Poems from Spain: British and Irish International Brigadiers on the Spanish Civil War

Poems from Spain: British and Irish International Brigadiers on the Spanish Civil War

Poems from Spain: British and Irish International Brigadiers on the Spanish Civil War

Poems from Spain: British and Irish International Brigadiers on the Spanish Civil War

Synopsis

A moving anthology of poetry, this collection is devoted to pieces written by International Brigade volunteers who fought against the rise of fascism during the Spanish Civil War. Conveying the idealism and anguish felt by that extraordinary group of men and women- drawn from all social classes and all parts of Britain and Ireland- who risked their lives to defend democracy, the poems in this collection range from jaunty ballads penned in the trenches to explicit and insightful works of war poetry. Extensive notes and historical background on the poems and poets couple with verse from both famous poets- including John Cornford, Laurie Lee, and Sylvia Townsend Warner- and ordinary people trying to make sense of the history in which they were participating.

Excerpt

When Spaniards rose up to resist General Franco’s military rebellion, it was an inspiration to millions of people across the world. The Spanish Republic held out for nearly three years and against all odds. It built an army from scratch and, with inferior weaponry, held back the tide of European fascism much longer than anyone could reasonably have expected.

Spanish democracy was ultimately defeated in 1939. But the heroic struggle of the Spanish people alerted the rest of the world to the threat of fascism. So did the savagery of Franco, whether it was the terror bombing of Madrid, Barcelona or Guernica, the deliberate shelling of refugees fleeing Málaga and Catalonia or the murderous repression of opponents in conquered parts of Spain. Such behaviour would soon be repeated by Franco’s friends, Hitler and Mussolini, in the Second World War.

Like many other people at the time, I was deeply moved by the determination of most Spaniards to defend democracy and to stand up to fascism. Those of us who crossed the Pyrenees to help the Spanish Republic were convinced that this evil had to be stopped – and Spain was the place where this could be done. Otherwise, a wider European war was inevitable.

History proved us right and governments which had previously sat back and watched Spanish democracy being slowly bled to death were eventually forced to oppose fascism with arms and men. In the ensuing world war, which began only a few months after Franco’s triumph, German Nazism and Italian fascism were crushed. Tragically, Spaniards had to wait three decades longer, until the death of their dictator in 1975, for democracy to return. But the Spanish people’s part in checking the advance of fascism and in exposing its true nature played a crucial part in the victory of 1945.

It is fitting that the International Brigade Memorial Trust should sponsor this anthology of verse by the British and Irish International Brigade volunteers in that war. The poems are themselves memorials to that remarkable spirit of international solidarity which took 2,300 . . .

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