The Lost Generation : World War I Poetry: Songs & Sonnets for England in War Time

Cover of Songs & Sonnets for England. Lady justice holding sword and scale

Songs & Sonnets for England in War Time: Being a Collection of Lyrics by Various Authors Inspired by the Great War. London: John Lane, The Bodley Head, 1914.

World War I


Published in the fall of 1914, just a month after Britain joined World War I, Songs and Sonnets for England in War Time reprints poems from a variety of newspapers and magazines. These are meant to inspire the nation and its individual subjects to victory and greatness in time of war. The volume’s cover is made of a grey wrapper that is not attached to the spine but folded over thick cardstock. Printed in red, the cover portrays Justica Britannia enthroned with a drawn sword raised in one hand and the scales of justice in the other, representing Britain's justness and might. The title page features an epigraph by Sir Walter Scott, and both the unattributed introduction and the publisher’s note by John Lane stress that patriotism can be inspired by verse for those called to serve and for those on the home front. Reinforcing this patriotic bent, the back cover and the inside front cover proclaim that the book’s profits will be donated to the Prince of Wales’ National Relief Fund, a motivation for readers to patriotically buy the volume. The publisher’s note claims Songs and Sonnets was unique in collecting war-related verse produced and printed during the conflict, and it proposes to make this the first of a series, although this does not seem to have happened. Presented chronologically by original publication date, each entry concludes with the place of the poem’s original publication. This organization takes readers through the war’s first weeks. There are only two exceptions to this ordering schema, the very first and last pieces. Both are written by William Watson, author of Adventures of a Despatch Rider (1915) and The Man who Saw, and other poems arising out of the War (1917), whose poetry is also quoted in the introduction.