Posts tagged ‘1915’

Wednesday, 13 July 2022

The Day of Gifts by Paul Claudel

It’s not true that Your saints have won everything: they left me with sins enough.
Someday I’ll lie on my deathbed, Lord, ill-shaven and yellow as a lifelong drunk.
And I’ll make a general examination of myself, looking back over all my days,
And I’ll see that I’m rich after all, ripe and rich with evil in its unnumbered paths and ways.
I haven’t lost one single chance, Lord, to make matter for You to pardon.
Now I hearten myself with vice, having long ago sloughed off virtue’s burden.
Each day has its own kind of crime, plain to see, and I count them like some paranoid miser.

If what you need, Lord, are virgins, if what you need are brave men beneath your standard;
If there are people for whom to be Christian words alone would not suffice,
But who know rather that only in stirring themselves to chase after You is there any life,
Well then there’s Dominic and Francis, Saint Lawrence and Saint Cecilia and plenty more!
But if by chance You should have need of a lazy and imbecilic bore,
If a prideful coward could prove useful to You, or perhaps a soiled ingrate,
Or the sort of man whose hard heart shows up in a hard face—
Well, anyway, You didn’t come to save the just but that other type that abounds,
And if, miraculously, You run out of them elsewhere . . . Lord, I’m still around.

And what kind of a man is so crude that he hasn’t held a little something back from You,
Hasn’t in his free time fashioned something special for You,
Hoping that one day the idea will come to You to ask it of him,
And maybe this little that he’s made himself, kept back until then, though horrid and tortuous, will please Your whim.
It would be something that he’d put his whole heart into, something useless and malformed.
Just like that my little daughter once, on my birthday, teetered forward with encumbered arms
And offered me, her heart at once full of timidity and pride,
A magnificent little duck she had made with her own two hands, a pincushion, made of red wool and gold thread.

From: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poems/55412/the-day-of-gifts

Date: 1915 (original in French); 2012 (translation in English)

By: Paul Claudel (1868-1955)

Translated by: Jonathan Monroe Geltner (19??- )

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.
(https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/59270859#)

Date: 1915

By: Anne Almer (fl. 1896-1915)

Monday, 25 April 2022

Sonnet by Robert Malise Bowyer Nichols

Now when I feel the hand of Death draw near
While yet no laurel stands upon my brow,
I ask what can sustain me, what is dear
Was dear once and remains so even now?
Fame, Wisdom, Love, the high inheritance
Of noble words and actions can no more
Beacon my spirit being changed of chance
To the bright rags on which the crazed set store.

Grown child again I turn my thoughts—too late—
Back to the quiet house upon the hill
Where shine—alas! more than sea-separate—
Those human hearts I loved, and harder still
Eyes too oft grieved by th’ importunate
And crooked workings of my hazard will.

FRANCE, 1915.

From: Nichols, Robert, Invocation: War Poems and Others, 1915, Elkin Mathews: London, p. 24.
(https://archive.org/details/invocationwarpoe00nichiala/)

Date: 1915

By: Robert Malise Bowyer Nichols (1893-1944)

Saturday, 13 November 2021

Trenches: St Eloi by Thomas Ernest Hulme

(Abbreviated from the Conversation of Mr TEH)

Over the flat slopes of St Eloi
A wide wall of sand bags.
Night,
In the silence desultory men
Pottering over small fires, cleaning their mess-tins:
To and fro, from the lines,
Men walk as on Piccadilly,
Making paths in the dark,
Through scattered dead horses,
Over a dead Belgian’s belly.

The Germans have rockets. The English have no rockets.
Behind the line, cannon, hidden, lying back miles.
Beyond the line, chaos:

My mind is a corridor. The minds about me are corridors.
Nothing suggests itself. There is nothing to do but keep on.

From: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2011/oct/10/poem-of-the-week-t-e-hulme

Date: 1915

By: Thomas Ernest Hulme (1883-1917)

Tuesday, 9 November 2021

To Belgium in Exile by Owen Seaman

[Lines dedicated to one of her priests, by whose words they were prompted.]
[Reprinted by permission of the Proprietors of Punch.]

