Planet 226

Gerald Morgan reviews
Robert Graves: War Poems by Charles Mundye
Rhyfelgan: Casgliad o Ganeuon Cymraeg o'r Rhyfel Byd Cyntaf
by Meic Birtwistle

Robert Graves by Charles Mundye

Seren, £19.99

Robert Graves was perhaps the supreme eccentric of modern English letters. What would have become of him in a sane century, without the hell of war which so wrecked his body, disturbed his mind and which surely rendered his relationships with women so fraught? In War Poems Charles Mundye has brought together everything that Graves wrote bearing any relationship to war, and edited it with a valuable introduction. Indeed the net is spread so wide that it includes the splendid tribute to John Skelton (‘What could be dafter / Than John Skelton’s laughter…’) simply because it was published in Graves’s second volume, Fairies and Fusiliers (1917): not a ‘war poem’, though written in a time of war. Graves refused to include either that volume or its predecessor (Over the Brazier, 1916) among later collections. Only the poem ‘In the Wilderness’ seems to have been allowed to remain as a kind of adolescent talisman, a relic of the faith he so firmly renounced.

Mundye’s collection offers curious new insights: in an interview for the Paris Review in 1969, Graves was asked why he had not written ‘war poems’ like those of Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon. He answered:

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