Archive for ‘First World War’

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)

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Airman, R.F.C. by Agnes Grozier Herbertson

He heard them in the silence of the night
Whirring and thudding through the moonlit sky
And wondered where their target, pondered why.
Unsleeping, saw again with a young sight
The docks, yards, aerodromes revealed and white,
Heard the guns crack, saw searchlights sidle by,
Felt the bombs fall, the débris mounting high,
Knew the earth blazing and the skies alight.

They had his task; they did what he had done:
Their youth– as his– by battle was hemmed round:
Their lives hung on a thread– how finely spun!–
(Little they cared as on their way they wound!).
He prayed they might come safely through, each one,
And find a better world than he had found.


Date: 1919

By: Agnes Grozier Herbertson (1873-1958)

Friday, 11 November 2016

To Any Diplomatist by William Norman Ewer

Heeding nought else, your subtle game you played,
Took tricks and lost them, reckoned up the score,
Balanced defeats with triumphs, less with more,
And plotted how the next point might be made:
How some sly move with countermoves to meet,
How by some crafty stratagem to gain
This empty point of honour, how obtain
That barren symbol of a foe’s defeat.

Engrossed, you never cared to realise
The folly of the things for which you fought,
The hideous peril which your striving brought –
A witless struggle for a worthless prize!
God! Were you fiends or fools, who, in your game,
Heedless, have set the circling world aflame?

From: Noakes, Vivian (ed.), Voices of Silence: The Alternative Book of First World War Poetry, 2006, Sutton Publishing: Stroud, Gloucestershire, p. [unnumbered].

Date: 1916

By: William Norman Ewer (1885-1977)

Thursday, 10 November 2016

“The Exiles” by George Kelly

Not the remembered scent of English air
In thawing fields, nor English melodies,
Nor song of English birds in English skies
Can make this England. All our house is bare;
Our lives are stopped; our hearts are other-where,
As homesick travellers whose impatient eyes
See only aliens: for all England lies
Where you have set your honour and her care.
The earshot of your bugle-calls at morn
Tells England’s measure now; her history
Is in your undistinguished graves compressed
Your deeds are all her life, your sleep her rest
You are her only citizens, and we
Are exiles in the place where we were born.


Date: 1915

By: George Kelly (fl. 1915)

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Untitled by Amy Whittington Eggleston

I must accept my woman’s fate
To stay at home – and wait
Wait – though keen anguish clutches at my heart,
Wait – while busily I do my part.
When messenger or post stops at the gate
I see but a harbinger of fate.
Still must I knit my socks –
And wait.

From: Newman, Vivien (ed.), Tumult and Tears: The Story of the Great War Through the Eyes and Lives of Its Women Poets, 2016, Pen & Sword Books: South Yorkshire, p. 16.

Date: ?1917

By: Amy Whittington Eggleston (1874-1929)

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

The Song of the Mud by Mary Borden

This is the song of the mud,
The pale yellow glistening mud that covers the hills like satin;
The grey gleaming silvery mud that is spread like enamel over the valleys;
The frothing, squirting, spurting, liquid mud that gurgles along the road beds;
The thick elastic mud that is kneaded and pounded and squeezed under the hoofs of the horses;
The invincible, inexhaustible mud of the war zone.
This is the song of the mud, the uniform of the poilu.
His coat is of mud, his great dragging flapping coat, that is too big for him and too heavy;
His coat that once was blue and now is grey and stiff with the mud that cakes to it.
This is the mud that clothes him. His trousers and boots are of mud,
And his skin is of mud;
And there is mud in his beard.
His head is crowned with a helmet of mud.
He wears it well.
He wears it as a king wears the ermine that bores him.
He has set a new style in clothing;
He has introduced the chic of mud.
This is the song of the mud that wriggles its way into battle.
The impertinent, the intrusive, the ubiquitous, the unwelcome,
The slimy inveterate nuisance,
That fills the trenches,
That mixes in with the food of the soldiers,
That spoils the working of motors and crawls into their secret parts,
That spreads itself over the guns,
That sucks the guns down and holds them fast in its slimy voluminous lips,
That has no respect for destruction and muzzles the bursting shells;
And slowly, softly, easily,
Soaks up the fire, the noise; soaks up the energy and the courage;
Soaks up the power of armies;
Soaks up the battle.
Just soaks it up and thus stops it.
This is the hymn of mud –  the obscene, the filthy, the putrid,
The vast liquid grave of our armies. It has drowned our men.
Its monstrous distended belly reeks with the undigested dead.
Our men have gone into it, sinking slowly, and struggling and slowly disappearing.
Our fine men, our brave, strong, young men;
Our glowing red, shouting, brawny men.
Slowly, inch by inch, they have gone down into it,
Into its darkness, its thickness, its silence.
Slowly, irresistibly, it drew them down, sucked them down,
And they were drowned in thick, bitter, heaving mud.
Now it hides them, Oh, so many of them!
Under its smooth glistening surface it is hiding them blandly.
There is not a trace of them.
There is no mark where they went down.
The mute enormous mouth of the mud has closed over them.
This is the song of the mud,
The beautiful glistening golden mud that covers the hills like satin;
The mysterious gleaming silvery mud that is spread like enamel over the valleys.
Mud, the disguise of the war zone;
Mud, the mantle of battles;
Mud, the smooth fluid grave of our soldiers:
This is the song of the mud.


Date: 1917

By: Mary Borden (1886-1968)