Archive for ‘First World War’

Thursday, 26 April 2018

The Unburied by M.R., N.Z. Headquarters

Now snowflakes thickly falling in the winter breeze
Have cloaked alike the hard, unbending ilex
And the grey, drooping branches of the olive trees,
Transmuting into silver all their lead;
And, in between the winding lines, in No-Man’s Land,
Have softly covered with a glittering shroud
The unburied dead.

And in the silences of night, when winds are fair,
When shot and shard have ceased their wild surprising,
I hear a sound of music in the upper air,
Rising and falling till it slowly dies–
It is the beating of the wings of migrant birds
Wafting the souls of these unburied heroes
Into the skies.

From: Bean, C.E.W. (ed.), The Anzac Book, 1916, Cassell & Company: London, p. 69.
(http://davidmhart.com/liberty/WarPeace/Books/The_Anzac_Book1916.pdf)

Date: 1916

By: M. R., N.Z. Headquarters (fl. 1916)

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Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Anzacs by Richard Horatio Edgar Wallace

The children unborn shall acclaim
The standard the Anzacs unfurled,
When they made Australasia’s fame
The wonder and pride of the world.

Some of you got a V.C.,
Some “the Gallipoli trot,”
Some had a grave by the sea,
And all of you got it damned hot,

And I see you go limping through town
In the faded old hospital blue,
And driving abroad—lying down,
And Lord I but I wish I were you I

I envy you beggars I meet,
From the dirty old hats on your head
To the rusty old boots on your feet—
I envy you living or dead.

A knighthood is fine in its way,
A peerage gives splendour and fame,
But I’d rather have tacked any day
That word to the end of my name.

I’d count it the greatest reward
That ever a man could attain
I’d sooner be “Anzac” than “Lord”
I’d rather be “Anzac” than “thane”.

Here’s a bar to the medal you’ll wear,
There’s a word that will glitter and glow,
And an honour a king cannot share
When you’re back in the cities you know,

The children unborn shall acclaim
The standard the Anzacs unfurled,
When they made Australasia’s fame
The wonder and pride of the world.

From: http://iwvpa.net/wallacee/index.php

Date: 1916

By: Richard Horatio Edgar Wallace (1875-1932)

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Ariburnu Savasi, Turkey, 25 April 2015 by Judith Brooks

‘I do not order you to fight; I order you to die.’
Lieutenant Colonel Mustafa Kemal Bey

I
I could tell you
we were farmers and strong enough
yet our skin chafed like a newborn’s might
caught red and hot against new wool
smelling of camphor like home
but soon stinking of sand and dust
as we bent our backs in this wild place
to scrape some shelter from the wrath to come.
Then we waited.
Some of us knelt for the prophet’s words
others dreamt of lemons and tea
while they watched the half moon
cross slowly through the night.

II
A mile away on still water men
smarted from their last adventure
cramped hot and itching into boats,
legs aching in the heavy dark
loaded with a soldier’s kit.
They groaned at sailor’s jokes
or dreamt of action like a postcard
in their pocket waiting for words,
or a game plan folded neatly
by a steady hand to count the hours,
while the sea air cooled their mouths
until they shivered and their lips tasted of salt.

III
They were fast across the beach.
Deaf to the song of bullets
or cries from the shallows
moving from crevice to crevice
upwards, swift as family ferrets
through sharp gullies
they ran onto a high ridge and shook hands
and laughed at the splendour of it all,
with the sea clear and blue below
and the morning golden all around
and all things true at last
so when the enemy called their names
they felt like men at a fair
surrounded by admirers,
lifting their rifles to hit all the ducks in a row.

They would not speak of prisoners shot for timely gain
They would not speak of surrender, no, never again.

IV
Let me tell you this.
Our Sergeant drew his bayonet.
This is the last order he said
gentle as if he were feeding lambs.
Cleaning his hands across his chest
he divided the ammunition
in silence without sigh or lamentation
for we were now ghosts in a haunting tale,
standing thin as pastel shadows
to fall quietly in the brown light
till the sergeant led us out, shoulder to shoulder,
so calm flowed man through man
and bayonets fixed before us
was all the meaning we needed.

