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The art, poetry and music of WW1

In honour of Somme 100, we take a look back at some of the art, music and poetry inspired by World War One.


Keep the Home Fires Burning - Ivor Novello

Written and released in 1914 by a young Novello, Keep the Home Fire's Burning's message of hope was a success. After serving in the Royal Navy Air Service, Novello went on to enjoy a long career as an actor, writer and composer of musicals.

The words of the song are by the American Lena Gilbert Ford, who was tragically killed by a German air raid on London in March 1918.


Dulce Et Decorem Est - Wilfred Owen

Wilfred Owen is widely recognised as the greatest poet of the First World War. The poem is named for the first words of a Latin saying (taken from an ode by Horace). The words were widely understood at the start of the First World War and are roughly translated as "It is sweet and right."


In Flanders - Ivor Gurney

In Flanders or “I’m homesick for the hills” speaks of a longing to be back in the Cotswolds. It was whilst serving at the Front, that Gurney first began writing poetry and sending it to his friend, Marion Scott who was a known musicologist and critic. He was in the midst of writing (what would later be his first book) Severn and Somme when he was wounded in the shoulder in 1917. He later recovered and returned, still working on the book and composing music, including In Flanders.


Over The Top By Jo 2961778B

Over The Top - J. Nash (work pictured)

A wide range of art was commissioned by the British Government during World War One, to document the social and political impact on society.

"Art was seen as the means to convey the righteousness of Britain’s cause, to bear witness to the experience of war, to remember the fallen and provide effective propaganda."

Click here to read more about the art of WW1 in this fantastic article by our friends at Imperial War Museum.


Le Tombeau de Couperin - Ravel

After working as a truck driver in the war, Ravel wrote every movement of this piano suite (1914-17) in memory of fallen friends that sadly died in WW1. The first performance of this piece was given in 1919 by Marguerite Long, the pianist widow of one of the dead soldiers remembered in Le Tombeau and was criticised by some at the time for being 'too cheerful'.


The Soldier - Rupert Brooke

Often seen as a direct contrast to Owens 'Dulce', The Solider was written at the beginning of WW1, is the conclusion to Brooke’s ‘1914’ war sonnet series, it was at the time praised widely - even by Winston Churchill himself. Brooke died at war in 1915 aged only 27.


The Planets (Jupiter) or I Vow to Thee My Country - Holst

At the outbreak of WW1Holst unsuccessfully tried to enlist to fight but was rejected as unfit, leaving him left behind to write, teach and contribute to the war effort in other ways. In 1918 his movement Jupiter from The Planets become synonymous with WWI as its melody became the hymn I Vow to Thee, My Country. The words were written by diplomat Cecil Spring Rice, to reflect the widespread British losses: “The love that never falters, the love that pays the price/ The love that makes undaunted, the final sacrifice.