Land of the desolate, Mother of tears,
⁠Weeping your beauty marred and torn,
Your children tossed upon the spears,
⁠Your altars rent, your hearths forlorn,
Where Spring has no renewing spell,
And Love no language save a long Farewell!

Ah, precious tears, and each a pearl
⁠Whose price—for so in God we trust
Who saw them fall in that blind swirl
⁠Of ravening flame and reeking dust—
The spoiler with his life shall pay,
When Justice at the last demands her Day.

O tried and proved, whose record stands
⁠Lettered in blood too deep to fade,
Take courage! Never in our hands
⁠Shall the avenging sword be stayed
Till you are healed of all your pain,
And come with Honour to your own again.

May 19, 1915.

From: Clarke, George Herbert (ed.), A Treasury of War Poetry: British and American Poems of the World War, 1914-1919, 1917, Hodder and Stoughton: London, New York and Toronto, pp. 76-78.
(https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/A_treasury_of_war_poetry,_British_and_American_poems_of_the_world_war,_1914-1919/Belgium)

Date: 1915

By: Owen Seaman (1861-1936)

Sunday, 25 April 2021

The Letters of the Dead by Edward George Dyson

A letter came from Dick to-day;
A greeting glad he sends to me.
He tells of one more bloody fray–
Of how with bomb and rifle they
Have put their mark for all to see
Across rock-ribbed Gallipoli.

“How are you doing? Hope all’s well,
I in great nick, and like the work.
Though there may be a brimstone smell,
And other pungent hints of Hell,
Not Satan’s self can make us shirk
Our task of hitting up the Turk.

“You bet old Slacks is not half bad
He knows his business in a scrim.
He gets cold steel, or we are glad
To stop him with a bullet, lad.
Or sling a bomb his hair to trim;
But, straight, we throw no mud at him.

“He fights and falls, and comes again,
And knocks our charging lines about.
He’s game at heart, and tough in grain,
And canters through the leaded rain,
Chock full of mettle–not a doubt
‘T will do us proud to put him out.

“But that’s our job; to see it through
We’ve made our minds up, come what may,
This noon we had our work to do.
The shells were dropping two by two;
We fairly felt their bullets play
Among our hair for half a day.

“One clipped my ear, a red-hot kiss,
Another beggar chipped my shin.
They pass you with a vicious hiss
That makes you duck; but, hit or miss,
It isn’t in the Sultan’s skin
To shift Australia’s cheerful grin.

“My oath, old man, though we were prone
We didn’t take it lying down.
I got a dozen on my own–
All dread of killing now is flown;
It is the game, and, hard and brown,
We’re wading in for freedom’s crown.

“Big guns are booming as I write,
A lad is singing ‘Dolly Grey,’
The shells are skipping in the night,
And, square and all, I feeling right
For, whisper, Ned, the fellows say
I did a ripping thing to-day.

“Soon homeward tramping with the band,
All notched a bit, and with the prize
Of glory for our native land,
I’ll see my little sweetheart stand
And smile, her smile, so sweet and wise–
With proud tears shining in her eyes.

“Geewhiz! What price your humble when
Triumphant from the last attack,
We face a Melbourne crowd again,
Tough, happy, battle-proven men,
And while the cheer-stormed heavens crack
I bring the tattered colors back!”

*   *   *

A mist is o’er the written line
Whence martial ardor seems to flow;
A dull ache holds this heart of mine–
Poor boy, he had a vision fine;
But grave dust clouds the royal glow;
He died in action weeks ago!

He was my friend–I may not weep.
My soul goes out to Him who bled;
I pray for Christ’s compassion deep
On mothers, lovers–all who keep
The woeful vigil, having read
The joyous letters of the dead.

From: Dyson, Edward, ‘Hello, Soldier!’: Khaki Verse, 2005, Project Gutenberg: San Francisco, p.[unnumbered].
(http://www.gutenberg.org/files/16904/16904.txt)

Date: 1915

By: Edward George Dyson (1865-1931)

Wednesday, 7 April 2021

Some Little Bug by John Leroy “Roy” Atwell

In these days of indigestion
It is oftentimes a question
As to what to eat and what to leave alone;
For each microbe and bacillus
Has a different way to kill us,
And in time they always claim us for their own.
There are germs of every kind
In any food that you can find
In the market or upon the bill of fare.
Drinking water’s just as risky
As the so-called deadly whiskey,
And it’s often a mistake to breathe the air.

