Archive for ‘War’

Sunday, 15 January 2023

The New Beginning by Herbert Edward Palmer

They had fought the last desperate battle.
They had deluged the earth with their rage
And the crimson flood mounted to Heaven,
And drew up each soul from its grave.

And sent them foeman with foeman
To shatter the quiet of the skies.
And lo! they commingled together
With the hope of God in their eyes.

And in faith they went peacefully singing,
And waking dead stars to new birth,
Till Earth knew Heaven as her lover,
And Heaven leaned down gracious to Earth,

And tendered her blossoms of healing,
And rained on her kindness of tears,
And gave back in trust to her lover
The bloom of the sacrificed years.

From: Palmer, Herbert E., Two Fishers and Other Poems, 1918, Elkin Mathews: London, pp. 18-19.

Date: 1918

By: Herbert Edward Palmer (1880-1961)

Tuesday, 20 December 2022

Death by James Donald Farrar

This strangest evening
Light of snow
Hangs wistful stars
Above the plain
And, leaving earth
Asleep, doth now
Walk mistily
In every vein
And shine upon
Her paler brow.


Date: 1942

By: James Donald Farrar (1923-1944)

Saturday, 12 November 2022

A Vignette by Roderick Watson Kerr

On stark and tortured wire
Where refuse of war lies
Tangled in mire—
When God is flinging
Rain down the skies—
Sit three little birds, singing.


Date: 1919

By: Roderick Watson Kerr (1895-1960)

Friday, 11 November 2022

Before the Assault by Robert Ernest Vernède

If thro’ the roar o’ the guns one prayer may reach Thee,
Lord of all Life, whose mercies never sleep,
Not in our time, not now, Lord, we beseech Thee
To grant us peace. The sword has bit too deep.

We may not rest. We hear the wail of mothers
Mourning the sons who fill some nameless grave:
Past us, in dreams, the ghosts march of our brothers
Who were most valiant . . . whom we could not save.

We may not rest. What though our eyes be holden,
In sleep we see dear eyes wet with tears,
And locks that once were, oh, so fair and golden,
Grown grey in hours more pitiless than years.

We see all fair things fouled—homes love’s hands builded
Shattered to dust beside their withered vines,
Shattered the towers that once Thy sunsets gilded,
And Christ stuck yet again within his shrines

Over them hangs the dust of death, beside them
The dead lie countless—and the foe laughs still;
We may not rest, while those cruel mouths deride them,
We, who were prod, yet could not work Thy will.

We have failed—we have been more weak than these betrayers—
In strength or in faith we have failed; our pride was vain.
How can we rest, who have not slain the slayers?
What peace for us, who have seen Thy children slain?

Hark, the roar grows . . . the thunders reawaken—
We ask one thing, Lord, only one thing now:
Hearts high as theirs, who went to death unshaken,
Courage like theirs to make and keep their vow.

To stay not till these hosts whom mercies harden,
Who know no glory save of sword and fire,
Find in our fire the splendour of Thy pardon,
Meet from our steel the mercy they desire . . .

Then to our children there shall be no handing
Of fates so vain—of passions so abhorr’d . . .
But Peace . . . the Peace which passeth understanding . . .
Not in our time . . . but in their time, O Lord.


Date: 1916

By: Robert Ernest Vernède (1875-1917)

Thursday, 10 November 2022

Women at Munition Making by Mary Gabrielle Collins

Their hands should minister unto the flame of life,
Their fingers guide
The rosy teat, swelling with milk,
To the eager mouth of the suckling babe
Or smooth with tenderness,
Softly and soothingly,
The heated brow of the ailing child.
Or stray among the curls
Of the boy or girl, thrilling to mother love.
But now,
Their hands, their fingers
Are coarsened in munition factories.
Their thoughts, which should fly
Like bees among the sweetest mind flowers
Gaining nourishment for the thoughts to be,
Are bruised against the law,
‘Kill, kill’.
They must take part in defacing and destroying the natural body
Which, certainly during this dispensation
Is the shrine of the spirit.
O God!
Throughout the ages we have seen,
Again and again
Men by Thee created
Cancelling each other.
And we have marvelled at the seeming annihilation
Of Thy work.
But this goes further,
Taints the fountain head,
Mounts like a poison to the Creator’s very heart.
O God!
Must It anew be sacrificed on earth?


Date: 1916

By: Mary Gabrielle Collins (1874-1945)

Wednesday, 9 November 2022

Resurrection by Hermann Hagedorn

Not long did we lie on the torn, red field of pain.
We fell, we lay, we slumbered, we took rest,
With the wild nerves quiet at last, and the vexed brain
Cleared of the wingèd nightmares, and the breast
Freed of the heavy dreams of hearts afar.
We rose at last under the morning star.
We rose, and greeted our brothers, and welcomed our foes.
We rose; like the wheat when the wind is over, we rose.
With shouts we rose, with gasps and incredulous cries,
With bursts of singing, and silence, and awestruck eyes,
With broken laughter, half tears, we rose from the sod,
With welling tears and with glad lips, whispering, “God.”
Like babes, refreshed from sleep, like children, we rose,
Brimming with deep content, from our dreamless repose.
And, “What do you call it?” asked one. “I thought I was dead.”
“You are,” cried another. “We’re all of us dead and flat.”
“I’m alive as a cricket. There’s something wrong with your head.”
They stretched their limbs and argued it out where they sat.
And over the wide field friend and foe
Spoke of small things, remembering not old woe
Of war and hunger, hatred and fierce words.
They sat and listened to the brooks and birds,
And watched the starlight perish in pale flame,
Wondering what God would look like when He came.


Date: 1917

By: Hermann Hagedorn (1882-1964)

Tuesday, 8 November 2022

Pierrot Goes to War by Gabrielle Elliot

In the sheltered garden pale beneath the moon,
(Drenched with swaying fragrance, redolent with June!)
There, among the shadows, some one lingers yet—
Pierrot, the lover, parts from Pierrette.

Bugles, bugles, bugles, blaring down the wind,
Sound the flaming challenge—Leave your dreams behind!
Come away from the shadows, turn your back on June—
Pierrot, go forward to face the golden noon.

In the muddy trenches, black and torn and still,
(How the charge swept over, to break against the hill!)
Huddled in  the shadows, boyish figures lie—
They whom Death, saluting, called upon to die.

Bugles, ghostly bugles, whispering down the wind—
Dreams too soon are over, gardens left behind.
Only shadows linger, for love does not forget—
Pierrot goes forward—but what of Pierrette?


Date: 1917

By: Gabrielle Elliot (fl. 1917)

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.

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.

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.


Date: 1917

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