The Lost Generation : World War I Poetry : Emily Caroline Oliphant

Cover of Socks by Oliphant.

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While not every poem in Emily Caroline Oliphant’s Socks directly concerns the role of women on the home front of World War I, the most noteworthy of the book’s 27 poems, “Socks,” details the almost laughable frustration of the limited contributions a woman could make in contrast to her husband’s sacrifices: “Tis little a woman can do when fighting is to the fore; / True, she can send her menkind now as in days of yore; /... But every minute to spare she knits for her soldier—socks.”

The book’s title page bears the information that it was published in Blairgowrie, a burgh in Scotland, and printed in 1915 at the Advertiser Office, a local newspaper office. The following page denotes that it was sold for the Prince of Wales’ National Relief fund, which was developed in order to aid the wives and families of those serving in the war. Bound in forest-green cloth with three diagonal stripes across the top right corner in cherry red, gold, and navy blue, the 34-page book is an unusual format (about 10” x 7.5”) and was sold for one shilling. Choosing to bind the book in a color reminiscent of the soldiers’ uniforms and stripes resembling the British flag reinforces its nationalistic purpose.

Despite the obvious humor of the title poem, the book signals its serious intentions on the title page epigraph. Printed in italics is the phrase “Moriendo Vivo” which, translated from Latin to English means, “In dying I live.” This idiom captures not only what it must have felt like to be a woman in the midst of World War I, but the guilt of any person—civilian or soldier—who evaded death in such a catastrophic event.

Find Socks in the UNT Library Catalog.