They would not speak of prisoners shot for timely gain
They would not speak of surrender, no, never again.

V
They were so surprised at death
it passed by without comment
like a cartoon of itself
urging the captain’s bloody face
to wake from his dream unaided
and command away the scent of wild thyme
and the sharp piping of bees
as they lay in open ground
with snipers pecking at their skin
and the bodies of mates warm beside them.
When the colonel arrived he was breathless,
a hooked fish gaping, but they read his gesture
and bit their tongues, turning elbows up
to roll down through sharp gravel
and prickly gorse back to the beach
where they would hear the wounded
and bridle at the clamour and confusion of defeat.

They would not speak of prisoners shot for timely gain
They would not speak of surrender, no, never again.

VI
Kemal Bey was wordless and sat
on the canvas seat prepared for him
as if he would never rise.
And his officers stood uncertain
as he stared out to the western sea.
Then he spoke: remember this day, he said.
Remember this day.
And they said Amen.

From: Brooks, Judith. “Ode for an anniversary 1914-2014; The last day Wilfred Owen 4 November 1918; Ariburnu Savasi, Turkey, 25 April 1915” in Arena Magazine, No. 138, Oct/Nov 2015, 2015, Fitzroy, Victoria, pp. 41-42.
(https://search-informit-com-au.ezproxy-b.deakin.edu.au/documentSummary;dn=595383461028996;res=IELAPA)

Date: 2015

By: Judith Brooks (1945- )

Monday, 4 December 2017

War Commemoration 1925 by Walter Sherard Vines

Today we must recall abysmal follies
That have bequeathed out friends to flies and sour clay
That bent the air with groaning flights of steel
Or sweetened it with a shell’s livid breath,
Turned wholesome plains and gentle lakes to filth,
Tore up our continent in unscavenged belts
Through cross-edged meadows and afforested heights
Where the guns crouched in pits and shouted
Lunatic judgement in dull obedience.

We must remember the weary stand-to
Of millions, pale in corpse-infected mist,
The mad, and those turned monsters, or castrated
In one red, hideous moment; and how, unseen
Dark Mania sat in offices and designed
New schemes for shambles, learning year by year,
Painfully, secretly, to degrade the world.

From: https://allpoetry.com/Sherard-Vines

Date: 1926

By: Walter Sherard Vines (1890-1974)

Monday, 13 November 2017

There Will Come Soft Rains by Sara (Sarah Trevor) Teasdale Filsinger

(War Time)

There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;

And frogs in the pools singing at night,
And wild plum trees in tremulous white,

Robins will wear their feathery fire
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;

And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done.

Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree
If mankind perished utterly;

And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn,
Would scarcely know that we were gone.

From: https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/there-will-come-soft-rains

Date: 1918

By: Sara (Sarah Trevor) Teasdale Filsinger (1884-1933)

Sunday, 12 November 2017

How Shall We Rise to Greet the Dawn? by Francis Osbert Sacheverell Sitwell

How shall we rise to greet the dawn?
Not timidly,
With a hand above our eyes,
But greet the strong light
Joyfully;
Nor will we mistake the dawn
For the mid-day.

We must create and fashion a new God–
A God of power, of beauty, and of strength–
Created painfully, cruelly,
Labouring from the revulsion of men’s minds.

It is not that the money-changers
Ply their trade
Within the sacred places;
But that the old God
Has made the Stock Exchange his Temple.
We must drive him from it.
Why should we tinker with clay feet?
We will fashion
A perfect unity
Of precious metals.

Let us tear the paper moon
From its empty dome.
Let us see the world with young eyes.
Let us harness the waves to make power,
And in so doing,
Seek not to spoil their rolling freedom,
But to endow
The soiled and straining cities
With the same splendour of strength.

We will not be afraid,
Tho’ the golden geese cackle in the Capitol,
In fear
That their eggs may be placed
In an incubator.
Continually they cackle thus–
These venerable birds–
Crying, “Those whom the Gods love
Die young,”
Or something of that sort.
But we will see that they live
And prosper.

