Robert Graves: War Poems is a significant publishing event, the first book that draws together all of Robert Graves’s poems about the Great War and, even more significantly, brings into print for the first time the unpublished 1918 manuscript, The Patchwork Flag. The book includes poems written while Graves was on active service on the Western Front, and many published over a number of years after the war, which provide a more contemplative aspect to the subject. Graves’s is an authentic voice from someone who saw active service at Mametz Wood among other action, and whose experiences guided his work towards a realism not previously seen in poetry of the time.
War Poems consists of Graves’s first two major published volumes: Over the Brazier (1916) and Fairies and Fusiliers (1917), and includes Goliath and David, also published in 1916, which was subsequently absorbed into Fairies and Fusiliers. Graves completed The Patchwork Flag for publication but never published. For many years it has lain in the Berg Collection, New York Public Library, and now appears, excitingly, almost a century after composition, an unexpected addition to the canon of First World War poetry.
Graves’s 141 poems are accompanied by editor Charles Mundye’s critical and contextual Introduction, giving biographical and historical context and locating and ranking him amongst the other soldier poets of World War One: Sassoon, Owen, Thomas, Roseburg et al. The book also includes explanatory notes which explore specific biographical, cultural, military and historical contexts, and provide a sense of publishing history. The poems are published in their first edition, first impression form, a return to first principles also recently adopted in the new Penguin edition of Good-bye to All That, Graves’s 1929 classic war memoir, now a companion text to the War Poems.