John Gurney
War - An Epic Poem in 24 Books
1996. 474 pp. ISBN-13 978-3-7052-0978-7. Illustrated by Paul Peter Piech
£19.00 (+ 3.00 p&p), €19.00 (+ 3.00 p&p), US$ 22.50 (+ 4.50 p&p)
“When I approached the composition of War I did not wish to be too influenced by other forms pf epic schematization. Models of the tradition vibrated on the shelf with all their customary epic furniture [...] What emerged eventually was the first part of a myth on the central theme of separation and return. Many of the epic ingredients seemed to occur quite naturally, spiritist approximations to the usual geography of paradise, purgatory and hell, which, in their way, turned out to be freshingly mundane and bourgeois. My former rather distant experiences as a day fighter-pilot, though by no means exactly reproduced in the text, at least etsablished a certain rapport with the action of the flying scenes, so much so tha I hope that the use of the generic term epic for the work is not too catachrestic. Frye's "mythoi" crystallised; romantic quest was followed by the tragic catastrophe, but by the time the narrative had reached sixteen thousand lines I began to feel that if the text were not to end in apparent anarchy and confusion, I needed more space to do real justice to the emerging antstrophic themes of rebirth and the real (or unreal) nature of evil. Consequently I finished the text at what I considered an appropriate place, thus leaving War as the first section of a tripartite work."
John Gurney. Introduction

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Table of Contents

Excerpts from War - An Epic Poem in 24 Books

From Book I

As if he had been painted on the air,
daubed upon the grey wash of the dawn
by sharp strokes from an upright Chinese brush,
the spirit stood before me. Charred and burnt,
fumbling with a double-metal stud,
he loosened his helmet, tugging it
across his balaclava. Limp and wet,
it hung down like a scalp of human skin
and stank of blood and sweat, as vacantly,
as if he tried to clarify his mind,
he rubbed his moulded goggles. Cordite soot
had left dark stains across theor sage-green glass.
Picking at the blackened rubber sponge
thet melted at its edges, he exhaled
a dark-blue sigh, that filled the sheath of light
that rippled round his body, soft as silk,
and fluid as the gore-stained woman's scarf
that flustered at his throat. he sighed again.
Like someone who is plunged in sudden cloud,
and finds his vision dimmed, quite featureless,
deprived of a horizon as his mind
bewilders as it starts to sense a stall,
he rubbed his oily eyelids, peering out
as if he stared on Erebus itself.

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