a b l e c o p y r i g h t l a w .

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180 W I L F R E D OW E N

a successful Oswestry ironmonger, which must be the perfect

background for a study of the class system):

I had tea at the Shamrock Tea Rooms, perhaps the most eminently

respectable exclusive and secluded in Town. There was the usual

deaf old lady and her Companion holding forth upon the new

curate. I happen to know that a few stories higher in the same

building is an Opium Den. I have not investigated. But I know.

That’s London. I met few faces I knew. But Strolling down New

Bond Street, I ran into the last person on earth or under the earth

that I wished to meet: Major, now Colonel, Dempster, of the 2nd

Battalion. We stopped, of course, and he pretended to be very

affable and cordial. Yet I know a more thorough- bred Snob does

not exist – even in the imagination of Thackeray.3

Lieutenant- Colonel J. F. Dempster, who had taken charge of the 2nd

Manchesters, might have been a horrid old snob, but, like the proper

English gent, quite the Burlington Bertie, Owen happily had time to

amble down to the shops of the West End, all a long way from

Shrewsbury and Birkenhead. He had himself measured for new trou-

sers at Pope and Bradley’s (specialists in dress clothes) and bought a

new hat at Peter Robinson’s (Experts in the World of Fashion). He

seems to have rather enjoyed his uniform, both as a symbol of his new

gentlemanly status and simply as clothes to buy and try on and have

cleaned and ironed and look handsome in. Perhaps this was a family

matter, since his paternal grandfather was a tailor, although not the

Mayfair kind: buying clothes was a form of self- improvement, and we

can see the pleasure taken in them by a young man who had a shoe-

maker great- grandfather and a tailor grandfather. His life could be told

as a wardrobe of clothes – the sailor suit, the home- made Hussar’s

uniform, a straw hat (subject of a dream he found most distressing in

1909),4 the rather Freudian slippers of 1912, the Norfolk jacket, the

de rigueur evening suit at Dunsden, the teacher’s gown, the bow tie,

French fashions (‘Monsieur Dubo through the intervention of some

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B R O C K ’ S F O L K 181

friend, can get stuffs at Tailor’s Prices from Paris, and in fact a fine

selection of Spring- Summer Patterns is in my room at present’),5 the

cadet’s uniform, the officer’s uniform, and all the life- and- death fussing

about socks and gloves and coats in the freezing trenches. His wartime

letters are like a wardrobe of clothes, as are his poems – ‘his ghastly

suit of grey, / Legless, sewn short at elbow’; ‘hardness of indifference,

like a glove’; ‘Glory I cast away, as bridegrooms do / Their splendid


Wearing the new hat and a new collar, he boarded the sleeper train

to Edinburgh, taking a corner seat. His mother’s maiden name, Shaw,

can be a Scottish name – the Irish playwright Bernard Shaw, whom

Owen took an interest in, was descended from Highland Shaws – and

in the Lowlands ‘shaw’ means ‘a small wood’; nonetheless, any

Scottishness was a long way back and Owen was a foreigner to

Scotland, a country he had known only at its border. In the train, he

read some Israel Zangwill, an author who appealed to Owen’s belief

that ‘the Jews are a delightful people, at home’;7 although it might have

been another beloved people he was reading about, because if Zangwill

mostly wrote about Jewish life, he also wrote Italian Fantasies (1910),

which, by tackling Dante, Byron, Venice, and so on, would have

attracted Italy- loving Owen. When he arrived in Edinburgh, he found

that Craiglockhart War Hospital was a taste of Italy too, an ashlar

Italianate Victorian pseudo- palazzo that had been a hydro, a health

farm before the war, offering health- improving water treatments amid

the hilly Midlothian landscape (Craiglockhart was at the green edge of

Edinburgh). Its 160 officers were all suffering in different degrees from

shell shock.

The area had its literary connections. The Hydro had been adver-

tised with a quotation from Marmion describing the view from the hills

around it. But the strongest literary association was with Robert Louis

Stevenson, and, although Stevenson had died in 1894, Owen was

thrilled to be in the country of RLS. Stevenson, an Edinburgh man,

holidayed in the countryside near Craiglockhart: at Colinton, where

Stevenson’s grandfather lived and every sight and sound had conspired

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182 W I L F R E D OW E N

‘to feed a romantic imagination’,8 Owen met one of Stevenson’s child-

hood friends; and he also got to know Lord Guthrie who lived nearby

in Stevenson’s holiday home, Swanston Cottage, on the lower slopes of

the Pentland Hills. While at Craiglockhart, Owen read St. Ives,

Stevenson’s war novel, where Swanston Cottage is described as ‘a little

quaint place of many rough- cast gables and grey roofs’ and a bit like ‘a

rambling infinitesimal cathedral’.9 The poet Ivor Gurney, who arrived

at another Edinburgh war hospital on 23 September 1917, was excited

by the Stevenson associations too: ‘ There are many memories round

this city, but the dearest to me are those of R. L. S., that friend of

Everyman.’10 Stevenson was not only a friend of Everyman but an

example, like Keats, of the connection between ill health and literary

creativity – Keats and Stevenson conjured up realms of gold, not

despite sickness but somehow because of it, in response to it, out of it.

