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Robert Graves and the Classical Tradition$
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A. G. G. Gibson

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780198738053

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198738053.001.0001

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Robert Graves at Troy, Marathon, and the End of Sandy Road

Robert Graves at Troy, Marathon, and the End of Sandy Road

War Poems at a Classical Distance?

(p.233) 12 Robert Graves at Troy, Marathon, and the End of Sandy Road
Robert Graves and the Classical Tradition

Tom Palaima

Oxford University Press

Robert Graves’s war poems use an ironic distancing effect that distinguishes him within the long tradition of war poets from Homer, Tyrtaeus, Callinus, Archilochus, Aeschylus, Euripides and Virgil to the soldier poets of World War I. Graves’s rhetorical stance is linked to symptoms of post-traumatic stress developing in his childhood and intensified by his near-death wounding in World War I. Graves writes war poems in the clear, spare, and low-toned style of other soldiers and veterans like Ernest Hemingway, Tim O’Brien, Wilfred Owen, and George Orwell. But he rarely forces readers to take in emotionally intense scenes, because he believes that those unbaptized in the suicidal sacrament of war cannot understand its realities. Graves’s cynicism about the capacities of power figures even to see the truth underlies the intellectualized satire in his translation of Homer’s Iliad and his poem about the Battle of Marathon, ‘The Persian Version’.

Keywords:   Robert Graves, World War I, war poetry, post-traumatic stress, Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon, the Iliad, Paul Fussell, ‘The Persian Version’, ‘The First Funeral’

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