Vietnam War

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By Jeffrey Walsh (auth.)

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The pre-1918 ideals embodied in the work of such men as Seeger and Kilmer have been supplanted by a demonstrabJe assumption that the state entirely dehumanises the individual. 'i sing of Olaf' builds upon the iambic tetrameter and em ploys an eight syllable four stress line as its underlying metric pattern. The portrait of Olaf, the victim of the nation's all-American values, its 'blue-eyed pride', was drawn from someone Cummings knew at Camp Devens. The poetic meaning of his death in gaol is energised by Cummings into a satire of ,west pointers' who are 'succinctly bred' and who uphold the shibboleths of the Republic by religiously oppressing such rebels as Olaf whose only crime is to be a conscientious objector.

L l By using the collective pronoun 'we' Seeger stresses the 'high fellowship' of the soldiers who achieved an augmented understanding and a collective identity in the trenches: For that high fellowship was ours then With those who, championing another's good, More than dull Peace or its poor votaries could, Taught us the dignity of being men. Within 'The Aisne', as in many of his other poems, some of the reality of combat struggles out despite the counter strains of elevated diction: In rain, and fog that on the withered hill Froze before dawn, the lurking foe drew down; Or light snows fell that made forlorner still The ravaged country and the ruined town ....

In 1915 the penetration of new currents of thought was instanced in the Disquisition address of E. E. Cummings at Harvard. The twenty-year old Cummings, in theorising about 'The New Art', ostentatiously fermented examples from beyond literature and showed a familiarity with the work (among others) of Brancusi, Schoenberg, Satie, Duchamp and Stravinsky. Cummings'S models extended to the literary avant-garde also and he soon became familiar with the principles of Imagism and with the poetry and theory of Ezra Pound.

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