It was not until later in the year that Owen read The Strange Case

of Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde but that novel, although set in London,

would have been an appropriate novel in Craiglockhart, which

seemed like a scholarly and gentlemanly place by day but at night was

filled with monstrous screams as, in nightmares, the men were sent

back to the Front. In ‘Mental Cases’, Owen would describe men

driven mad by murderous memories: ‘Memory fingers in their hair of

murders, / Multitudinous murders they once witnessed’. Memories

plagued those men who had experienced the war, especially at night

when a man was at his most defenceless. But at first, in a Scottish

summer of long days and little night, the light kept Owen awake at

night, perhaps mercifully. On 1 July Owen described how he had

noticed that it never grew quite dark all night, with daylight glim-

mering through his window at two in the morning. Unable to sleep, he

read W. J. Locke, possibly The Morals of Marcus Ordeyne (better than

Thomas Hardy, according to Owen), a breezy romantic novel about a

wealthy historian and an uneducated eighteen- year- old girl who has

escaped from a harem: ‘I have never experienced such an odd sensation

in my life as a touch of Carlotta’s fresh young arms upon my face and

the perfume of spring violets that emanated from her person. [. . .] She

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B R O C K ’ S F O L K 183

has a child’s engaging way of rubbing herself up against one when she

wants to be particularly ingratiating.’11 It is also a war novel in so far as

one of the characters dies in the Boer War: ‘ “Dulce et decorum est. He

died for his country,” said I.’12

‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ (drafted at Craiglockhart in October) is the

best- known description of Owen’s dreams, where the speaker describes

how a man was caught in a gas attack, and how ‘In all my dreams,

before my helpless sight, / He plunges at me, guttering, choking,

drowning’: ‘some smothering dreams’ would stop the addressee from

telling the ‘old Lie’. All the ‘ing’ words, 15 in 28 lines, serve to empha-

sise that the trenches are still very much in the present, returning unin-

vited and unwelcomed at night. At Craiglockhart, Owen had horrible

dreams, often memories of the Front, but also those of a more civilian

character, featuring shocking incidents like motor accidents. Owen was

keen to point out that he had not ‘had a “breakdown”’ – ‘I am simply

avoiding one’13 – and he had had nightmares before joining the forces,

but breakdowns and madness haunted the hospital.

The significance of the hospital’s location next to a mental hospital

was not lost on the officers of Craiglockhart, nor on the locals who saw

that the officers had to wear blue armbands at all times and concluded

that the armbands indicated insanity. There was also a rumour that the

men were victims of venereal disease. Many people disagreed with the

idea of sending these shirkers on holiday rather than punishing them,

but the officers were treated well, on the whole, by those inside and

outside the hospital. It was indeed something of a holiday camp, and

Owen called it a holiday in a letter to his father (a remark intended to

annoy the old man perhaps) even if the weather was mostly terrible.

Lieutenant J. H. Butlin, one of the patients who was there when Owen

arrived, shows us the leisurely daily life:

It is a magnificent hydro standing in palatial grounds fitted with all

the comforts that man’s ingenuity can contrive. Swimming, baths,

billiards, gardening, bowls, tennis, fret- work etc are some of the

hobbies one is expected to take up. Personally I am thinking of

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184 W I L F R E D OW E N

writing a book: provided one is in by six o’clock and conforms to

a few simple rules life is a complete and glorious loaf. [. . .] Can

you imagine me, my dear Basil, getting up and taking a swim

before breakfast? Doing a little gardening and poultry farming after

breakfast? Fretwork and photography after lunch? Viewing natural

scenery after tea? Reading and writing after dinner and then to


Butlin played bridge every day, and, weather permitting, tennis; there

was also golf. It was something of a Butlin’s holiday camp. For the day

Owen arrived, Butlin’s diary simply says ‘Fine. Tennis in morning. Tea

in Edinburgh. Slight rain after tea.’15

Owen was fortunate to be put in the care of a doctor whose interests

and methods chimed so well with his own. A Scotsman born in 1879,

the son of a poet and a farmer, Arthur Brock was a scholar interested

in legends, history and folklore – ‘Somewhat of a crank’ – and he was a

man of the great outdoors, which even his appearance seemed to

suggest: he was ‘Very tall, thin, hunched up shoulders, big blue hands,

very chilly looking, with a long peaked nose’, and his high- pitched

squeaky voice was ‘suggestive of Arctic regions’.16 One who knew him

recorded the doctor’s attitude to the patients at Craiglockhart:

Full of energy. Pushed his patients out of bed in the dark cold

mornings and marched them out for a walk before breakfast.

Rumour has it that they bolted themselves into lavatories and bath-

rooms, but he was wise to that. One officer boasted that if he lay flat

under his bed, so that the untidy bed clothes hid him, as if he were

an early riser, he escaped.17

Brock believed in ‘ergotherapy’, ‘the cure by functioning’ – a belief that

men could return to normal through working,18 although the work was

usually a form of leisure, with the soldiers making full use of the

Hydro’s facilities. He sought the true employment of leisure – he didn’t

want anyone simply ‘killing time’ – believing that shell- shock patients

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B R O C K ’ S F O L K 185

were no longer part of normal life and needed to be reconnected with

it. This could mean visiting Edinburgh’s urban poor or teaching in a

local school or joining the Camera Club, but essentially Brock’s treat-

ments were a form of primitivism or neo- paganism: he felt that modern

life generally is damaging – the war was just an intensified version of

the life that was already causing mental ill- health in the years before

1914. Underlying his work there was a belief in traditional ways of life

(‘Primitive peoples know better’),19 and a preference for the countryside

rather than the city: ‘Are not these horrors of war the last and culmi-

nating terms in a series that begins in the infernos of our industrialized

cities?’20 He held that ‘Our civilization has become a purely urban one;

the city has forgotten the countryside from which it sprang’.21 The city

disconnects men from normal life, as do modern inventions like the

cinema, a feeling shared by another Craiglockhart doctor, W. H. R.

