Log in

No account? Create an account
War Poetry
Recent Entries 
22nd-Jul-2018 02:00 am - Sybil Bristowe, 'Over the Top'
Over the Top

Ten more minutes! – Say yer prayers,
Read yer Bibles, pass the rum!
Ten more minutes! Strike me dumb,
'Ow they creeps on unawares,
Those blooming minutes. Nine. It's queer,
I'm sorter stunned. It ain't with fear!

Eight. It's like as if a frog
Waddled round in your inside,
Cold as ice-blocks, straddle wide,
Tired o' waiting. Where's the grog?
Seven. I'll play yer pitch and toss –
Six. – I wins, and tails yer loss.

'Nother minute sprinted by
'Fore I knowed it; only Four
(Break 'em into seconds) more
'Twixt us and Eternity.
Every word I've ever said
Seems a-shouting in my head.

Three. Larst night a little star
Fairly shook up in the sky,
Didn't like the lullaby
Rattled by the dogs of War.
Funny thing – that star all white
Saw old Blighty, too, larst night.

Two. I ain't ashamed o' prayers,
They're only wishes sent ter God
Bits o' plants from bloody sod
Trailing up His golden stairs.
Ninety seconds – Well, who cares!
One –
No fife, no blare, no drum –
Over the Top – to Kingdom Come!

By Sybil Bristowe
22nd-Jul-2018 01:00 am - Derek Sellen, 'Shadows of War'
Shadows of War

I walk in the gardens,
on the run from the news.
The orange waste-sacks,
bellied with swept leaves,
crouch between the limes
all along the bare avenue -
prisoners of Guantanamo.

I walk in the orchards,
abandoned to autumn.
A dog leaps playful
out of its owner's control,
runs with the leash trailing
among the shit-coils in the dirt -
barking an echo of Abu Ghraib.

I walk in the break-time,
see poems on a classroom wall,
Owen, Sassoon, Sorley,
the texts of this year's syllabus:
words wailing like shells,
beyond the limits of our hearing -
mourning the corpses of Fallujah.

By Derek Sellen
A Poem To Aharon Zisling

"It has been said that there were cases of rape in Ramile. I could forgive acts of rape, but I won’t forgive other deeds, which appear to me to be much graver. When a town is entered and rings are forcibly removed from fingers and jewelry from necks—this is a much graver matter."
—Aharon Zisling, Agricultural Minister to the Israeli Cabinet, July 21, 1948

'To begin with, utensils and furniture, and in the end, bodies of men, women and children."
— a witness

What is worse, Aharon Zisling,
the looting of a town or a forced march into dust,
the heat and the weight of what is owned
a double burden, and then the third,
grandfather down, grandmother unable to continue,
the substance of child so heavy
the sand, the birds, all of the maggots
home? What can you do, Aharon Zisling,
you who rant against Pogroms,
you who believe the Exile of Israel,
you who spoke against criminal and thief?

I thought we better than this,
Aharon Zisling, not even enough saliva left
to bathe the stone in the mouth of those too weak
to go on. The heat, lack of shade, scream of guns.
I thought we better than this, Aharon Zisling.
This one here, she is fourteen,
her legs not strong to go on,
and this one, almost ninety,
no one strong enough to carry either one,
Aharon Zisling, you who condone rape,
you who condone murder,
you who condone the breaking of the tablets.

By Michael Brownstein

Aharon Zisling
20th-Jul-2018 01:00 am - Danusha Lameris, 'Arabic'

I don’t remember the sounds
rising from below my breastbone
though I spoke that golden language
with the girls of Beirut, playing hopscotch
on the hot asphalt. We called out to our mothers
for lemonade, and when the men
walking home from work stooped down,
slipped us coins for candy, we thanked them.
At the market, I understood the bargaining
of the butcher, the vendors of fig and bread.
In Arabic, I whispered into the tufted ears
of a donkey, professing my love. And in Arabic
I sang at school, or dreamt at night.
There is an Arab saying,
Sad are only those who understand.
What did I know then of the endless trail
of losses? In the years that have passed,
I’ve buried a lover, a brother, a son.
At night, the low drumroll
of bombs eroded the edges of the city.
The girls? Who knows what has been taken
from them.

