Archive for ‘Second World War’

Friday, 17 July 2015

All Day It Has Rained by Alun Lewis

All day it has rained, and we on the edge of the moors
Have sprawled in our bell-tents, moody and dull as boors,
Groundsheets and blankets spread on the muddy ground
And from the first grey wakening we have found

No refuge from the skirmishing fine rain
And the wind that made the canvas heave and flap
And the taut wet guy-ropes ravel out and snap,
All day the rain has glided, wave and mist and dream,
Drenching the gorse and heather, a gossamer stream
Too light to stir the acorns that suddenly
Snatched from their cups by the wild south-westerly
Pattered against the tent and our upturned dreaming faces.
And we stretched out, unbuttoning our braces,
Smoking a Woodbine, darning dirty socks,
Reading the Sunday papers – I saw a fox
And mentioned it in the note I scribbled home;

And we talked of girls and dropping bombs on Rome,
And thought of the quiet dead and the loud celebrities
Exhorting us to slaughter, and the herded refugees;
-Yet thought softly, morosely of them, and as indifferently
As of ourselves or those whom we
For years have loved, and will again
Tomorrow maybe love; but now it is the rain
Possesses us entirely, the twilight and the rain.

And I can remember nothing dearer or more to my heart
Than the children I watched in the woods on Saturday
Shaking down burning chestnuts for the schoolyard’s merry play
Or the shaggy patient dog who followed me
By Sheet and Steep and up the wooded scree
To the Shoulder o’ Mutton where Edward Thomas brooded long
On death and beauty – till a bullet stopped his song.


Date: 1941

By: Alun Lewis (1915-1944)

Saturday, 13 June 2015

War Poet by Sidney Arthur Kilworth Keyes

I am the man who looked for peace and found
My own eyes barbed.
I am the man who groped for words and found
An arrow in my hand.
I am the builder whose firm walls surround
A slipping land.
When I grow sick or mad
Mock me not nor chain me;
When I reach for the wind
Cast me not down
Though my face is a burnt book
And a wasted town.


Date: 1942

By: Sidney Arthur Kilworth Keyes (1922-1943)

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Epilogue to War by Emanuel Litvinoff

For shame the waters of my sorrow quicken,
My grief hides from discovery.
I am a land of fallen cities, towers
Betrayed to ruin and the thief of time.
And I am dumb of all my voices
Singing the tragic wish away,
And I am blind to all my glory
The crumbled riches of the past proclaim.
For like a trumpeter turned to an echo
The gallant shadow of rny youth turns pale,
Leaving a handful of words like brittle leaves,
The hollow memory of praise.

For shame the melody of love is hushed,
Blood beating the passionate request,
I crush my power and desire
Into a casual phrase, destroy my potency
With passive and resentful living.

For shame my yesterdays grow sour,
Scanning the dust and spittle for a sign
Or symptom of the malady,
Finding only tattered souvenirs of loss
To torment the raw and patient heart.
But underneath the waters of my soul
The drowned and final image of disaster
Recedes to sea and sand, dissolves away,
And all the world’s shame dwindles.

June 1942.

From: Litvinoff, Emanuel, “Epilogue to War” in Poetry (London), Vol. 2, No. 7, 1942, pp. 31-32.

Date: 1942

By: Emanuel Litvinoff (1915-2011)

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Gallipoli Peninsula by Alistair Te Ariki Campbell

It was magical when flowers
appeared on the upper reaches –
not that we saw much of the upper reaches.
But when we did,
we were reminded of home
when spring clothed the hills with flowers.
The dead lying among them
seemed to be asleep.
I can never forget the early mornings,
before the killings started up,
when the sea was like a mirror
under little wisps of cloud
breathing on its surface, so dazzling
it hurt the eye.
and the ships, so many of them,
they darkened the sea.
But the evenings too were magical,
with such hues in the sky
over Macedonia,
so many colours, gold bars,
green, red, and yellow.
We noticed these things,
when the firing stopped and we had respite.
It was good to feel,
during such moments,
that we were human beings once more,
delighting in little things,
in just being human.


Date: 1999

By: Alistair Te Ariki Campbell (1925-2009)

Friday, 16 January 2015

Letter from Italy by Robert Gairoch Sutherland

From large red bugs, a refugee,
I make my bed beneath the sky,
safe from the crawling enemy
though not secure from nimbler flea.
Late summer darkness comes, and now
I see again the homely Plough
and wonder: do you also see
the seven stars as well as I?
And it is good to find a tie
Of seven stars from you to me.
Lying on deck, on friendly seas,
I used to watch, with no delight,
new unsuggestive stars that light
the tedious Antipodes.
Now in a hostile land I lie,
but share with you these ancient high
familiar named divinities.
Perimeters have bounded me,
sad rims of desert and of sea,
the famous one around Tobruk,
and now barbed wire, which way I look,
except above—the Pléiades.