Rivers, an anthropologist drawn to ‘primitive’ cultures, who considered

it much better for soldiers to play golf ‘than to be perpetually immured

in a picture house, or to parade Princes Street for the gratification of

their own vanity’.22 Brock’s bracing morning walks were a way both of

taking exercise and of getting back to the land; as he said, ‘let us give

Nature a chance’.23 Even the names Brock and Rivers were suitably

rural. The featureless, blasted Western Front, dominated by the

machine gun, artillery and barbed wire, was the visual representation of

the death of the countryside. Men were encouraged to work on local

farms or grow vegetables in the Hydro grounds; there was a chicken- run

under the trees; even ‘imaginative work’ should be ‘an organic outgrowth

from life’.24 This was a nature cure, a Romantic belief in the country-

side, an attitude found in the literary world (Wordsworthian, Ruskinian)

transformed into psychiatry; it was akin to the ‘Back to the Land’

movements and circles of Owen’s time, all in their way blaming the

modern world for unhappiness and ill health.

Activities at Craiglockhart were expected to be practical and useful,

as if in some primitive community – in July, Owen reported that he

spent a morning beating out a plate of copper into a bowl. Owen was

also keenly involved in the Field Club. In July, he contributed a report

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186 W I L F R E D OW E N

on the creation of the Field Club to The Hydra, the Craiglockhart


The following office- bearers were elected: – President, Capt. Brock;

secretary, Mr. Chase. Recruits are wanted. Don’t wait to be pushed.

‘ The wind’s on the heath.’ [. . .] ‘Our broodings over the face of the

earth, and the firmament, and the waters under the earth, will be

quite primitive – without form, but, we hope, not void.’25

‘ The wind’s on the heath’ was an allusion to a famous passage cele-

brating the simple life in Lavengro, the book by George Borrow that

Owen had read a few years previously, the story of an educated man

who gets back to the primitive way of things by joining the gypsies. The

passage in Borrow’s book declares, ‘Life is very sweet, brother; who

would wish to die?’, which could be taken as a response to Horace’s

‘Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori’. Borrow was another of the

literary associations of the place, having lived in Edinburgh Castle

because his father was in the army, and his time in Edinburgh is

described in Lavengro with a characteristic eye for the natural world: ‘It

was a beautiful Sunday evening, the rays of the descending sun were

reflected redly from the grey walls of the castle, and from the black

rocks on which it was founded.’26 Indeed, Brock encouraged the officers

to learn about the history, geography and culture of the local area, and

again there was in this a belief in local communities, working with the

land, tradition and folk culture. In a sense, he wanted to make the men

a little Scottish. This worked with Owen, in that when he wrote his

well- known poem ‘Disabled’ about a Scottish soldier disabled by the

war, he not only showed his sense of connection with Edinburgh –

Owen may even have seen the physically damaged soldier as a version

of his psychologically damaged self – but he adopted a mildly Scottish

voice, as if writing in a refined Craiglockhartian accent: ‘Aye, that was

it, to please the giddy jilts / He asked to join’. ‘Disabled’ is, equally, a

poem worthy of Scottish Presbyterianism, in that lying, drinking,

vanity, games and womanising are all punished: if the soldier hadn’t

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B R O C K ’ S F O L K 187

been a sinner he wouldn’t have been punished with disability. The

poem is suggested by a letter in which Owen claims, in a rather Keatsian

moment, that ‘I am whatever and whoever I see while going down to

Edinburgh on the tram: greengrocer, policeman, shopping lady, errand

boy, paper- boy, blind man, crippled Tommy, bank- clerk, carter, all of

these in half an hour’.27 Keats argued that the poet has no identity, and

is continually informing and filling some other body. Yeats, too, held

that a poet must assume the mask of some other self. Owen becomes

Edinburgh, and while, elsewhere in his writing, the window can be a

barrier, here it helps to make him part of Edinburgh, and the people he

sees are Scottish.

From an early stage in his career, Brock had been interested in

national identity and belonging, themes that were emphasised by

studying in Vienna and Berlin: ‘ To what extent should one become a

German when one goes to Germany?’28 The emphasis was on ‘home’,

a word that had acquired extra significance during the war. The war,

like modern life, took men away from home, which meant not just a

house but an organic community, the individual’s natural and proper

environment. Brock was interested in Scotland’s Brownies, benevolent

creatures from folklore who haunted houses and did the housework,

and he was interested too in similar genii and house spirits in other

countries. The belief in community stretched to believing in the tradi-

tional family. In his book Health and Conduct, Brock discusses the

gradual break- up of real home life before the war and the growing

disharmony between mother and child, emphasising the need to regain

harmony and end this modern dissociation between the child and its

parents. Equally, modern life damaged men by not allowing them to

become adults. He saw the ordinary progress of the individual’s

life appeared to halt, and that he ceased to grow up or even fell back

into childhood,29 and believed this childishness of his patients was

caused partly by pre- war life, and partly by the war. The screaming

patients at night in Craiglockhart were men infantilised, crying for

their mothers or for the nurse as mother- substitute, afraid of the dark,

even wetting the bed.

