Archive for ‘War’

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Cologne by John Bate

To-day my heart is heavy
with the sorrows of Cologne,
the city reaps the bitter
harvest its enemies have sown,
and I, that enemy, am
consumed with their bitterness.

How can the June sun shine
adding its pitiful glory
to the cruel glare of the flames,
casting shadows with a jagged line,
this page of the city’s story
lighting, which is dark with shames.

The dry confetti blossoms
in this village street, where tramp
off-duty airmen, lie like the sun’s
small, coloured tears, and here
where Cologne is a word city,
articulated in the cultured drone
of radio announcers, thinking
they have news to match the gospel,
but sounding in their voice no pity,
our hardened, revengeful will,
of which mine is a part, will suffer,
for the victor cities always discover,
unaware of it before it grows,
the interacting sorrow of their foes.

June 1942.

From: Rexroth, Kenneth (ed.), The New British Poets: An Anthology, 1947, New Directions: London, pp. 296-297.

Date: 1942

By: John Bate (1919-2015)

Sunday, 27 August 2017

I.21 by Sextus Propertius

“You, soldier, rushing to escape our fate–
wounded beside beseiged Perusia’s walls–
why, when I moan, do you turn shocked eyes?
I was your comrade in arms just now.
Save yourself so your parents may rejoice,
so your sister won’t read my fate in your tears:
Gallus, snatched from Caesar’s jaws,
could not fly death from unknown hands;
whatever scattered bones she’ll find
on Etruscan hills, tell her these are mine.”

From: Rayor, Diane J. and Batstone, William W. (eds.), Latin Lyric and Elegiac Poetry: An Anthology of New Translations, 2013, Routledge: New York and London, p. 56.

Date: c25 BCE (original in Latin); 1995 (translation in English)

By: Sextus Propertius (50/45-15 BCE)

Translated by: Helen E. Deutsch (19??- )

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Fragment 4 by Simonides of Ceos

Who at Thermopylæ stood side by side,
And fought together and together died,
Under earth-barrows now are laid in rest,
Their chance thrice-glorious, and their fate thrice-blest:
No tears for them, but memory’s loving gaze;
For them no pity, but proud hymns of praise.
Time shall not sweep this monument away—
Time the destroyer; no, nor dank decay.
This not alone heroic ashes holds;
Greece’s own glory this earth-shrine enfolds—
Leonidas, the Spartan king; a name
Of boundless honour and eternal fame.

From: Fitz-Gerald, Maurice Purcell (transl. and ed.), The Crowned Hippolytus of Euripides, Together with a Selection from the Pastoral and Lyric Poets of Greece, Translated into English Verse, 1867, Chapman and Hall: London, p. 211.

Date: c480 BCE (original in Greek); 1867 (translation in English)

By: Simonides of Ceos (c556-468 BCE)

Translated by: Maurice Noel Ryder Purcell FitzGerald (1835-1877)

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Commando by John Stanier Waller

He was too young to know the world they knew
Who were its movers; he was only
A child in their terrible hands. When he dreamt
It was of a knight wandering lonely
Through a dark forest. They used his dreams
For their own deeds of moonlight and peril.

He remained cheerful but always dreadfully alone
As he learnt how to throw bombs, gouge eyes, or find
How with a certain twist one can break a man’s neck.
Raids were his joy; he would return almost blind
With the feel of blood, go home and drink
In a kind of forgetfulness; he was envied for that.

You see, all these things were like dreams.
Each horror had its own particular place
In his nightmare; and there at the end
Stood the fair lady, the savior of his race.
That is how it should have ended; but he died, with love
The only frontier that now he could never cross.


Date: 1945

By: John Stanier Waller (1917-1995)

Friday, 14 July 2017

Liberty by Paul Éluard (Eugène Émile Paul Grindel)

On my schoolboy’s notebook
On my desk and on the trees
On the sand on the snow
I write your name

On all the pages read
On all the blank pages
Stone blood paper ash
I write your name

On the gilded images
On warriors’ weapons
On the crown of the kings
I write your name

On the jungle the desert
On nests on reeds
On the echo of my childhood
I write your name

On the night’s wonders
The white bread of days
On the linked seasons
I write your name

On each blue scrap of noon
On the pond moldy sun
On the lake living moon
I write your name

On the sky on the meadows
On the wings of birds
On the millwheel of shadows
I write your name

On the foam of the clouds
On the sweat of the storm
On the rain thick and bleak
I write your name

On every shining form
On the bells of the colors
On physical truth
I write your name

On the paths awakening
On the roads unwinding
On the crowded places
I write your name

On the lamp that is bright
On the lamp that goes dark
On my united houses
I write your name

On the fruit cut in two
Of my mirror and chamber
On my bed’s hollow shell
I write your name

On my fond greedy dog
On his pricked ears his paws
As clumsy as thumbs
I write your name

On my doorway’s springboard
On the familiar objects
On the blest hearthfire
I write your name

On all flesh yielded
On the foreheads of friends
On each hand that extends
I write your name

On the pane of surprise
On the lips that listen
Well above the silence
I write your name

On my refuge that crumbles
My beacon-tower that falls
On ennui’s walls
I write your name

On absence on nude
Solitude on each tread
Of the stair of the dead
I write your name

And on health rekindling
On danger dwindling
On hope without remembrance
I write your name

And by the power of a word
My life returns to me
I am born again to know you
And to name you


Note: This poem, written during the German Occupation of France in World War II, was dropped over Occupied France by the RAF.