Date: 1942-1945

By: Robert Garioch Sutherland (1909-1981)

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Deathmarch by Miklós Radnóti

Collapsed exhausted, only a fool would rise again
to drag his knees and ankles once more like marching pain
yet press on as though wings were to lift him on his way,
invited by the ditch but in vain, he’d dare not stay…
Ask him, why not? maintaining his pace, he might reply:
he longs to meet the wife and a gentler death. That’s why.
But he’s insane, that poor man, because above the homes,
since we have left them, only a scorching whirlwind roams.
The walls are laid. The plum tree is broken. And the night
lurks bristling as a frightened, abandoned mongrel might.
Oh, if I could believe that all things for which I yearn
exist beyond my heart, that there’s still home and return…
return! the old veranda, the peaceful hum of bees
attracted by the cooling fresh plum jam in the breeze,
the still, late summer sunshine, the garden drowsing mute,
among the leaves the swaying voluptuous naked fruit,
and Fanni waiting for me, blonde by the russet hedge,
while languidly the morning re-draws the shadow’s edge…
It may come true again — the moon shines so round — be wise!
Don’t leave me, friend, shout at me, shout! and I will arise!


Date: 1944, translation 2009

By: Miklós Radnóti (1909-1944)

Translated by: Thomas Ország-Land (1938- )

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

High Flight by John Gillespie Magee, Junior

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds – and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of – wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or ever eagle flew –
And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.


Date: 1941

By: John Gillespie Magee, Junior (1922-1941)

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Reported Missing by John Bayliss

With broken wing they limped across the sky
caught in late sunlight, with their gunner dead,
one engine gone,- the type was out-of-date, –
blood on the fuselage turning brown from red:

knew it was finished, looking at the sea
which shone back patterns in kaleidoscope
knew that their shadow would meet them by the way,
close and catch at them, drown their single hope:

sat in this tattered scarecrow of the sky
hearing it cough, the great plane catching
now the first dark clouds upon her wing-base, –
patching the great tear in evening mockery.

So two men waited, saw the third dead face,
and wondered when the wind would let them die.


Date: 194?

By: John Bayliss (1919-2008)

Friday, 17 May 2013

Vergissmeinnicht by Keith Douglas

Three weeks gone and the combatants gone
returning over the nightmare ground
we found the place again, and found
the soldier sprawling in the sun.

The frowning barrel of his gun
overshadowing. As we came on
that day, he hit my tank with one
like the entry of a demon.

Look. Here in the gunpit spoil
the dishonoured picture of his girl
who has put: Steffi. Vergissmeinnicht.
in a copybook gothic script.

We see him almost with content,
abased, and seeming to have paid
and mocked at by his own equipment
that’s hard and good when he’s decayed.

But she would weep to see today
how on his skin the swart flies move;
the dust upon the paper eye
and the burst stomach like a cave.

For here the lover and killer are mingled
who had one body and one heart.
And death who had the soldier singled
has done the lover mortal hurt.


Date: 1942

By: Keith Douglas (1920-1944)

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels by Herbert (Bert) E Beros

Dedicated to Sapper Victor Cooke, 2/22nd Field Coy, R.A.E.

Many a mother in Australia,
When the busy day is done,
Sends a prayer to the Almighty
For the keeping of her son,
Asking that an angel guide him
And bring him safely back—
Now we see those prayers are answered
On the Owen Stanley Track.
For they haven’t any halos,
Only holes slashed in their ears,
And their faces worked by tattoos,
With scratch pins in their hair.
Bringing back the badly wounded
Just as steady as a hearse,
Using leaves to keep the rain off
And as gentle as a nurse.
Slow and careful in bad places
On the awful mountain track,
The look upon their faces
Would make you think that Christ was black.
Not a move to hurt the wounded,
As they treat him like a saint;
It’s a picture worth recording,
That an artist’s yet to paint.
Many a lad will see his mother,
And husbands wee’uns and wives,
Just because the fuzzy wuzzies
Carried them to save their lives
From mortar bombs, machine-gun fire,
Or a chance surprise attack,
To safety and the care of doctors
At the bottom of the track.
May the mothers of Australia,
When they offer up a prayer,
Mention those impromptu angels,
With their fuzzy wuzzy hair.

Written 14 October 1942, at Dump 66, the first Range of the Owen Stanley.
Sapper H.E. “Bert” Beros, NX6925  7 Div., R.A.E., AIF.


Date: 1942

By: Herbert (Bert) E Beros (?1907-1974)