A commentary on a short WWII poem
The poem ‘War Poet’ was written by Sidney Keyes (1922-43), one of the most famous English poets of the Second World War, in March 1942 and published the following year, the year of his untimely death. Curiously, the day Keyes was born, 27 May 1922, was the exact same day that the actor Christopher Lee entered the world. Lee outlived Keyes by over 70 years, and it’s odd to think of the two men as exact contemporaries. Keyes was commissioned into the Queen’s Own West Kent Regiment and sent to Tunisia in March 1943, where he was killed, one month before his 21st birthday.
Of all Keyes’s war poems, ‘War Poet’ is perhaps the most famous – a short lyric of just a dozen lines of powerful polemic. Here is the poem, followed by a brief analysis of its language and imagery.
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