The poets and the World War: "This is no case of petty Right or Wrong" by Edward Thomas

Edward Thomas (1878 - 1917)
War poet, late poet. The meeting with poetry for the Welsh poet Edward Thomas happens only in 1914, three years before his death in action, during the Battle of Arras on the 9th of April. The poem we propose today is  a good example, a helpful start if we think of approaching the problem of patriotism before, during and even after the First World War. It seems Thomas wrote This is no case of petty Right or Wrong after a blazing altercation with his father, a person showing a strong yet common disdain of Germans. What is interesting today in these lines is the (modern) patriotism they are inspired by, without resembling a patriotic poem like many others we know. It seams there is a second new way of being patriotic without following the guidelines of politicians and newspapers. It is a new, personal, sincere patriotism far from populism. In our opinion this poem can be considered as a third way differentiated from intervention and neutrality in World War One (up to a point, we think there might some points of contact between this position and the one of Renato Serra). Before leaving you to this poem, we would like only to point out the remarkable metaphor of England as the phoenix.


This is no case of petty right or wrong
That politicians or philosophers
Can judge. I hate not Germans, nor grow hot
With love of Englishmen, to please newspapers.
Beside my hate for one fat patriot
My hatred of the Kaiser is love true:–
A kind of god he is, banging a gong.
But I have not to choose between the two,
Or between justice and injustice. Dinned
With war and argument I read no more
Than in the storm smoking along the wind
Athwart the wood. Two witches' cauldrons roar.
From one the weather shall rise clear and gay;
Out of the other an England beautiful
And like her mother that died yesterday.
Little I know or care if, being dull,
I shall miss something that historians
Can rake out of the ashes when perchance
The phoenix broods serene above their ken.
But with the best and meanest Englishmen
I am one in crying, God save England, lest
We lose what never slaves and cattle blessed.
The ages made her that made us from dust:
She is all we know and live by, and we trust
She is good and must endure, loving her so:
And as we love ourselves we hate her foe.