Alfred Noyes : biography
Alfred Noyes CBE (16 September 188025 June 1958). According to some sources, he died on 25 June, but others, including Encyclopædia Britannica give the date as 28 June. was an English poet, best known for his ballads, "The Highwayman" and "The Barrel-Organ".
Noyes is often portrayed by hostile critics as a militarist and jingoist.Featherstone, Simon. War Poetry: An Introductory Reader. Routledge, 1995, pp. 28, 56-57. Actually, he was a pacifist who hated war and lectured against it, but felt that, when threatened by an aggressive and unreasoning enemy, a nation could not but fight. On this principle, he opposed the Boer War, but supported the Allies in both the World Wars. In 1913, when it seemed that war might yet be avoided, he published a long anti-war poem called The Wine Press. One American reviewer wrote that Noyes was "inspired by a fervent hatred of war and all that war means", and had used "all the resources of his varied art" to depict its "ultimate horror".Anon. , The North American Review, Vol. 199, No. 902 (May 1914): 785. The poet and critic Helen Bullis found Noyes’ "anti-militarist" poem "remarkable", "passionate and inspiring", but, in its "unsparing realism", lacking in "the large vision, which sees the ultimate truth rather than the immediate details". In her view, Noyes failed to address the "vital questions" raised, for example, by William James’ observation that for modern man, "War is the strong life; it is life in extremis", or by John Fletcher’s invocation in The Two Noble Kinsmen of war as the "great corrector" that heals and cures "sick" times.Bullis, Helen. , The New York Times, August 9, 1914. Bullis, a FreudianLowell, Amy. , The New York Times, October 19, 1919. (unlike Noyes, for whom psychoanalysis was a pseudo-science),Noyes, Alfred. Pageant of Letters, Sheed and Ward, 1940, p. 334. thought war had deeper roots than Noyes acknowledged. She saw looming "the great figures of the FatesHastings, Brad. Twist of Fate: The Moirae in Everyday Psychology, University Press of America, 2007. ISBN 978-0-7618-3934-7 back of the conflict, while Mr Noyes sees only the ‘five men in black tail-coats’ whose cold statecraft is responsible for it". In 1915, Upton Sinclair included some striking passages from The Wine Press in his anthology of the literature of social protest, The Cry for Justice.. From Upton Sinclair (ed.), The Cry for Justice: An Anthology of the Literature of Social Protest, 1915.
During World War I, Noyes was debarred by defective eyesight from serving at the front.Parrott, Thomas Marc and Thorp, Willard (eds). Poetry of the Transition, 1850-1914, Oxford University Press, New York, 1932, p. 500. Instead, from 1916, he did his military service on attachment to the Foreign Office, where he worked with John Buchan on propaganda. He also did his patriotic chore as a literary figure, writing morale-boosting short stories and exhortatory odes and lyrics recalling England’s military past and asserting the morality of her cause. These works are today justly forgotten, apart from two ghost stories, "The Lusitania Waits" and "The Log of the Evening Star", which are still occasionally reprinted in collections of tales of the uncanny. "The Lusitania Waits" is a ghost revenge story based on the sinking of the Lusitania by a German submarine in 1915—although the tale hinges on an erroneous claim that the submarine crew had been awarded the Goetz medal for sinking the ship. During World War II, Noyes wrote the same kind of patriotic poems, but he also wrote a much longer and more considered work, If Judgement Comes, in which Hitler stands accused before the tribunal of history. It was first published separately (1941) and then in the collection, Shadows on the Down and Other Poems (1945). The only fiction Noyes published in World War II was The Last Man (1940), a science fiction novel whose message could hardly be more anti-war. In the first chapter, a global conflict wipes out almost the entire human race.