By its very existence this enormous body of texts begs a multitude of questions. Why, in the first place, did so very many people throughout Europe feel a need to write about the war, whether to voice their patriotic fervour, to protest their country's involvement, or to express publicly their grief or longing? And why was verse such a popular medium, not only with writers but also with publishers and, one must assume, the reading public? The role of newspapers in circulating the poetry is an intriguing topic in its own right; it is hard to imagine popular newspapers at present assuming that their readers would appreciate a new poem every day. As one begins to look at individual poems from a wide range of sources, especially when the perspective is international, their homogeneity within categories is remarkable. That the response of English and German combatants describing the conditions of their life at the Front might have a common dimension

is perhaps not surpnsmg, in view of the physical proximity of the opposing forces; but how does one account for the even more striking international similarity amongst poems by civilians, in circumstances where influence across national boundaries was minimal? Equally fascinating, how can one explain some startling anomalies, such as that which distinguishes most Belgian patriotic poetry from any other, including French, or the overwhelmingly English preference for antiheroic deaths? And behind all these lie the questions raised by the poetry's unavoidable historicity: the many and complex links between the texts and their period of origin, the implications of this relationship in terms of literary theory and methodology, and the potential value of the poems as evidence of social attitudes in general.