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Analysis

History and Humor

You might have read Robert Graves as a war poet, but that's probably because every high school English class has some section on bravery and valor, and, well, the WWI poets are pretty good candidates on both counts. But Graves' interest in history extended beyond the wars that he fought in. He reached back—way back—to write about the beliefs of the ancient Greeks and the lives of the ancient Romans. Some people are only interested in their own history. But Graves was into History with a capital H.

He wrote about and imagined the lives and times of soldiers in his lifetime and soldiers long ago. Check out "Cry Faugh!" here, which works through his relationship to love, history, and myth. For Graves' war poems, "Queer Time" is a good starting point. You can find it here. You've got to admire the man's imaginative reach.

But here's why we're really excited about Graves' poetry: he makes history interesting. Instead of giving us dates and names and places, he writes about the passions that move people through a specific set of events. And he does so with a certain tongue-in-cheek detachment from all his subjects. Nothing is too serious for a laugh—not even love, death, or the passage of time.

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