Jessie Pope was a journalist and poet who is now often linked to Wilfred Owen. As a writer Pope was mainly a humourist and writer of light verse, but her other works have been overshadowed by her pro-war poems. Poems like ‘Who’s for the Game?’ used cheerful lively rhythms that made the war seem like fun. These poems were published in The Daily Mirror and focused on encouraging recruitment. Pope’s treatment of the war is obviously in clear contrast to the anti-war stance of soldier poets such as Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen. We do know that Dulce et Decorum Est was a direct response to her writing as it was originally dedicated “To Jessie Pope etc.” A later draft amended this to “To a certain Poetess”.
When we look at poems such as ‘Who’s for the Game’, they do seem inappropriate in tone and insensitive as we are now aware of the true horrors of World War One. When Pope’s work is used in schools today it is as a counterpoint to the work of the war poets such as Owen. We can see by reading the poem below that a comparison of her pro-war work with that of Owen’s shows that her poetry is weaker technically and politically.
Who’s for the Game ?
Who’s for the game, the biggest that’s played,
The red crashing game of a fight?
Who’ll grip and tackle the job unafraid?
And who thinks he’d rather sit tight?
Who’ll toe the line for the signal to ‘Go!’?
Who’ll give his country a hand?
Who wants a turn to himself in the show?
And who wants a seat in the stand?
Who knows it won’t be a picnic – not much-
Yet eagerly shoulders a gun?
Who would much rather come back with a crutch
Than lie low and be out of the fun?
Come along, lads –
But you’ll come on all right –
For there’s only one course to pursue,
Your country is up to her neck in a fight,
And she’s looking and calling for you.