Death Comes for the War Poets

Cloth $19
80 pages, 5½" x 8½"

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Death Comes for the War Poets

A Verse Tapestry

Pearce, Joseph

On the centenary of the United States’ entry into World War One, Death Comes for the War Poets grapples with the full horror of trench warfare as experienced by the two greatest war poets, Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen. It does so through the eyes of the poets themselves but also through the eyes of the Spirit of Death. How does a human soul cope with the horror of war? Is there room for hope? And what of the Spirit of Death, ever present in times of war and peace? Can Death itself be changed? These questions are at the suffering heart of this powerful verse drama.

Joseph Pearce wove this rich tapestry from the poetry of some of the finest Christian voices of the modern era: Gerard Manley Hopkins, T. S. Eliot, G. K. Chesterton, as well as Owen and Sassoon. He was inspired to do so to commemorate the centenary of World War One and also to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the death and the sixtieth anniversary of the reception into the Church of the great literary convert, Siegfried Sassoon. The verse drama tells the story of Sassoon’s journey from the horrors of trench warfare to his final acceptance and embrace of Christ and His Church. It shows how the Church allowed this great writer to make sense of his own life and to make sense of life itself – and indeed of death itself, the latter of which only makes sense in the light of Christ. It is, therefore, the story of two conversions; the conversion of the poet but also the conversion of Death.

Death Comes for the War Poets grapples with the evil of war, expressing its horrors in the words of the two greatest war poets. It grapples with the problem of suffering and the enigma that the presence of death presents. It asks the deepest questions about life and death which we, as human beings, cannot avoid contemplating. Ultimately it doesn’t simply ask these most important and painful of questions, it offers answers.

Throughout the history of Christian civilization, the greatest works of art and literature have presented a memento mori to the people of Christendom. This reminder of death points to the Four Last Things: Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell. Death Comes for the War Poets follows this noble tradition by having the figure of Death as one of the characters who interacts with the two soldier-poets. Those reading this drama will see the face of Death through the eyes of these poets and will come to understand the reality of death and the beauty of life in a new evangelized light. They will be dragged into the trenches with the suffering troops, will see the ugliness of death, and will emerge into the light of the Life that defeats death and makes sense of it. They will in some way experience the healing experience of conversion as the drama unfolds from the shadow of death into the full light of Christ.

Joseph Pearce is Director of the Aquinas Center for Faith and Culture at Aquinas College in Nashville, Tennessee, and editor of the St. Austin Review. He is the author of many books, including Beauteous Truth: Faith, Reason, Literature and Culture (St. Augustine’s Press) and has written and hosted two TV series on EWTN on Shakespeare’s Catholicism.