Eden Phillpotts (1862-1960) was born in British India and is best known for his celebration of the landscape of Dartmoor in southern England. His collection of poems, Plain Song, moves from horror to acceptance, but always with a sense of detachment of the poet at home. The opening poem takes its title from the date Britain declared war on Germany, “August 4, 1914.” Thwarting the reader’s expectations, the poem begins with a peaceful woodland scene at dusk, where the speaker watches the moon rise over a clearing filled with emerald-like glow-worms and the purr of a swooping churn-owl, who “throbbed and throbbed, then took his flight...in rapture and delight” (p. 2). The poem ends by shattering this scene “by Nature sanctified” when the speaker suddenly recalls the “hell / This day hath seen ascend” (p. 3). The poem thus plays on the poet’s physical distance from the war to produce its emotional affect.
Find Plain Song 1914-1916 in the UNT Library Catalog.