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188 W I L F R E D OW E N

Although Brock complained about regression – the modern man’s

feeling that he is safer when tied to his mother’s apron- strings, the

desire to seek refuge in the past – his own beliefs too were essentially

regressive, turning to a traditional way of life and a close connection

with the land, which had, of course, been his own upbringing as a farm

boy, and he was trying to send the men back to his own Scottish child-

hood. Indeed, Craiglockhart could be seen as the return to childhood

on a grand scale – not just because of the shell shock but also because

of the treatments. Even model boats were made in a workshop for

sailing competitions on Craiglockhart Pond, where a Model Yacht

Regatta took Owen back to his childhood and he thought how his

father would have liked to compete. No doubt it evoked memories of

the Jardin Public too, where in the garden of boyhood he happily

rescued the boats of the little boys around the pond. At Craiglockhart

in August, the schooner Mystery was a popular winner in front of

enthusiastic supporters. In this garden of boyhood, ‘this abode of

bliss’,30 R. L. S, the schoolboy’s favourite, was the presiding genius.

There was also a ban on sex. J. H. Butlin landed himself in trouble

when he brought his girlfriend back to the hospital one evening: the

commanding officer, finding them on a quiet bench, accused him of

breaking the rules. ‘I learned afterwards that a few minutes before he

found me, he came upon an officer who had brought up some harlot

from Edinboro and was in the act of copulation with her.’31 The next

day, he went to the officer’s room like a naughty boy called to the head-

master’s study. Certainly, there was a boarding- school atmosphere (as

with thirteen- year- old boys, the emphasis on exercise was an attempt

to manage sexual energy as well as shell shock).

It was also an atmosphere filled with legends and fairy tales. Brock

was a classicist who frequently turned to myths and legends for guid-

ance and exempla, and he also took a deep interest in Celtic or

Scandinavian fairy tales and folklore. This too was an aspect of the

regime that appealed to Owen. Given that one of Brock’s obsessions

was the ‘Genius Loci – the soul of the place’32 as embodied by the

Brownie, the Kobold, the Kelpie, and similar guardian spirits, we can

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B R O C K ’ S F O L K 189

see Brock’s influence in Owen’s use of the spirits of places in three

poems over the next six months: ‘Who is the god of Canongate?’

(‘Where is thy shrine, then, little god?’), Princes Street’s ‘Pale rain- flawed

phantom of the place’ and ‘the ghost of Shadwell Stair’ (‘I am the

shadow [. . .] I watch always’).33 Owen had long been interested in

sprites and fairies, as he had shown in ‘A New Heaven’, and he had

once turned two of Hans Christian Andersen’s tales into poetry.

Indeed, in one of Owen’s most Craiglockhartian poems, ‘Disabled’,

there is an echo of one of Andersen’s tales ‘ The Little Mermaid’, as if

Brock’s fairy tales haunted Edinburgh; RLS, too, had seen Edinburgh

as a ‘lamplit, vicious fairy land’. The disabled soldier (something of a

spirit of the place) remembers the park ‘When glow- lamps budded in

the light blue trees’ and in the mermaid’s garden beneath the sea, which

is itself like a municipal park with carpet- bedding, there are ‘fiery red

and deep blue trees, the fruit of which shone like gold [. . .] Everything

was bathed in a wondrous blue light down there; you might more

readily have supposed yourself to be high up in the air, with only the

sky above and below you, than that you were at the bottom of the

ocean.’34 The mermaid’s world beneath the sea before she goes to the

surface corresponds to the soldier’s Edinburgh before he went to war;

the loss of his legs becomes a grim reversal of her equally tragic loss of

her tail in return for legs. Both ‘Disabled’ and Owen’s earlier poem

‘ The Little Mermaid’ are poems about growing up and yet, in the act

of growing, remaining infantilised for ever, never to know married life:

Tonight he noticed how the women’s eyes

Passed from him to the strong men that were whole.

How cold and late it is! Why don’t they come

And put him into bed? Why don’t they come?

The park is a place for children.35

Similarly, Owen wrote, at Brock’s urging, the poem ‘ The Wrestlers’

about Heracles (Hercules) and Antaeas (Antaeus), where the emphasis

on youth is seen in Hylas, Heracles’s young page who doesn’t

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190 W I L F R E D OW E N

necessarily even feature in the story but becomes the hero in Owen’s

version of the ancient tale, because, although a figure of peace and love,

it is he who tells Heracles how to defeat Antaeas: ‘Antaeus deriving

strength from his Mother Earth nearly licked old Herk’,36 but Heracles

realised that he could defeat Antaeus by lifting him off the ground:

If thou could’st lift the man in air – enough.

His feet suck secret virtue of the earth.

Lift him, and buckle him to thy breast, and win.

