Archive for ‘War’

Friday, 10 June 2022

The Soldier Speaks by Shawn Hamilton O’Leary

I cannot longer be as other men
Who trail from antic moment to event:
Who, frantic in their fever as the ant,
Clutch futile fingers at the hurricane
And, failing, find that they must make their run
Again. I who have seen the dragon’s teeth
Sown in sand, have known the clamorous crash
Of guns that garnished smoking holes with flesh,
Have seen guts ripped with shrapnel when blind faith
Was in men’s hearts and all they found was death…
I would be lost now in that other stream!
A ghost swift-walking in a windswept street
Would never the know the loneliness, regret
And grief that I would know like some dark crime
Encircling the memory in a frame.
Let me stay where the incense of the dead
Rises to the heraldic blaze of stars,
Or, private with the dog-black storm, knows wars
And a war’s ways; and at the end be laid
Softly down with the soil where the roots feed.

(But sometimes turning in the dark, I’ll start
And know an idiot spark burn the brain,
Burn the mind; and, sensing the silent groan
Of a dead comrade, wish again to court
A small space of living with the heart’s hurt.)

From: O’Leary, Shawn, “The Soldier Speaks” in The Bulletin, Volume 63, Number 3257 (15 July 1942), p. 4.
(https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-532647370/view?partId=nla.obj-532689707#page/n2/mode/1up)

Date: 1942

By: Shawn Hamilton O’Leary (1916-1992)

Thursday, 28 April 2022

The Enemy Within the Gate by Anne Almer

Hot sunlight streaming across the sands,
Alone at her window a woman stands.
The people crowd on the beach below,
And wave her flags as the soldiers go;
(But who had a cheer for her son, on his way
To the death he died, ere the dawn of day?)
With a “Good-bye!” here, and a “Bless you” there,
To the men who are riding so debonair,
And “Remember, Bill, bring the Kaiser back,
And we’ll find him some work on a back bush track!”
“You bet, we’ll try; if we don’t succeed
Send some other fellows to do the deed!”
And a “Three cheers, lads, ‘tis to honour you go,
And we look to your safe return, you know!”
(But no honour lay in the path he trod,
Who to-morrow will lie beneath the sod.)
And a grip of a hand, and a pat of a horse,
And, “Our prayers will follow you men, of course!”
And alone at her window the woman stands,
She is holding a rose in her trembling hands:
And the perfume of roses is scenting the air,
White roses she strewed on the white bed there.
As she watches the soldiers riding by,
The rose at her bosom is moved by her sigh;
Had her son been one of that gallant band,
Perchance to die in an alien land,
She had wept and sighed, but an honoured name
He had left behind, not a name of shame.
She bleeds for that soul gone forth in the night,
And she prays, “O Thou, who are Light, shed light
On that tragic journey he took alone,
Uncalled. O Christ, who for sin did’st atone,
Who knowest the secret struggles of men,
Have pity on one who has failed. Amen!”
For the foe her son fought was too strong for his strength;
But he fought, ay, he fought, day and night, till at length
Worn out by the conflict, confused and distressed—
The future loomed horror, and death promised rest.
His foe was no German whose name we abhor,
Who acts but the maxim, “In love and in war
All’s fair.” But an enemy garbed as a friend,
Who cheers and who brightens, to damn in the end!
But the woman who stands at the window sees,
While the soldiers ride by, and flags wave in the breeze,
There are women who weep, unashamed of their tears,
Unashamed of folk knowing their pride and their fears;
But, her eyelashes dry, she looks out o’er the sands,
Then suddenly turns to the rose in her hands:
As stainless and white was his hearts, when a boy,
He rode by her window, all frolic and joy.

The Light Horse have passed, with the crowd in their wake.
Grey and gold is the sea, and as still as a lake,
With no sound but the lap, as it licks at the sand,
And, as still as the water, so still is the land:
But stiller than all is that form on the bed,
Where a woman kneels weeping, alone with her dead.

From: Almer, Anne, “The Enemy Within the Gate” in The Register, Saturday, 31 October 1914, p. 5.
(https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/59270859#)

Date: 1915

By: Anne Almer (fl. 1896-1915)

Tuesday, 26 April 2022

The Sleep of Death by Harley “Harry” Matthews

We see no terror in your eyes.
They say that sleeping you were found;
Now we with bayonets guard you round.
Night’s shadow up the hillside creeps,
But you still watch the lighted skies,
Although the sentinel that sleeps
The next dawn dies.