For a brief season I woke
to a man who would whisper to me
in Arabic, then tap the valley of my sternum,
ask me to repeat each word,
coaxing the rusty syllables from my throat.
See,he said, they’re still here.
Though even that memory is faint.
And maybe he was right. What’s gone
is not quite gone, but lingers.
Not the language, but the bones
of the language. Not the beloved,
but the dark bed the beloved makes
inside our bodies.

By Danusha Lameris
The Hell-Gate of Soissons

My name is Darino, the poet. You have heard? Oui, Comédie Française.
Perchance it has happened, mon ami, you know of my unworthy lays.
Ah, then you must guess how my fingers are itching to talk to a pen;
For I was at Soissons, and saw it, the death of the twelve Englishmen.

My leg, malheureusement, I left it behind on the banks of the Aisne.
Regret? I would pay with the other to witness their valor again.
A trifle, indeed, I assure you, to give for the honor to tell
How that handful of British, undaunted, went into the Gateway of Hell.

Let me draw you a plan of the battle. Here we French and your Engineers stood;
Over there a detachment of German sharpshooters lay hid in a wood.
A mitrailleuse battery planted on top of this well-chosen ridge
Held the road for the Prussians and covered the direct approach to the bridge.

It was madness to dare the dense murder that spewed from those ghastly machines.
(Only those who have danced to its music can know what the mitrailleuse means.)
But the bridge on the Aisne was a menace; our safety demanded its fall:
“Engineers,—volunteers!” In a body, the Royals stood out at the call.

Death at best was the fate of that mission—to their glory not one was dismayed.
A party was chosen—and seven survived till the powder was laid.
And they died with their fuses unlighted. Another detachment! Again
A sortie is made—all too vainly. The bridge still commanded the Aisne.

We were fighting two foes—Time and Prussia—the moments were worth more than troops.
We must blow up the bridge. A lone soldier darts out from the Royals and swoops
For the fuse! Fate seems with us. We cheer him; he answers—our hopes are reborn!
A ball rips his visor—his khaki shows red where another has torn.

Will he live—will he last—will he make it? Hélas! And so near to the goal!
A second, he dies! then a third one! A fourth! Still the Germans take toll!
A fifth, magnifique! It is magic! How does he escape them? He may …
Yes, he does! See, the match flares! A rifle rings out from the wood and says “Nay!”

Six, seven, eight, nine take their places, six, seven, eight, nine brave their hail;
Six, seven, eight, nine—how we count them! But the sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth fail!
A tenth! Sacré nom! But these English are soldiers—they know how to try;
(He fumbles the place where his jaw was)—they show, too, how heroes can die.

Ten we count—ten who ventured unquailing—ten there were—and ten are no more!
Yet another salutes and superbly essays where the ten failed before.
God of Battles, look down and protect him! Lord, his heart is as Thine—let him live!
But the mitrailleuse splutters and stutters, and riddles him into a sieve.

Then I thought of my sins, and sat waiting the charge that we could not withstand.
And I thought of my beautiful Paris, and gave a last look at the land,
At France, my belle France, in her glory of blue sky and green field and wood.
Death with honor, but never surrender. And to die with such men—it was good.

They are forming—the bugles are blaring—they will cross in a moment and then …
When out of the line of the Royals (your island, mon ami, breeds men)
Burst a private, a tawny-haired giant—it was hopeless, but, ciel! how he ran!
Bon Dieu please remember the pattern, and make many more on his plan!

No cheers from our ranks, and the Germans, they halted in wonderment too;
See, he reaches the bridge; ah! he lights it! I am dreaming, it cannot be true.
Screams of rage! Fusillade! They have killed him! Too late though, the good work is done.
By the valor of twelve English martyrs, the Hell-Gate of Soissons is won!

