chapter  12
‘Constantinople Our Star’: e Image of Byzantium and Byzantine Aesthetics in Fin-de-Siècle and Modernist Poetry
Pages 18

On 25 April 1915, British and allied troops landed on the Gallipoli Peninsula opposite the Ottoman Army under Kemal Ataturk, where they began nearly eight months of some of the most bloody trench warfare the world had known. The campaign would end on 9 January of the following year with the defeat of the British and their allies and the deaths of 120,000 soldiers. In July of 1915, in the midst of this carnage, the English Modernist artist Wyndham Lewis published the second issue of the journal Blast, an important organ for that branch of English Modernism which Ezra Pound termed Vorticism. In it, Lewis wrote an article entitled ‘Constantinople Our Star’, which begins: ‘That Russia will get Constantinople should be the prayer of every good artist in Europe. And, more immediately, if the Turks succeeded in beating off the Allies’ attack, it would be a personal calamity to those interested in Art’.2 Lewis elaborates two reasons why he believes this: first, he asserts the decay of English artistic culture; and second, the possibility of its renewal with the capture of Constantinople. Among the advantages, he writes that it would lead to ‘an entirely new type of Englishmen, in the person of our poet, [who] would be introduced to the amazed Oriental’ and ‘real efforts in Sciences and Arts more intelligently encouraged than in Germany’.3