Ah, the remorse is gone that grew
To think of what my comrade said:
“Give this to her when I am dead”—
A heart-shaped thing of little worth
That held her picture for his view,
But he was killed and in the earth
Before I knew.

It was last night. My watch I kept,
The stars just overhead shone dim.
Nought moved upon the hills’ far rim.
But in the hollows shadows seethed,
And as I watched, towards me crept.
I listened: deep my comrades breathed
Where near they slept.

Below men moved innumerable –
Fancy! and yet there was a doubt.
I closed my eyes to shut them out,
And for relief drew deeper breath,
Across my lids Sleep laid his spell;
I flung it off—to sleep was death,
I knew too well.

There came a pleasant breath of air,
Cool-wafted from the stars it seemed.
I looked: now they all brightly gleamed,
Then long I watched, alert, clear-eyed.
No sleeper stirred behind me there…
Yet then of some one at my side
I grew aware.

I stared: for he stood there, though dead,
Yet looking, that seemed nothing strange;
About his form there was no change
To see within that little light.
“‘Tis I. And yet you heard no tread.
A careless watch you keep to-night,”
He laughing said.

His voice no huskier had grown,
Then while I watched, he sat and told
Me of his love just as of old.
“Give this to her,” I heard him say.
I looked, and found I was alone.
Within my hand the locket lay
Cold as a stone.

I have it here to prove he lies
Who says that sleeping I was found.
I fear not though you guard me round.
Night’s shadow up the hillside creeps,
But I can watch the lighted skies,
Although the sentinel that sleeps
The next dawn dies.

From: https://allpoetry.com/The-Sleep-of-Death

Date: 1917

By: Harley “Harry” Matthews (1889-1968)

Monday, 25 April 2022

Sonnet by Robert Malise Bowyer Nichols

Now when I feel the hand of Death draw near
While yet no laurel stands upon my brow,
I ask what can sustain me, what is dear
Was dear once and remains so even now?
Fame, Wisdom, Love, the high inheritance
Of noble words and actions can no more
Beacon my spirit being changed of chance
To the bright rags on which the crazed set store.

Grown child again I turn my thoughts—too late—
Back to the quiet house upon the hill
Where shine—alas! more than sea-separate—
Those human hearts I loved, and harder still
Eyes too oft grieved by th’ importunate
And crooked workings of my hazard will.

FRANCE, 1915.

From: Nichols, Robert, Invocation: War Poems and Others, 1915, Elkin Mathews: London, p. 24.
(https://archive.org/details/invocationwarpoe00nichiala/)

Date: 1915

By: Robert Malise Bowyer Nichols (1893-1944)

Sunday, 24 April 2022

On the Tape by Richard Mill Oliver

Will the dawn ne’er waken?
Will the guns ne’er speak?
The opening words of the barrage,
Crouched here in shell holes,
The moments with leaden feet,
Creep to the zero time.

Why do I tremble so?
Surely craven fear is not mine,
As I think what an hour might bring.

Ah! see the dawn lingers as if
Fearing to rise, and rising,
Will gaze on forms so cold and stiff.
The dawn is here—the barrage down;
We’re moving at last, thank God!
It was not fear that seized my heart;
‘Twas only waiting for the start.

From: Oliver, R. Mill, Verses by a Solider “Over There”, 1918, John J. Newbegin: San Francisco, California, p. 22.
(https://archive.org/details/versesbysoldiero00oliv/)

Date: 1918

By: Richard Mill Oliver (fl. 1918)

Saturday, 23 April 2022

Nous Autres by Geoffrey Dearmer

We never feel the lust of steel
Or fury-woken blood,
We live and die and wonder why
In mud, and mud, and mud,
And horror first and horror last
And Phantom Terror riding past.
We hear and hear the hounds of Fear
Nearer and more near.
We feel their breath….
Only the nights befriend
And mitigate the hell;
Of those who ponder, see and hear,
Too well.
The nights, and Death –
The end.
We feel but never fear
His breath.

Day after weary day,
In vain, in vain, in vain,
We turn to Thee and pray,
We cry and cry again –
“O lord of Battle, why
Should we alone be sane?”

