The English poetess Vera Brittain is remembered for her novel Testament of Youth. Just like this book, her poems are inspired by World War I. She believed in pacifism and found that war only brings forward tragedy. The poem The Superfluous Woman is all about the role that women performed in this Great War.
About The Superfluous Woman
World War I or The Great War ended in 1918. The term Great War refers to the way people saw this conflict. Another name that is often used for this war is War to End All Wars. Based on the knowledge about the period after this war and the outbreak of World War II, this war did not end all conflicts. When taking a look at the various wars that were fought throughout history, these wars did not offer any solutions and lead to even more conflicts.
This war, the first major conflict of the twentieth century, was of great inspiration for the English writer and poetess Vera Brittain. She was the odd-one in her time. Nowadays, it is considered normally for women, to want to be able to make their own choices. Growing up in Newcastle-Under-Lyme (Staffordshire, UK), it wasn’t normal at that time (at the end of the nineteenth century). She was considered as a rebellious child. She was able to study at Oxford College (English Literature). Her father did not approve to this though.
When World War I broke out in 1914, her brother joined the British army. She volunteered as a nurse in 1915 and saw what war leads to. Her brother, two friends and her fiancé Roland Leighton all died during this first year of the war. Her experiences during this war, would form the basis of her later work.
After the war was over, she picked up her study at Oxford and would grow out to become an important ambassador for pacifism and equal rights for women.
When reading the poem The Superfluous Woman, it reminds us that women played an important role in World War I too. There is more to this story. Taking into consideration, that so many soldiers died during this war, many women were left behind. They had to struggle during the twenties and during the The Great Depression (1929 – 1941).
The Superfluous Woman
Ghosts crying down the vistas of the years,
Whose echoes long have died,
And kind moss grown
Over the sharp and blood-bespattered stones
Which cut our feet upon the ancient ways.
But who will look for my coming?
Long busy days where many meet and part;
Remembered hours of hope;
And city streets
Grown dark and hot with eager multitudes
Hurrying homeward whither respite waits.
But who will seek me at nightfall?
Light fading where the chimneys cut the sky;
Footsteps that pass,
Nor tarry at my door.
And far away,
Behind the row of crosses, shadows black
Stretch out long arms before the smouldering sun.
But who will give me my children?
— Vera Brittain
Interested in the life of this English writer and poetess? Then read her biography.