“As a Choir of Frogs”. Nightmares in Australian Great War Poetry

Dominic P. G. Sheridan


Australian Great War poets were not able to escape their relationship with the dead, turning nightmares into poetry. Images haunted them, and through their poetry it may be seen that they lived in dread which became a central state of their subconscious. Frederic Manning said that the battle fields were the damned circles where Dante trod, recognising that he was in a hell where the dead became the carrion of rats and crows. Leon Gellert said that he strolled to hell where the world rolls wet with blood and the skinny hand of Death gropes at the beating heart. Their horrific visions help explain the shell-shocked realities of post-war years. Manning saw a boy’s face coming out of a cloud through a mist of blood, haunting him with its trembling lips, convulsing with terror and hate. He says it was the mask of God, broken by the horrors of war. Some saw hope in happy dreams interrupting nightmares, but Manning and Gellert stand as poetic examples of the soldier’s wartime hell. Gellert wrote, ‘the scythe of time runs red, while a Foul Voice screams and Fear runs shrieking by the wall’. Manning saw them all as a raucous choir of frogs. These mad images inform the reader of a mind tormented by sights too hideous to reconcile, and show the poet’s subconscious dread of the terror he must live with. 

Słowa kluczowe: Nightmares, Australian, War, hell, conscious, subconscious


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