By Herbert Kaufman

Battle of Soissons, July 18, 1918
Armageddon: Foret de Villers-Cotterets, July 18, 1918

Was it a dream that all one summer night
We toiled obscurely through a mighty wood
Teeming with desperate armies; toiled to smite
At dawn upon the unsuspecting height
Above, the Powers of Darkness where they stood?
Was it a dream? Our hosts poured like a flood

In ceaseless cataract of shadowy forms
Along the dark torrential avenues,
Within, the host unseen, unseeing, swarms;
Without, the blind foe’s nervous shell-fire storms,
And groping plane its flares, suspicious, strews
Above the cross-roads where the columns fuse.

Dwarfed in the enormous beeches and submerged
In double night we labored up the aisles
As in an underworld; our convoys surged
Like streams in flood, and now our torrents merged
With other torrents from the blind defiles
As hurrying units joined our crowded files.

The hoarse confusion of that precipitate march,
The night-long roar that hung about that train,
Lost itself in the branches that o’erarch
Those passages, and to the heaven’s far porch
No whisper rose, but all that agonized strain
Of myriads clamored to the skies in vain.

Beneath a load of palpable dark we bowed.
Smothered in hours with time itself we strove.
The wilderness stood o’er us like a cloud
Opaque to bar bright futures disallowed,
Denying dawn, as though the vindictive grove
Eternal night around our legions wove.

Was it a dream, that rush through night to day?
Far in the depths of night we labored on,
Out of the core of midnight made our way
To meet the grandiose daybreak far away,
While unknown thousands brushed us and were gone,
Whence, whither, in that night’s oblivion.

Oaths, shouts and cries rose o’er the incessant din
Of wheel and hoof, and many a frantic blow.
The dazed beasts battle through that tumult in
The darkness at the driver’s lash to win
A goal unknown: nor do the thousands know
The event in course, but likewise blindly go.

by Amos N. Wilder
"The crux and turning point of the World War is usually assigned to the dawn of July 18, 1918. At that tim,e, after a feverish mobilisation in the great woods near Soissons of Highlander, Morrocan and other units, including the first and second American divisions, General Mangin, under Marshall Foch's orders, attacked eastward, threatening the German Marne salient. That desperate run to the fronts in the great beech forests during that rainy night and the attack at 4:25 remain one of the outstanding epic actions of the war. The overtones of the event and its portentuous significance were dimly felt by those who took part in it. "
17th-Jul-2018 01:00 am - Hubert Wilson, 'Rainbow Death'
Rainbow Death

America did not foresee
Green, pink, purple and other colors death potpourri!
Expecting others to pay a high price.
Now thinking twice?
Toll on the innocent and unborn.

Omnipotent and disregarding who will mourn.
Reflective about all the illness, birth defects and prematurely dead.
All the deceit continues to spread.
Nefariously America led astray -
Generations untold WILL pay -
Execrable effects of agent orange spray!

By Hubert Wilson
Ssgt USAF, 1968-1972

Rainbow Herbicides
16th-Jul-2018 01:00 am - Edmund Blunden, 'The Watchers'
The Watchers

I heard the challenge 'Who goes there?'
Close kept but mine through midnight air
I answered and was recognized
And passed, and kindly thus advised;
'There's someone crawling though the grass
By the red ruin, or there was,
And them machine guns been a firin'
All the time the chaps was wirin',
So Sir if you're goin' out
You'll keep you 'ead well down no doubt.'

When will the stern fine 'Who goes there?'
Meet me again in midnight air?
And the gruff sentry's kindness, when
Will kindness have such power again?
It seems as, now I wake and brood,
And know my hour's decreptitude,
That on some dewy parapet
the sentry's spirit gazes yet,
Who will not speak with altered tone
When I am last am seen and known.

By Edmund Blunden
15th-Jul-2018 01:00 am - Ivor Gurney, 'The Stone-Breaker'
The Stone-Breaker

The early dew was still untrodden,
Flawless it lay on flower and blade,
The last caress of night's cold fragrance
A freshness in the young day made.

The velvet and the silver floor
Of the orchard-close was gold inlaid
With spears and streaks of early sunlight -
Such beauty makes men half afraid.

