The Happy Warrior: A Poem by Herbert Read

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The poem “The Happy Warrior” was written by Herbert Read in 1914. An English poet, mostly known for his poems inspired by World War I.

The poem was influenced by his experiences fighting in the war and the time period. It also led him to write many poems with the same subject. Another influential factor was the Modernist Movement in literature.

“The Happy Warrior” is structured in five stanzas of different lengths, totaling 12 lines. The poetic persona of this poem is a soldier referred to as "He". "His wide eyes search unconsciously. He cannot shriek." The description of the soldier is strong, accurately representing the aftermath of committing such a gruesome act. The sarcastic tone in calling the soldier the "happy warrior" serves to convey Read's disgust towards war. All the lines in the first stanza rhyme due to repetition, with the word "This" appearing at the beginning of each line.

Herbert Read portrays a man driven by fear far beyond the reach of reason: “I saw him stab, and stab again. A well-killed Boche.” To reinforce his point, Read ends his poem with Wordsworth’s own words: “This is the Happy Warrior, This is he.”

In summary, Herbert Read's version of The Happy Warrior is written in a bleak, dismal, and miserable mood. It is short and snappy, using depressing and unpleasant words, and lacks consistency and flow. "His wild heart beat with painful sobs." From the first line, the nature of this poem is evident, conveying a sense of gloom and sorrow.

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