A comparison with ‘Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.’
On reading Crosland’s poems I find a strange and subtle similarity between some of them and others of more famous origin which may or may not be significant. This ‘coincidence’ is too intriguing to ignore.
In Crosland’s ‘Collected Poems’ (1917), containing poems written in 1916 and 1917, we find ‘Steel-True and Blade-Straight’ which begins:
‘Steel-true and blade-straight-There’s your man! And soon or lateHe is England...’
Sassoon wrote ‘The Kiss’ in 1916, which begins:
‘To these I turn, in these I trust-Brother lead and sister steel.’
These are different lines it is true, but I feel a similarity. Not convinced? Ok, try these two descriptions of death made manifest on earth, making his choice. The first is Crosland again and the beginning of a poem called ‘Sursum.’
‘I saw his dread plume gleaming,As he rode down the line,And cried like one a-dreaming“That man, and that, is mine!” ‘
Again, in 1916 Sassoon wrote ‘The Death Bed’ which ends:
‘But death replied: “I choose him.” So he went,And there was silence in the summer night.’
Perhaps the image of death as an earthly figure was common among poets. The use by both poets is worth mentioning if only to prove that point. (Although I do believe they are strikingly similar!)
My final word on this subject relates again to Crosland, but this time in comparison to one of Sassoon’s fellow war poets, Wilfred Owen. Let us first remember that Crosland’s poems were published in 1917, some of which were written in 1916. The example I want to show is a poem called ‘Slain,’ with the sub-title ‘Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.’ The last verse reads:
‘yea, it is very sweetAnd decorousThe omnipotent Shade to meetAnd flatter thus.’
It is hardly necessary to state that one of Owen’s greatest poems is entitled: ‘Dulce et Decorum est.’
Owen wrote to his mother, Susan, in October 1917 while the poem was unfinished saying: “The famous Latin tag means of course It is sweet and meet to die for one’s country. Sweet! and decorous!”
Owen was still revising this poem in March 1918 (Stallworthy, 1983), at which time it still hadn’t been published. If the dates had been reversed, I wonder if Crosland would have received much credit for originality?
To finish, I have reproduced below a poem by Crosland entitled ‘The Full Share.’ The poem was inspired by a speech by the then Prime Minister Mr. Asquith, who unrepentantly stood by his decision to go ahead with the disastrous Gallipoli campaign in the Dardanelles, and saw no reason to be penitent about it afterwards. I think Sassoon would have liked the sentiments expressed; it follows his belief in the ineffectiveness of most politicians of the time.