An old man at his heap of stones
Turned as I neared his clinking hammer,
Part of the earth he seemed, the trees,
The sky, the twelve-hour heat of summer.

"Fine marnen, zür!" And the earth spoke
From his mouth, as if the field dark red
On our right hand had greeted me
With words, that grew tall grain instead.

* * *

Oh, years ago, and near forgot!
Yet, as I walked the Flemish way,
An hour gone, England spoke to me
As clear of speech as on that day;

Since peasants by the roadway working
Hailed us in tones uncouth, and one
Turned his face toward the marching column,
Fronted, took gladness from the sun.

And straight my mind was set on singing
For memory of wrinkled face,
Orchards untrodden, far to travel,
Sweet to find in my own place.

By Ivor Gurney (July 1918)
14th-Jul-2018 01:00 am - Uriah Shelton, 'I Miss You'
I Miss You

Walking down this cold dark lonely road
I feel so much pain and sadness and hurt down in my soul
Wondering will I ever see your face again
And will the weight on my heart, ever be lifted. Whoa~

I open up my eyes, I miss you
Every time I fall asleep, I miss you
I wanna scream and shout, I miss you
Every day it's all about how I miss you
Every time I close my eyes, I miss you
Every day I'm walking the streets to be near you
When I drop my beat, I feel you
How can I help you start to know how I miss you?

I'm walking and I've got no place to go
Cause all I need is you right here running right home
I just want to look into your eyes again
So I'm praying, and I'm down on my knees,
Trying to let you know how I miss you so.

I open up my eyes, I miss you
Every time I fall asleep, I miss you
I wanna scream and shout, I miss you
Every day it's all about how I miss you
Every time I close my eyes, I miss you
Every day I'm walking the streets to be near you
When I drop my beat, I feel you
How can I help you start to know how I miss you?

It's little things I miss the most
At home with my son I'm sharing the mic post
When we're suddenly overcome
With the smell of my wife's roast
And we both knows to finish the song
I'm spitting, he's hitting the right notes
If yall were sitting here hearing it
You would be swearing It couldn't be white folks
And I might boast
Cause all that I have to grasp are weapons and rifles
I will go where the fight goes
As long as I'm reppin' my brothers disciples
But a light goes
Memories die and I can't see the eyes of my son
And I welcome the day to lay down my gun
And into my arms he will run.

I open up my eyes , I miss you
Every time I fall asleep, I miss you
I wanna scream and shout, I miss you
Every day it's all about how I miss you
Every time I close my eyes, I miss you
Every day I'm walking the streets to be near you
When I drop my beat, I feel you
How can I, how can I, let you know how much I miss you.

By Uriah Shelton

Hanging On The Old Barb Wire

If you want to find the general
I know where he is
I know where he is
I know where he is
If you want to find the general

I know where he is
He's pinning another medal on his chest
I saw him, I saw him
Pinning another medal on his chest
Pinning another medal on his chest

If you want to find the colonel
I know where he is
I know where he is
I know where he is
If you want to find the colonel

I know where he is
He's sitting in comfort stuffing his bloody gut
I saw him, I saw him
Sitting in comfort stuffing his bloody gut
Sitting in comfort stuffing his bloody gut

If you want to find the seargent
I know where he is
I know where he is
I know where he is
If you want to find the seargent

I know where he is
He's drinking all the company rum
I saw him, I saw him
Drinking all the company rum
Drinking all the company rum

If you want to find the private
I know where he is
I know where he is
I know where he is
If you want to find the private

I know where he is
He's hanging on the old barbed wire
I saw him, I saw him
Hanging on the old barbed wire
Hanging on the old barbed wire


12th-Jul-2018 01:00 am - Jessie Pope, 'Ware Wire!'
'Ware Wire!

When the beagles are running like steam,
When the plough is as sticky as glue,
When the scent is an absolute scream,
And there's wire in the fence to get through
Who waits to look after his pal?
Hung up? then he's out of the fun.
Torn, muddy, and blown, every man on his own
That's the time-honoured rule of the run.

