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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb collection of neglected work, 23 Feb 2008
This review is from: John Masefield's Great War: Collected Works (Hardcover)
I believe that this the first time that a collection of John Masefield's full scale works Gallipoli and The Old Front Line, plus assorted lectures, papers and letters, has appeared in a single edition. Philip Errington is to be congratulated. A leading authority of Masefield, his selection of material and biographical introduction are both first class. Masefield's work is absorbing for its historical interest and insight, and captivating in its beauty of expression. John Masefield was not perhaps what one thinks of when considering the poets of the Great War. He was already an acknowleged writer and poet before the war. He had an unusual background, including a period when he saw life at its very lowest end, in the docks and slums of New York. His sympathy with the ordinary man is clear in his work. But it is, particularly in his history of the Gallipoli campaign, his sense of the ground of of nature that comes across most forcefully. As they say, you can take the lad out of Herefordshire, but you can't take Herefordshire out of the lad. Masefield was, of course, from Ledbury.

"John Masefield's Great War" is worth the cover price for his Gallipoli alone. He draws pictures in words of the experience of exhausted, sick men in attack and defence against an often unseen enemy unseen and is sympathetic to the plight of men, officers and Generals alike. Masefield was not in full possession of the facts that were later disclosed by Dardanelles Enquiry: how the campaign was doomed before it began by muddled thinking, unclear responsibilities and hasty decisions. He might have been rather more damning had he been so. His descriptions of terrain and the actions could not have been written by one who had not experienced Gallipoli first hand: he worked with the Red Cross and on packet boats there.

The Old Front Line is an extended descriptive of the pre 1 July 1916 battlefield. Not covering much of the battle itself, it is nonetheless an evocative, almost nostalgic, read. Take a copy next time you are going to the Somme. Masefield was invited by Sir Douglas Haig to write an official history of the Somme, while he was present during the fighting. His "battle of teh Somme" is also part of this edition.

The rest of Masefield's war career was a mix of periods working with medical units, French and American, and in British propaganda efforts in the USA. His first act on arrival in France in 1914 was to assist in amputations: no pampered poet here, despite his fame. Many of the papers and letters included in the edition were not written for public consumption and presumably without too much time for reading and editing, yet they remain fluent and highly readable. Taken in the round, his work is of enduring quality, wisdom and impact. "Gallipoli" and "The Old Front Line" are important, neglected works that have been very hard to find in second hand shops. Together with other unpublished material this is a superb collection - don't let it pass you by.
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