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POETRY: OPENING LINES
War 1914 1918
E.A.Mackintosh (1893 1917) was an officer in the Seaforth Highlanders where he was
informally known as `Tosh'.
Mackintosh felt the need to express his feelings about the war.
His view on the war is typical to other war poets, who seem to despise everything about the
View of War and Tone:
Anger and resentment towards the ignorant civilians back home because they are oblivious to
the reality of the warfare at the Western Front.
Pity towards the German soldiers as they are in the same situation as he is, he also is against how
propaganda was used to create hatred towards the German soldiers as he saw the German
soldier as someone who is being used just like the British by the Government. The famous 1914
football match, is an example and proof that Mackintosh's opinion was mirrored by the majority
of the WW1 soldiers.
Techniques and My view:
Colloquial phrase lifted from a recruitment poster `Lad's you're wanted go and help', the first
half of this phrase is then repeated in lines 13, 24, 35 and 44 with different endings for further
Everytime this phrase is repeated, the verb is always in the imperative form, `go', `come', `die'.
This poster phrase is stuck `on the railway carriage wall' which suggests that civilians are
constantly reminded of recruiting whilst going about their everyday errands.
Polysyllabic words such as `civilians' with four syllables are given extra impact. In this instance the
polysyllabic word is used to suggest disgust towards the people back home. The adjective
preceding this noun is `fat' which continues this idea.
`Fat' is a very blunt, short word; which gets straight to the point, comparing the lazy, spoilt
civilians to the malnourished and fatigued soldiers who are fighting at the Western Front.
The colloquial word `Hun' refers to the German opposition, these slang words possibly suggest
the language of the soldiers in the trenches.
`Can't you see them thanking God/that they're over forty-one?' as a rhetorical question,
encourages the readership to think, and also gives a context to the poem, as 41 years was the
age limit for recruits.
`Girls with feathers' is an illustration of working girls singing `vulgar songs' to boost morale, the
emotive word `vulgar' is full of anger from Mackintosh as he is illustrating the ignorance and
weak grasp on the reality of the war of the civilians back home.
The reference to `feathers' relates to the gesture of girls sending white feathers through the
letter box of eligible men who wouldn't fight as a symbol of cowardice. `Washy verse' refers to
poems with the aim of boosting morale published in tabloids of the time; they often referred to
the war as a game of football. This is the attitude which angers Mackintosh. These two
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Mackintosh's anger is shown through `damned', poets rarely swear within their poems, this
illustrates the intensity of his anger and how strongly he was opposed to the attitude of people
in England at the time.
There is a double meaning and sense of ambiguity to `swell the names' at first this referred to
the names of men on the recruitment list and then the names of those who have died in warfare.…read more