Crusaders and First World War poetry

Appearing on Radio 4’s ‘Beyond Belief’ provokes thoughts about Great War poetry

I found myself (as though it were outside my volition) interviewed for today’s Beyond Belief on BBC Radio 4. As the filling in the middle of the sandwich, I didn’t hear the panel’s comments until the broadcast. I’m not entirely sure I agree with the comment that the First World War changed the public perception of chivalry and therefore of the Crusades, but the point about the sentimental invocation of a romanticised past is quite right, as can be heard in The Volunteer by Herbert Asquith (1881-1947), who was son of the British Prime Minister:

And now those waiting dreams are satisfied
From twilight to the halls of dawn he went;
His lance is broken; but he lies content
With that high hour, in which he lived and died.
And falling thus, he wants no recompense,
Who found his battle in the last resort
Nor needs he any hearse to bear him hence,
Who goes to join the men of Agincourt.

The same Great War site has a volume called The Holy War by the Irish poet and novelist Katharine Tynan which very explicitly portrays death in the War as religious sacrifice. For example, the Dedication concludes:

In this most glorious day and year
That gives your man to die for men.