There's wire in the fences of France.
There are bullets that whistle and spit.
The word goes along to advance,
And the wire clutches somebody's kit.
"Hold hard! I'll unhook you, old chap.
No hurry. Oh, rubbish! What rot!"
Shots patter and thud, shells burst in the mud.
"Don't pull! Now, you're clear no, you're not!"

Well, that is how the business is done.
A sportsman will brook no delay,
With hounds it's life and death run,
He's out for himself all the way.
But when black Eternity gapes
There's time and there's patience enough.
A case of 'ware wire, and a pal under fire
"No hurry" that's British-made stuff!

By Jessie Pope
11th-Jul-2018 01:00 am - Ulrike Gerbig, 'War Correspondent'
War Correspondent

There is not much to report

Big parts of me
Are restricted area

I could easily become a
Casualty of this unstable peace
Could be pierced by shrapnel of want
Could be blown up by mines of memories
Buried deep in this passion-scorched earth

Ricochets riddled my armour
My visor is tear-stained
I do not see right
I will not go there

I lie low
I wait for a treaty
I hope for a peace corps

Dig me out of my shelter
Make me take down
This blemished white flag

by Ulrike Gerbig
10th-Jul-2018 01:00 am - A. P. Herbert, 'After The Battle'
After The Battle

So they are satisfied with our Brigade,
And it remains to parcel out the bays!
And we shall have the usual Thanks Parade,
The beaming General, and the soapy praise.

You will come up in your capricious car
To find your heroes sulking in the rain,
To tell us how magnificent we are,
And how you hope we'll do the same again.

And we, who knew your old abusive tongue,
Who heard you hector us a week before,
We who have bled to boost you up a rung -
A K.C.B. perhaps, perhaps a Corps -

We who must mourn those spaces in the mess
And somehow fill those hollows in the heart
We do not want your Sermon on Success
Your greasy benisons on Being Smart.

We only want to take our wounds away.
To some warm village where the tumult ends,
And drowsing in the sunshine many a day,
Forget our aches, forget that we had friends.

Weary we are of blood and noise and pain;
This was a week we shall not soon forget;
And if, indeed, we have to fight again,
We little wish to think about it yet.

We have done well; we like to hear it said.
Say it, and then, for God's sake, say no more.
Fight, if you must, fresh battles far ahead,
But keep them dark behind your chateau door!

by A. P. Herbert
9th-Jul-2018 01:00 am - Robert Service, 'Bill's Grave'
Bill's Grave

I'm gatherin' flowers by the wayside to lay on the grave of Bill;
I've sneaked away from the billet, 'cause Jim wouldn't understand;
'E'd call me a silly fat'ead, and larf till it made 'im ill,
To see me 'ere in the cornfield, wiv a big bookay in me 'and.

For Jim and me we are rough uns, but Bill was one o' the best;
We 'listed and learned together to larf at the wust wot comes;
Then Bill copped a packet proper, and took 'is departure West,
So sudden 'e 'adn't a minit to say good-bye to 'is chums.

And they took me to where 'e was planted, a sort of a measly mound,
And, thinks I, 'ow Bill would be tickled, bein' so soft and queer,
If I gathered a bunch o' them wild-flowers, and sort of arranged them round
Like a kind of a bloody headpiece . . . and that's the reason I'm 'ere.

But not for the love of glory I wouldn't 'ave Jim to know.
'E'd call me a slobberin' Cissy, and larf till 'is sides was sore;
I'd 'ave larfed at meself too, it isn't so long ago;
But some'ow it changes a feller, 'avin' a taste o' war.

It 'elps a man to be 'elpful, to know wot 'is pals is worth
(Them golden poppies is blazin' like lamps some fairy 'as lit);
I'm fond o' them big white dysies. . . . Now Jim's o' the salt o' the earth;
But 'e 'as got a tongue wot's a terror, and 'e ain't sentimental a bit.

I likes them blue chaps wot's 'idin' so shylike among the corn.
Won't Bill be glad! We was allus thicker 'n thieves, us three.
Why! 'Oo's that singin' so 'earty? JIM! And as sure as I'm born
'E's there in the giddy cornfields, a-gatherin' flowers like me.