Brock wrote, in an article for The Hydra entitled ‘Antaeus, or Back to

the Land’: ‘Now surely every officer who comes to Craiglockhart recog-

nises that, in a way, he is himself Antaeus who has been taken from his

Mother Earth and well- nigh crushed to death by the war giant or mili-

tary machine.’ Brock argued that Antaeus ‘typifies the occupation cure

at Craiglockhart’ and his story is ‘the justification of our activities’.37

Owen got to know, through a friend of a friend, the Edinburgh artist

John Duncan, an associate member of the Royal Scottish Academy who

lived in Edinburgh at St Bernard’s Crescent and who like Brock, had

been a friend and follower of Patrick Geddes, the Scottish academic and

social reformer. Owen owned St Columba: A Study of Social Inheritance

and Spiritual Development by Victor Branford, published by ‘Patrick

Geddes and Colleagues’, and the frontispiece is ‘St Columba on the Hill

of Angels from a drawing by Mr John Duncan, A.R.S.A.’ Duncan

specialised in legends and fairy tales, especially Celtic subjects such as

The Awakening of Cuchulain, The Riders of the Sidhe, St Bride, Tristan

and Isolde and The Children of Lir. Children were a recurring element of

his work: Duncan had married in 1912, aged forty- five, and had two

daughters, Bunty, born in 1913, and Vivian, born in 1915. Duncan

himself said, ‘I have a great opportunity of grace in my dear and talented

children for which I can never be too grateful’:

They point the way for me to a truer and better art than any I have

ever known or so it seems to me. So far they have no false standards

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B R O C K ’ S F O L K 191

of taste and feeling, but respect and react spontaneously to the love-

liest things. We in our long artistic education have accepted many a

false standard, at first often with modesty and self distrust we have

allowed a hypocrisy and bit by bit we have perverted ourselves. To

regain the spontaneity and simplicity to become little children is to

enter into the Kingdom of Art.’38

Characteristically, it was a child that Owen was drawn to when he

visited Duncan, and we can also see that Owen was thinking about

beauty, realism and the role of art:

The best visit I made was to John Duncan: a pretty great artist [. . .]

He is ‘one of the ones’ in the Academy; but didn’t sell his picture

this year. It is a thing of many beauties. I have been made very sad

by the extreme beauty of the eyelids of one of his Faces. But he used

no model for her. It is a sad thought that Nature can’t grow a face

as old Duncan can. [. . .] I got so comfortable at Duncan’s.39

The painting is called The Coming of Bride. The painting portrays the

ancient Scottish folk- tale about the arrival of spring. On 15 March

1917 Duncan recorded in his notebook that this painting should repre-

sent ‘freshness and spontaneity and life and joy’.40 Then, on 20 March

he noted that ‘the colour if it does not sing, at least chirps [. . .] I might

at last succeed in making the colour sing’.41 Originally, in the winter

and spring of 1917, the picture was called ‘Spring Song’ and Duncan

may still have referred to it by this name when he showed it to Owen,

who had himself been one of the March- born. Owen wrote a poem

called ‘Winter Song’ at Craiglockhart in October.

Not only did Duncan paint pictures of Scottish folklore, tales and

legends, he also lived the life of the ‘Celtic Twilight’, believing in fairies

and magic. Duncan was a member of the Edinburgh Theosophical

Society, saw visions and heard fairy music. He lived apart, dwelling in

his own mind. He believed in reincarnation too. The film- maker

Donald Cammell, whose family knew Duncan, showed an early gift for

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192 W I L F R E D OW E N

drawing and possessed so clear an idea of perspective that Duncan

maintained it proved that Cammell had learnt the skill in a previous

incarnation. It is characteristic of Duncan that he married a woman

who had, he believed, found the Holy Grail in a well at Glastonbury.

Another insight into Duncan is offered by a letter he sent to D’Arcy

Wentworth Thompson congratulating him on his knighthood in 1937:

You will pardon an artist (as I aspire to be) for saying that in looking

at all the faces in todays [sic] Scotsman I think that of Professor

Darcy [sic] Thompson the best embodiment of the title – most

fitting to the part – the face of a gallant knight chevalier of the


Duncan was attracted to the world of King Arthur, producing a

painting called Merlin and the Fairy Queen, and his The Taking of

Excalibur of 1897 depicts Merlin rowing the boat that carries Arthur to

the sword. Duncan was more at home with King Arthur and the Celtic

Twilight than with the twentieth century; although tied closely to

Edinburgh, he didn’t paint pictures of Edinburgh, or of Dundee, the

city where he was born in 1866. His Scotland was a mystical, half- real

wild domain, more Outer Hebrides than Edinburgh’s New Town.

Yet Duncan also represented one of the tastes of Edinburgh at the

time – a taste that Brock had himself become addicted to. The Celtic

atmosphere of Edinburgh was no doubt a little artificial, and it has

been noted that Scotland’s Celtic Twilight produced no one to match

W. B. Yeats or J. M. Synge, but it was potent and pervasive. Rather

than an isolated anomaly, Craiglockhart was to some extent repre-

sentative of the city. Indeed, a decade earlier the Celtic Twilight had

captured the writer Joyce Cary when he studied in Edinburgh, living

near Duncan in St Bernard’s Crescent:

Impressed with Celtic crosses, runic writings, wandering bards (or

at least an old man who played the Celtic harp and sang the old

songs in pubs for pennies), and the dramatic sight of the ancient

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B R O C K ’ S F O L K 193

castle itself and Holyrood Palace, Joyce began to use a monogram of

Celtic design to sign his drawings; he designed a costume for

himself, that of a Celtic demon with horned helmet and fur cloak,

to wear to a student masquerade ball, and he wrote some abomi-

nable poetry, half cavalier and half rotten Rossetti.43

Wilfred Owen loved the Celtic Twilight, but his poetry at

Craiglockhart was neither half cavalier nor half rotten Rossetti, and

far from abominable. He wrote poetry like ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’,

‘Disabled’ and ‘Inspection’:

‘The world is washing out its stains,’ he said.