Let us prune the tree of language
Of its dead fruit.
Let us melt up the cliches
Into molten metal;
Fashion weapons that will scald and flay;
Let us curb this eternal humour
And become witty.

Let us dig up the dragon’s teeth
From this fertile soil;
Swiftly,
Before they fructify;
Let us give them as medicine
To the writhing monster itself.

We must create and fashion a new God–
A God of power, of beauty, and of strength;
Created painfully, cruelly,
Labouring from the revulsion of men’s minds.
Cast down the idols of a thousand years,
Crush them to dust
Beneath the dancing rhythm of our feet.
Oh! let us dance upon the weak and cruel:
We must create and fashion a new God.

November, 1918.

From: Sitwell, Osbert, Argonaut and Juggernaut, 1919, Chatto & Windus: London, pp. vii-ix.
(https://archive.org/details/argonautjuggerna00sitwuoft)

Date: 1918

By: Francis Osbert Sacheverell Sitwell (1892-1969)

Saturday, 11 November 2017

The Face by Frederic Manning

Out of the smoke of men’s wrath,
The red mist of anger,
Suddenly,
As a wraith of sleep,
A boy’s face, white and tense,
Convulsed with terror and hate,
The lips trembling….

Then a red smear, falling….
I thrust aside the cloud, as it were tangible,
Blinded with a mist of blood.
The face cometh again
As a wraith of sleep:
A boy’s face delicate and blonde,
The very mask of God,
Broken.

From: http://warpoets.org.uk/worldwar1/blog/poem/the-face/

Date: 1917

By: Frederic Manning (1882-1935)

Friday, 10 November 2017

The Dilemma by John Collings Squire

God heard the embattled nations sing and shout
“Gott strafe England!” and “God save the King!”
God this, God that, and God the other thing—
“Good God!” said God, “I’ve got my work cut out.”

From: Squire, J. C., The Survival of the Fittest and Other Poems, 1916, George Allen & Unwin: London, p. 57.
(https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Survival_of_the_Fittest/The_Dilemma)

Date: 1915

By: John Collings Squire (1884-1958)

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Home Service by Geoffrey Cust Faber

“At least it wasn’t your fault” I hear them console
When they come back, the few that will come back.
I feel those handshakes now. “Well, on the whole
You didn’t miss much. I wish I had your knack
Of stopping out. You still can call your soul
Your own, at any rate. What a priceless slack
You’ve had, old chap. It must have been top-hole.
How’s poetry? I bet you’ve written a stack.”

What shall I say? That it’s been damnable?
That all the time my soul was never my own?
That we’ve slaved hard at endless make-believe?
It isn’t only actual war that’s hell,
I’ll say. It’s spending youth and hope alone
Among pretences that have ceased to deceive.

From: Hibberd, Dominic and Onions, John (eds.), The Winter of the World: Poems of the Great War, 2013, Hachette: London, p. [unnumbered].
(https://books.google.com.au/books?id=QDSeBAAAQBAJ)

Date: 1916

By: Geoffrey Cust Faber (1889-1961)

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Education by Pauline Buckner Barrington

The rain is slipping. Dripping down the street;
The day is grey as ashes on the hearth.
The children play with soldiers made of tin,
While you sew
Row after row.

The tears are slipping, dripping one by one;
Your son has shot and wounded his small brother.
The mimic battle’s ended with a sob,
While you dream
Over your seam.

The blood is skipping, dripping drop by drop;
The men are dying in the trenches’ mud.
The bullets search the quick among the dead.
While you drift,
The Gods sift.

The ink is slipping, dripping from the pens,
On papers, White and Orange, Red and Grey , –
History for the children of tomorrow, –
While you prate
About Fate.

War is slipping, dripping death on earth.
If the child is father of the man,
Is the toy gun father of Krupps?
For Christ’s sake think!
While you sew
Row after row.

From: https://allpoetry.com/Pauline-Barrington

Date: 1918

By: Pauline Buckner Barrington (1876-1956)