Date: 1942 (original in French) 1945 (translation in English)

By: Paul Éluard (Eugène Émile Paul Grindel) (1895-1952)

Translated by: George Hill Dillon (1906-1968)

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Crosses in Gallipoli by Ella May McFadyen

Gallipoli, how many are the graves
That in your broken furrows we have sown,
The broken rifle fashioned to a cross
For witness that the Lord may know His own!

What costly spending saw the world in this;
Youth, courage, high adventure, loyalty,
Boy lives of poets, leaders, teachers, saints,
Expended in an hour, Gallipoli!

Aye, so we made you ours in pride and grief,
Renewed our right with every life we paid:
Gay heroes in the battle of the faith,
The boy battalions of a late crusade.

Though duty’s path proved steep beneath their feet,
The way wound steeply once from Nazareth:
And meet our loveliest are for sacrifice,
While stands the Cross for victory – and death!

From: McFadyen, Ella, “Crosses in Gallipoli” from The Sydney Mail – Dec. 8, 1915, p. 15.

Date: 1915

By: Ella May McFadyen (1887-1976)

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Gallipoli by Leslie Holdsworth Allen

Winter is here, and in the setting sun
York’s giant bluff is kindled with the ray
That smites his gnarled crags of red and dun,
And the spired obelisk that points the way
Where heroes looked, the first of English blood,
To break the spell of silence with a cry,
Startling the ancient sleep in prophecy
Of you, my people of the Lion-brood.

Does his old vision watch that alien hill,
Embrowned and bleak, where strain upon the height,
Amid sharp silences that burn and chill,
Those heroes’ sons, set in a sterner fight
Than that primeval war with Solitude?
Lo now, the sullen cliff outjets in smoke
And life is groaning death, bloodied and broke!
So fell ye, children of the Lion-Brood!

I weep the dead, they are no more, no more!
O with what pain and rapture came to me
Full birth of love for dazzling-sanded shore,
For heaven of sapphire and for scented tree!
Keen-eyed and all desire, I felt my mood
Still fruitless, waiting gust of quickening breath,
And lo, on darkened wing the wind of Death
Summoned austere the soul to nationhood!

Where cornfields smile in golden-fruited peace
There stalk the spirits of heroes firmly thewed
As he that sailed their path to win the Fleece
For gods that still enchant our solitude.
I weep the dead, they are no more, no more!
Their sons that gather in the teeming grain
Walk sadlier that the men of hill and plain
Themselves are harvest to the wrath of war.

I weep the dead, they are no more, no more!
When dusk descends on city and on plain
Dim lights will shine from window and from door,
And some will guard the vigil of dull pain.
Yet, in the city or in solitude,
There is a burden in the starry air,
An oversong that cries, “The life is fair
That made its triumph nobler with its blood!”

If English oaks should fret with shade their tomb,
Let them have burial here, for one would say,
“I shall sleep soft if some once-haunted room
Keep token of me when I take my way.”
And one again— “The boon of quietude
Is sweet if that old corner of the stream
Where last I saw the creepered window gleam
Keep memory of my days of lustihood.”

Some blossoming orchard-plot, some fenced field,
Some placid strip of furrow-stained earth,
Or some grey coil of cottage-smoke, shall yield
Tribute to those who brought their land to birth,
And this, in city or in lonely wood,
Shall be the guerdon of the death they died,
The cry of Folk made one with pangs of pride,
“They fell, not faithless to the Lion-Brood!”

From: Allen, L. H., “Gallipoli” in The Kookaburra. The Magazine of The Sydney Teachers’ College. War Edition, November,1915, p. 6.

Date: 1915

By: Leslie Holdsworth Allen (1879-1964)

Monday, 24 April 2017

The Silence by Reginald James Godfrey

This is indeed a false, false night;
There’s not a soldier sleeps,
But like a ghost stands to his post,
While Death through the long sap creeps.
There’s an eerie filmy spell o’er all —
A murmur from the sea;
And not a sound on the hills around —
Say, what will the silence be?


Date: 1916

By: Reginald James Godfrey (1892-1979)

Monday, 14 November 2016

If I Should Die, Be Not Concerned to Know by Philip Bainbrigge

If I should die, be not concerned to know
The manner of my ending, if I fell
Leading a forlorn charge against the foe,
Strangled by gas, or shattered by a shell.
Nor seek to see me in this death-in-life
Mid shirks and curse, oaths and blood and sweat,
Cold in the darkness, on the edge of strife,
Bored and afraid, irresolute, and wet

But if you think of me, remember one
Who loved good dinners, curious parody,
Swimming, and lying naked in the sun,
Latin hexameters, and heraldry,
Athenian subtleties of 1and 2,
Beethoven, Botticelli, beer, and boys.


Date: 1918

By: Philip Bainbrigge (1891-1918)

Sunday, 13 November 2016

The Falling Leaves by Margaret Isabel Postgate Cole

Today, as I rode by,
I saw the brown leaves dropping from their tree
In a still afternoon,
When no wind whirled them whistling to the sky,
But thickly, silently,
They fell, like snowflakes wiping out the noon;
And wandered slowly thence
For thinking of a gallant multitude
Which now all withering lay,
Slain by no wind of age or pestilence,
But in their beauty strewed
Like snowflakes falling on the Flemish clay.


Date: 1915

By: Margaret Isabel Postgate Cole (1893-1980)