‘It doesn’t like our cheeks so red:

Young blood’s its great objection.

But when we’re duly white- washed, being dead,

The race will bear Field Marshal God’s inspection.’

He also began ‘ The Sentry’, his poem of slime, shells, dug- outs,

whizz- bangs, corpses, muck and blood. And yet much of the poetry

at Craiglockhart has some similarity to the world of Duncan.

Understandably, he did not always want to recall the war – he says in

‘ The Sentry’, ‘I try not to remember these things now’. He wrote about

a medievalish world of knights in his ‘Ballad of Lady Yolande’ and

‘ The Ballad of Many Thorns’; his poetry echoes Tennyson, Keats and

Yeats; he attempted poetry about Perseus; he wrote about Heracles;

there’s twilight, there’s the dawn and there’s a touch of Scotland – ‘ The

birds fifed on before, shrill- piping pipers, / Right down to town’ in

‘ The Promisers’. Whether or not it is a response to The Coming of

Bride, ‘Winter Song’, when compared with ‘Inspection’, seems to speak

in a different voice:

From off your face, into the winds of winter,

The sun- brown and the summer- gold are blowing;

But they shall gleam again with spiritual glinter,

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194 W I L F R E D OW E N

When paler beauty on your brows falls snowing,

And through those snows my looks shall be soft- going.


Nowadays there seems to be something like Nazism in Brock’s emphasis

on roots, the homeland, the soil, the group rather than the individual,

‘belonging’, ‘struggle’, the past, native culture, paganism, classicism, the

folk, and work – half in jest, Owen called Craiglockhart ‘this excellent

Concentration Camp’44 – and as it happens an Arthur Bruck and a

Wilfred von Oven would play significant parts in the Third Reich;45 or,

alternatively, there is in Brock something of Lord Summerisle from the

film The Wicker Man;46 but, as Brock made clear, war was the enemy

and the regime was unaggressive (beyond Brock pushing patients out of

bed for early morning country walks), and Owen responded well

to Brock’s ideas. This Back to the Land spirit was combined with the

comforts of the Hydro and Edinburgh, so there was none of the muddy

discomfort of the Front or even Hare Hall. Equally, characters like

Brock and Duncan could appeal to the Romantic side of Owen’s

nature, which delighted in early Yeats and in King Arthur. Owen

was able to see Edinburgh as a magical uninhabited space of rocks

and ruins:

It is worthy of mention that we have been in mist for 3 days: a glori-

ously luminous mist at times. I saw Holyrood on Sunday Afternoon

(being alone on Salisbury Crags), a floating mirage in gold mist. A

sight familiar enough in dreams and poems, but which I never

thought possible in these islands. It was the picture of a picture; if

you understand. I don’t.47

In Owen’s Birkenhead days, Liverpool’s Walker Gallery, which he

visited, possessed Daguerre’s Romantic The Ruins of Holyrood Chapel,

while with the gloriously luminous mist he was recalling Coleridge’s

‘Dejection: An Ode’: ‘ This light, this glory, this fair luminous mist, /

This beautiful and beauty- making power’.

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B R O C K ’ S F O L K 195

Owen might have been in dejection at times, remembering the war,

but he enjoyed Craiglockhart, where the nightmares abated, and so did

his stammer. It did him good to be active, and, at a time when the

natural reaction to trauma would have been to hide away like a

wounded animal, he benefited from company. Owen remained rather

solitary by inclination but Craiglockhart forced him to be part of a


Rather than seeing the place as a hospital or a loony- bin, Owen

called it his ‘free- and- easy Oxford’ (indeed, the building has since

become a university). In May 1917, before arriving at Craiglockhart, he

wrote that he had met ‘a Trinity College (Oxford) boy’;48 now he had

his own chance to experience collegiate life, but one where scholarly

pedantry was eschewed. He gave a talk on botany entitled ‘Do Plants

Think?’ in which he referred to Oxford and pedantic academics, and

once more mentioned Oxford’s expulsion of Shelley.49 Not going to

university might have been the making of Wilfred Owen, and it is

possible to argue that if he had gone to university he would not have

written his war poetry – could the varsity man have written ‘Dulce et

Decorum Est’? – and free- and- easy Craiglockhart would not have sent

Shelley down. Arthur Brock, educated at Edinburgh University, played

the role of a tutor, and it was Brock who believed that ‘our work must

be constructive and productive, not merely critical and academic’.50

More than a conventional university, Craiglockhart was close to the

‘Bardic College’ that, later in the century, the poet W. H. Auden would

imagine as the ideal place for the training of poets. This is what he


1. In addition to English, at least one ancient language, probably

Greek or Hebrew, and two modern languages.

2. Thousands of lines of poetry in these languages to be learnt by heart.

3. Instruction in prosody, rhetoric and comparative philology.

4. The only critical exercise would be the writing of pastiche and

parody. All critical writing, other than historical or textual, would

be banned from the college library.

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196 W I L F R E D OW E N

5. Courses in mathematics, natural history, geology, meteorology,

archaeology, mythology, liturgies and cooking.