Quick! Drop me posy be'ind me. I watches 'im for a while,
Then I says: "Wot 'o, there, Chummy! Wot price the little bookay?"
And 'e starts like a bloke wot's guilty, and 'e says with a sheepish smile:
"She's a bit of orl right, the widder wot keeps the estaminay."

So 'e goes away in a 'urry, and I wishes 'im best o' luck,
And I picks up me bunch o' wild-flowers, and the light's gettin' sorto dim,
When I makes me way to the boneyard, and . . . I stares like a man wot's stuck,

Of course I won't never tell 'im, bein' a tactical lad;
And Jim parley-voos to the widder: "Trez beans, lamoor; compree?"
Oh, 'e'd die of shame if 'e knew I knew; but say! won't Bill be glad
When 'e stares through the bleedin' clods and sees the blossoms of Jim and me?

By Robert W. Service
Killed Piave--July 8--1918

Desire and
All the sweet pulsing aches
And gentle hurtings
That were you,
Are gone into the sullen dark.
Now in the night you come unsmiling
To lie with me
A dull, cold, rigid bayonet
On my hot-swollen, throbbing soul.

by Ernest Hemingway
7th-Jul-2018 01:00 am - Leon Gellert, 'These Men'
These Men

Men moving in a trench, in the clear noon,
Whetting their steel within the crumbling earth;
Men, moving in a trench ‘neath a new moon
That smiles with a slit mouth and has no mirth;
Men moving in a trench in the grey morn,
Lifting bodies on their clotted frames:
Men with narrow mouths thin-carved in scorn
That twist and fumble strangely at dead names.

These men know life – know death a little more.
These men see paths and ends, and see
Beyond some swinging open door
Into eternity.

By Leon Gellert
6th-Jul-2018 01:00 am - Rise Against, 'Architects'

Are there no fighters left here anymore?
Are we the generation we've been waiting for?
Or are we patiently burning, waiting to be saved?

Our heroes, our icons have mellowed with age.
Following rules that they once disobeyed.
They're now being led when they used to lead the way

Do you still believe in all the things that you stood by before?
(That you stood by before.)
Are you out there on the front lines, or at home keeping score?
Do you care to be the layer of the bricks that seal your fate?
(Bricks that seal your fate.)
Would you rather be the architect of what we might create?


They laid out the blueprints,
They poured down a base
Concrete solutions to slow our decay.
But when they are gone
Who the fuck's gonna take their place?

Yeah, will it be the cynic, the critics galore?
The cliche apathetic, passed out on the floor
The trusting complicit who collectively ignore

Do you still believe in all the things that you stood by before?
(That you stood by before.)
Are you out there on the front lines, or at home keeping score?
Do you care to be the layer of the bricks that seal your fate?
(Bricks that seal your fate.)
Would you rather be the architect of what we might create?

Don't you remember when you were young, and you wanted to set the world on fire?
Somewhere deep down, I know you do.
And don't you remember when we were young, and we wanted to set the world on fire?
'Cause I still am, and I still do.

Make no mistake, we are not afraid
To bear the burden of repeating
What they're thinking anyway.
Let's raise the stakes
On the bet we made.
Let's decide to be the architects,
The masters of our fate.

Yeah, we still believe in all the things that we stood by before.
(That we stood by before.)
And after everything we've seen, there may be even more.
I know we're not the only ones and we were not the first.
(We were not the first.)
And unapologetically we stand behind each word.

By 'Rise Against'

5th-Jul-2018 01:00 am - Vera Brittain, 'To My Brother'
To My Brother

Your battle-wounds are scars upon my heart,
Received when in that grand and tragic 'show'
You played your part,
Two years ago,

And silver in the summer morning sun
I see the symbol of your courage glow --
That Cross you won
Two years ago.

Though now again you watch the shrapnel fly,
And hear the guns that daily louder grow,
As in July
Two years ago.

May you endure to lead the Last Advance
And with your men pursue the flying foe
As once in France
Two years ago.

by Vera Brittain
This page was loaded Jul 23rd 2018, 1:37 am GMT.