Chapter

Robert Graves at Troy, Marathon, and the End of Sandy Road

Tom Palaima

in Robert Graves and the Classical Tradition

Published in print July 2015 | ISBN: 9780198738053
Published online March 2016 | e-ISBN: 9780191801594 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198738053.003.0013

Series: Classical Presences

Robert Graves at Troy, Marathon, and the End of Sandy Road

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Robert Graves’s war poems use an ironic distancing effect that distinguishes him within the long tradition of war poets from Homer, Tyrtaeus, Callinus, Archilochus, Aeschylus, Euripides and Virgil to the soldier poets of World War I. Graves’s rhetorical stance is linked to symptoms of post-traumatic stress developing in his childhood and intensified by his near-death wounding in World War I. Graves writes war poems in the clear, spare, and low-toned style of other soldiers and veterans like Ernest Hemingway, Tim O’Brien, Wilfred Owen, and George Orwell. But he rarely forces readers to take in emotionally intense scenes, because he believes that those unbaptized in the suicidal sacrament of war cannot understand its realities. Graves’s cynicism about the capacities of power figures even to see the truth underlies the intellectualized satire in his translation of Homer’s Iliad and his poem about the Battle of Marathon, ‘The Persian Version’.

Keywords: Robert Graves; World War I; war poetry; post-traumatic stress; Wilfred Owen; Siegfried Sassoon; the Iliad; Paul Fussell; ‘The Persian Version’; ‘The First Funeral’

Chapter.  9073 words. 

Subjects: Classical Literature

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