6. Every student would be expected to take personal charge of a

domestic animal and a garden plot.51

These principles were as good as met by Craiglockhart. For instance,

Owen was not only taking an interest in Ancient Greek, but also trying

to learn German, a curious choice in wartime, perhaps, but he had

fancied learning the language before the war. Pastiche and parody

played a significant part in his writing at this time, including a jokey

contribution to The Hydra, his ‘Extracte from the Chronicles of

Wilfred de Salope, Knight’, describing hospital life in medievalish

language. Like Auden, who had a lifelong love of the sciences, Owen

was quite capable of combining an artistic sensibility with scientific

pursuits like the Field Club’s botany; neither poet felt the need to take

sides. He was learning poetry, yet probably not thousands of lines by

heart, but he also had to learn lines for the stage. In early August he

was given the role of Mr Wallcomb in Craiglockhart’s production of

Lucky Durham, an Edwardian comedy that gave Owen the chance to

tread the boards for the first time (although he had long been a manner

of performer, and as a child he used to pretend to be a clergyman,

conducting services in the sitting room). Theatricals were popular at

Craiglockhart and Owen had a long- standing interest in plays, both

the highbrow and the low; neither was he averse to playing a part,

trying out new identities. He described Edinburgh Castle as having

‘the appearance of a huge canvas scenic device’,52 as if just living in

Edinburgh was a performance. He tried to write a play of his own,

although it no longer exists and doesn’t seem to have been a very

serious enterprise – he was playing at being a playwright.

Owen even took on the editorship of the magazine The Hydra (for

six issues from 21 July) when Brock encouraged him to become involved

in its production. The magazine was not a very physical activity –

although Owen did see swimming as the secret of his productivity as

the editor, because a swim ‘never fails to give me a Greek feeling of

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B R O C K ’ S F O L K 197

energy and elemental life’53 – but the magazine was a way for Brock to

make his ideas known, and it placed an emphasis on the local environ-

ment and fostered a sense of community while also recording all the

activities that were taking place. ‘Back to the land’ was a refrain in The

Hydra under Owen, but by publishing poetry and fiction it gave him a

chance to present Craiglockhart as a nest of singing birds. Through its

production Owen got to know other officers of a literary bent. The

most significant was a Scotsman, Lieutenant J. B. Salmond of the 7th

Fife Battalion of the Black Watch, one of the most dashing and heroic

of Scottish regiments, himself a sportsman, like the young soldier in

‘Disabled’, although, unlike that Scotsman, he was also a university

graduate and a man of letters. Salmond attended 500- year- old St

Andrews University before following his father into journalism, working

for the Daily Mail and The Boy’s Own Paper – his writing was very

much of the derring- do type with ‘gallant men of action’,54 games and

the military a speciality. With Owen he discussed ‘many mighty things

and men’.55 He was a man who could cry ‘Play up, play up, and play the

game’.56 Salmond was also something of a poet, and would later write

his own war poem using ‘Noble and sweet to die for Fatherland’ (a

translation of ‘Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori’) but without

disapproval or doubt.

At Craiglockhart one morning in mid August, Owen went round to

the room of another poet, who later recalled his first meeting with

Wilfred Owen:

A favourable first impression was made by the fact that he had

under his arm several copies of The Old Huntsman. He had come,

he said, hoping that I would be so gracious as to inscribe them for

himself and some of his friends. He spoke with a slight stammer,

which was no unusual thing in that neurosis- pervaded hospital. My

leisurely, commentative method of inscribing the books enabled

him to feel more at home with me. He had a charming honest

smile, and his manners – he stood at my elbow rather as though

conferring with a superior officer – were modest and ingratiating.

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198 W I L F R E D OW E N

He gave me the names of his friends first. When it came to his own

I found myself writing one that has since gained a notable place on

the roll of English poets – Wilfred Owen.57

Owen reported that the sun blazed into his room ‘making his purple

dressing suit of a brilliance’.58 He had a soft spot for imperial purple

and if he makes the moment sound like a painting it is indeed worthy

of one, just as there are paintings depicting the moments when Robert

Burns met Sir Walter Scott, and Dante met Beatrice; for this was

Siegfried Sassoon of the Royal Welch Fusiliers, who had arrived at

Craiglockhart on 23 July. The Old Huntsman and Other Poems had been

published on 3 May, and among the poems in the collection were

‘Golgotha’, ‘Arms and the Man’, ‘Died of Wounds’ and ‘ The Death- Bed’

– ‘ The Death- Bed’ was one of eight poems from the collection that

were also included in Georgian Poetry 1916- 17 (1917), and Owen called

it ‘a piece of perfect art’.59 But it was the following collection, Counter-

Attack and Other Poems, a year later, that contained the really angry

poems that Sassoon is now known for – ‘ The General’, ‘Glory of

Women’, ‘ The Fathers’, ‘Suicide in the Trenches’ – and in that collec-

tion Sassoon’s ‘Survivors’, dated October 1917, described Craiglockhart:

No doubt they’ll soon get well; the shock and strain

Have caused their stammering, disconnected talk.

Of course they’re ‘longing to go out again,’ –

These boys with old, scared faces, learning to walk.

They’ll soon forget their haunted nights; their cowed

Subjection to the ghosts of friends who died, –

Their dreams that drip with murder; and they’ll be proud

Of glorious war that shatter’d all their pride . . .

