Lest this blog be entirely about jihadism (though more is to come on that soon), I thought I’d turn to World War I today. Being in a somewhat perverse yet still bibliophilic mood, I have decided to inflict upon you the 1919 opus, The Gates of Janus: An Epic Story of the World War. This is a history of World War I…IN THE FORM OF AN EPIC POEM. Yes, you read that right. Name me another epic poem that has maps. Come on, I dare you!
Why would someone write an epic poem about the Great War? The author, an American reverend, explains:
“The author has felt that the Epic form of poetry, so long unused, is most admirably fitted for the narration of a War such as this—greater than any in all the world’s annals, rightly called: “The Great World War!”
He goes on, still referring to himself in the third person:
“He feels that, by such a form, the main events of the War will be better remembered by the people at large, better impressed, by them, upon their children, now, and better retold to other children afterward.”
The copy that Google Books scanned came from the University of California library. Perhaps tellingly, it was a gift from William Carter, the author. One wonders if the library would have acquired it if Carter hadn’t donated a copy.
I hear you crying out for a sample. This is how Carter introduces his recounting of the Battle of Belleau Wood:
Have you e’er heard of famous Belleau Woods?
And how Americans in strength withstood
The Germans, who were gathered there, en masse,
Set, not to let the hated “Yankees” pass?
Well, if you’ve not, let me, now tell the tale,
And, show the picture, as they there prevail,–
Fighting, with force, against amazing odds;
It is another “Battle of the gods!”
Because I’m sort of an intelligence geek, I’ll offer one more stanza, this one drawn from the section on the Battle of the Aisne.
The aero’s soon to play, in this great War,
Such part as weapons never played before.
Now thought it’s armed, its main part is to spy,
And tell its friends where weakest places lie.
Because your ears are probably bleeding, I’ll stop there. In fact, as penance for savagely inflicting this upon you, I will offer one other book, the 1916 International Cartoons of the War. In it, one will find such classics as the cartoon reproduced here. (The reference is to the Manneken Pis, the symbol of Brussels.)