We stifle cries with lightless eyes
And face eternal night;
We stifle cries to sacrifice
Our eyes for Human Sight.
And many give that men may live,
A life, a limb, a brain,
That fellow men may understand
And be for ever sane.
What matter if we lose a hand
If others wander hand in hand;
Or lose a foot if others greet
The dawn of peace with dancing feet;
What matter if we die unheard
If others hear the Poet’s Word?

Because we pay from day to day
The price of sacrifice;
Because we face each dreary place
Again, again, again.
Lord, set us free from Sanity –
Who feel no fighting thrill;
Must we remain for ever sane
And never learn to kill?
No answer came. In very shame
Our long-unheeded cry
Grew bitterly more bitterly,
“O why, O why, O why.
May we not feel the lust of steel
The fury-woken thrill –
For men may learn to live and die
And never learn to kill?”

From: https://allpoetry.com/Nous-Autres

Date: 1919

By: Geoffrey Dearmer (1893-1996)

Friday, 22 April 2022

A Woman’s Prayer by Philadelphia Nina Robertson

I am so placid as I sit
In train or tram, and knit and knit;
I walk serenely down the street
And smile on all the friends I meet;
Within the house I give due heed
To every duty, each one’s need
And when it’s dark and lamps are lit,
I take my sock again, and knit.

Sometimes the newsboys hurry by
And then my needles seem to fly
Through purl and plain, row after row,
They flash, until the fire burns low—
I am so tranquil as I sit
Till bedtime comes, and knit and knit.

And when the house has grown quite still,
I lean out on my window-sill—
Lean out to the velvet night,
Gemmed with all its points of light,
And pray to God to see to it
That I keep sane enough to knit.

From: “New War Books” in The Bulletin, Vol. 37, No. 1916 (2 November 1916), p. [The Red Page].
(https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-658831288/view?partId=nla.obj-658862907#page/n0/mode/1up)

Date: 1916

By: Philadelphia Nina Robertson (1886-1951)

Friday, 4 March 2022

Courage by Charles Rann Kennedy

“The Guard will die, but not surrender!” Who
Hath read of Frenchmen and of Waterloo,
And doth not sigh to think, how many brave
Should madly rush to combat and the grave,
For one proud man, who little cared for them,
Save as the tools to fix a diadem
On his own head ? Dog-valiant! Happier those
Who make no war but with their country’s foes,
Ne’er draw the sword but in a rightful cause,
For their own hearth and home, their faith, their laws.
Yet happier far is he, who ne’er put on
The soldier’s garb, no laurel ever won;
But bears a heart of purpose firm and high,
To fight the great life-battle manfully,
Himself, his pride and passions to subdue,
The path of right unswerving to pursue,
Despising pleasure, wealth, and world-renown,
Earning his heavenly meed, a bright immortal crown.

From: Kennedy, Charles Rann, Poems, Original and Translated, 1843, Edward Moxon: London, p. 66.
(https://books.google.com.au/books?id=TBxkAAAAcAAJ)

Date: 1843

By: Charles Rann Kennedy (1808-1867)

Sunday, 27 February 2022

On a Day of Remembrance by Jed Myers

International Holocaust Remembrance Day, 2022

Let’s remember how they thought
they were finally cleaning things up.
Taking care of the rodent problem.
Not strange. The same way
we had the man spray downstairs
when moths had invaded the carpet.
You know how your scalp will itch
when you hear there are lice. Let’s
remember this, inheritance meant
to make our skin crawl at the chance
of a spider, a scorpion, ants.
Older than ancient. Ancestral.
Remembrance? Let it spread across
every checkpoint and wired wall,
to touch all our swatting hands.

From: https://www.rattle.com/on-a-day-of-remembrance-by-jed-myers/

Date: 2022

By: Jed Myers (1952- )

Sunday, 30 January 2022

War Poem by Yvonne Green

There are no heroic deaths in war,
if you round people up they cry like stuck pigs,
if you run with a bayonet you wet your pants
if you kill with a drone, computer games
make you crazy when your kids play them.

For evil not to triumph good people
need do nothing but advocate, negotiate, react,
be diplomatic, watchful, mindful.

They need to listen, hear,
answer not placate, resist not fight,
determine not dominate, be dutiful not expectant.
And ramparts will give way to borders,
wars will be averted before
they grow tired, seed poppies,
make mounds, cinders of macheted limbs,
empty boy’s bowels, girl’s wombs.

From: http://www.stosvet.net/12/green/index2.html

Date: 2011

By: Yvonne Green (1957- )