Men who went out to battle, grim and glad;

Children, with eyes that hate you, broken and mad.60

He arrived at Craiglockhart having made his name less as a poet

than as a public protestor against the war, a refusenik who was discussed

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B R O C K ’ S F O L K 199

in Parliament and sent to Craiglockhart as an alternative to a military

prison. ‘A Soldier’s Declaration’ had been written in June and published

in July:

I am making this statement as an act of wilful defiance of military

authority, because I believe that the War is being deliberately

prolonged by those who have the power to end it:I am a soldier,

convinced that I am acting on behalf of soldiers. I believe that this

War, upon which I entered as a war of defence and liberation, has now

become a war of aggression and conquest. I believe that the purposes

for which I and my fellow- soldiers entered upon this War should have

been so clearly stated as to have made it impossible for them to be

changed without our knowledge, and that, had this been done, the

objects which actuated us would now be attainable by negotiation.

I have seen and endured the sufferings of the troops, and I can

no longer be a party to prolonging those sufferings for ends which I

believe to be evil and unjust.

I am not protesting against the military conduct of the War, but

against the political errors and insincerities for which the fighting

men are being sacrificed.

On behalf of those who are suffering now, I make this protest

against the deception which is being practised on them. Also I

believe that I may help to destroy the callous complacence with

which the majority of those at home regard the continuance of the

agonies which they do not share, and which they have not sufficient

imagination to realise.61

Rather like Clint Eastwood throwing his police badge into the water at

the end of Dirty Harry, Sassoon had, apparently, thrown away into the

mouth of the Mersey, as an angry gesture, his Military Cross (not, as was

sometimes believed, the medal itself, but the MC ribbon on his uniform).62

It was to Sassoon that Owen showed his poetry. ‘Anthem for

Doomed Youth’, especially, has come to be an illustration of their

friendship. Sassoon helped with the title, suggesting ‘Doomed’, which

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200 W I L F R E D OW E N

Owen used, although the latter also resisted Sassoon’s corrections, and

we see in the poem not Sassoon’s voice but Owen’s growth into poetic

maturity. Sassoon pointed out later that any emendations he recom-

mended were made hastily in uncongenial surroundings and he only

saw the poem in something close to its final form; also that it was ‘the

first occasion on which I was able to hail him as my equal’.63 Written

in September, ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’ is one of Owen’s most

famous poems, and a poem that shows the full emergence of a voice

that, like Sassoon’s declaration, speaks for those who suffered at

the Front:

What passing- bells for these who die as cattle?

– Only the monstrous anger of the guns.

Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle

Can patter out their hasty orisons.

No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells;

Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs, –

The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;

And bugles calling for them from sad shires.

What candles may be held to speed them all?

Not in the hands of boys but in their eyes

Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes.

The pallor of girls’ brows shall be their pall;

Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,

And each slow dusk a drawing- down of blinds.

So often quoted and anthologised, so often studied at school, so often

treated as a straightforward cry against the war, this is in fact no such

thing, nor is it a rejection of Christianity. It has a Catholic air, which

owes something to France and to Owen’s time in Bordeaux (a draft

uses ‘priest words’ and ‘requiem’) – those ‘passing- bells’ belong

to Roman Catholicism, where they are sounded after death in order to

encourage prayers for the soul of the dead person, and also, contrary to

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B R O C K ’ S F O L K 201

the usual interpretations of the poem, sounded while a person is dying.

And while it is not straightforwardly a rejection of the Church of

England, it does reflect Owen’s thoughts about the contrast between

evangelical Christianity and Catholicism, such as this remark from

May 1917:

The evangelicals have fled from a few Candles, discreet incense,

serene altars, mysterious music, harmonious ritual to powerful

electric- lighting, overheated atmosphere, palm- tree platforms,

grand pianos, loud and animated music, extempore ritual; but I

cannot see that they are any nearer to the Kingdom.64

The poem argues that the dead deserve the full attention of the

Church, ceremonial and lavish. The pity for the soldiers is there,

the sorrow at the slaughter, but this is not a declaration against the

war – unlike Sassoons’s declaration, it could not be paraphrased as

‘Finished with the War’. Ultimately, the poem’s concern is religious

and aesthetic: it asks for beauty, it asks for bells, orisons, choirs, prayers,

candles and flowers. The lives of the men in uniform are worthy of

beauty. Just because there is a war on, we must mourn properly, and

still sing.

The Prime Minister David Lloyd George, had made a similar

argument a year earlier, in August 1917, as Minister for War, when he

addressed the National Eisteddfod at Aberystwyth with a much-

publicised speech, in which he dismissed the argument that the

Eisteddfod should not be held during wartime:

Why should we not sing during war? Why, especially, should we

not sing at this stage of the War? The blinds of Britain are not down

yet, nor are they likely to be. The honour of Britain is not dead, her

might is not broken, her destiny is not fulfilled, her ideals are not

shattered by her enemies. She is more than alive; she is more potent,

she is greater than she ever was. Her dominions are wider, her influ-

ence is deeper, her purpose is more exalted than ever. Why should

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202 W I L F R E D OW E N

her children not sing? I know war means suffering, war means

sorrow. Darkness has fallen on many a devoted household, but it has

been ordained that the best singer amongst the birds of Britain

should give its song in the night, and according to legend that sweet

song is one of triumph over pain.65

This speech seems to have influenced Owen’s poem, especially the

poem’s last line. Owen took an interest in Lloyd George, and his father

was a great admirer of the Prime Minister, partly because Lloyd George

was Welsh. Owen was referring to Lloyd George when he reported in

January 1917 that ‘if there is any power whom the Soldiery execrate

more than another it is that of our distinguished countryman’.66

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