The appendix to Cross's anthology is even more tragic in its implications, for it is a necrology of all the the creative people who were killed from 1914 to 1918. As Cross says, "A complete list of all poets, playwrights, writers, artists, architects and composers who died as a result of the First World War is an impossible task," but even so he has compiled a list of approximately 750 names. The list includes only people who had already accomplished something of note in their fields; we are left to ponder how many of the 9,000,000 young men lost in the war might have gone on to do great things in the arts, sciences, medicine, and politics.
Given the official number of military personnel killed between the years 1914 and 1918-- over one million dead soldiers from the British Empire and the United States alone-- a handful of artists might seem insignificant. Those of us who read and study twentieth-century poetry, however, cannot help wondering what the course of modern literature might have been if these promising young writers had survived and fulfilled their roles as poets. As these sobering numbers reveal, the few American and British authors represented here only hint at the devastating effects of the Great War on twentieth-century literature.
Military Casualties in World War I 1914-1918 Belgium 45,550 British Empire 942,135 France 1,368,000 Greece 23,098 Italy 680,000 Japan 1,344 Montenegro 3,000 Portugal 8,145 Romania 300,000 Russia 1,700,000 Serbia 45,000 United States 116,516 Austria-Hungary 1,200,000 Bulgaria 87,495 Germany 1,935,000 Ottoman Empire 725,000
There died a myriad,|
And of the best, among them,
For an old bitch gone in the teeth,
For a botched civilization,
Charm, smiling at the good mouth,
For two gross of broken statues,
-- Ezra Pound, 1920
Johnny Got His Gun "Keep the Home-Fires Burning"