Francis Ledwidge (1887-1917) has not been one of the better-known poets of World War I. At first glance, this seems puzzling.
He saw action at Gallipoli, in the Balkans, and in the trenches in France and Flanders. His first collection of poetry was published in 1914, entitled Songs of the Fields. A second was being prepared for publication when he was killed during the Third Battle of Ypres (also known as Passchendaele) on July 31, 1917, just shy of his 30th birthday. He was known, rightly or wrongly, as the “peasant poet,” which did him some injustice but which also helped to sell his poems and his poetry book. He didn’t come from the British upper and upper middle classes, like so many of the war poets, but his lack of reputation wasn’t a class thing.
Instead, it was a political thing. Ledwidge was Irish, and an Irishman who volunteered for the British Army. He was also an Irish Nationalist, but not like his more radical countrymen. He believed that fighting for Britain against the Germans would help Ireland gain independence. The fact that he was Irish didn’t help him or his reputation with the British, and the fact that he fought for the British didn’t help his reputation with the Irish.
To continue reading, please see my post today at Tweetspeak Poetry.