Frederic Manning as war poet

Great War Fiction

Frederic Manning is generally acknowledged as the finest novelist of the Western Front, but Her Privates We was not written until ten years after the War. During the War years he saw himself as a poet rather than a prose writer.

I find most of his poems, with their archaisms and delicate Nineties texture, difficult to appreciate, but The Trenches, one of the very few that he wrote about the War, is different, a very evocative piece of descriptive writing. It was published in 1917, I think.

The Trenches

Endless lanes sunken in the clay,
Bays, and traverses, fringed with wasted herbage,
Seed-pods of blue scabious, and some lingering blooms;
And the sky, seen as from a well,
Brilliant with frosty stars.
We stumble, cursing, on the slippery duck-boards.
Goaded like the damned by some invisible wrath,
A will stronger than weariness, stronger than animal fear,
Implacable and monotonous.

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