Some little bug is going to find you some day,
Some little bug will creep behind you some day,
Then he’ll send for his bug friends
And all your earthly trouble ends;
Some little bug is going to find you some day.

The inviting green cucumber
Gets most everybody’s number,
While the green corn has a system of its own;
Though a radish seems nutritious
Its behaviour is quite vicious,
And a doctor will be coming to your home.
Eating lobster cooked or plain
Is only flirting with ptomaine,
While an oyster sometimes has a lot to say,
But the clams we cat in chowder
Make the angels chant the louder,
For they know that we’ll be with them right away.

Take a slice of nice fried onion
And you’re fit for Dr. Munyon,
Apple dumplings kill you quicker than a train.
Chew a cheesy midnight “rabbit”
And a grave you’ll soon inhabit
Ah, to eat at all is such a foolish game.
Eating huckleberry pie
Is a pleasing way to die,
While sauerkraut brings on softening of the brain.
When you eat banana fritters
Every undertaker titters,
And the casket makers nearly go insane.

Some little bug is going to find you some day,
Some little bug will creep behind you some day,
With a nervous little quiver
He’ll give cirrhosis of the liver;
Some little bug is going to find you some day.

When cold storage vaults I visit
I can only say what is it
Makes poor mortals fill their systems with such stuff?
Now, for breakfast, prunes are dandy
If a stomach pump is handy
And your doctor can be found quite soon enough.
Eat a plate of fine pigs’ knuckles
And the headstone cutter chuckles,
While the grave digger makes a note upon his cuff.
Eat that lovely red bologna
And you’ll wear a wooden kimona,
As your relatives start scrappin ’bout your stuff.

Some little bug is going to find you some day,
Some little bug will creep behind you some day,
Eating juicy sliced pineapple
Makes the sexton dust the chapel;
Some little bug is going to find you some day.

All those crazy foods they mix
Will float us ‘cross the River Styx,
Or they’ll start us climbing up the milky way.
And the meals we eat in courses
Mean a hearse and two black horses
So before a meal some people always pray.
Luscious grapes breed ‘pendicitis,
And the juice leads to gastritis,
So there’s only death to greet us either way;
And fried liver’s nice, but, mind you,
Friends will soon ride slow behind you
And the papers then will have nice things to say.

Some little bug is going to find you some day,
Some little bug will creep behind you some day
Eat some sauce, they call it chili,
On your breast they’ll place a lily;
Some little bug is going to find you some day.

From: http://www.poetry-site.com/roy-atwell/some-little-bug-39012

Date: 1915

By: John Leroy “Roy” Atwell (1878-1962)

Saturday, 13 March 2021

War’s Cataract, 1915 by Herbert Dixon Asquith

In this red havoc of the patient earth,
Though higher yet the tide of battle rise,
Now has the hero cast away disguise,
And out of ruin splendour comes to birth.
This is the field where Death and Honour meet,
And all the lesser company are low:
Pale Loveliness has left her mirror now
And walks the Court of Pain with silent feet.

From cliff to cliff War’s cataract goes down,
Hurling its booming waters to the shock;
And tossing high their manes of gleaming spray
The crested chargers leap from rock to rock,
While over all, dark though the thunder frown,
The rainbows climb above to meet the day.

From: Asquith, Herbert, The Volunteer and Other Poems, 1916, Sidgwick & Jackson: London, p. 13.
(https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_volunteer,_and_other_poems)

Date: 1915

By: Herbert Dixon Asquith (1881-1947)

Wednesday, 11 November 2020

‘I Tracked A Dead Man Down A Trench’ by Walter Scott Stuart Lyon

I tracked a dead man down a trench,
I knew not he was dead.
They told me he had gone that way,
And there his foot-marks led.
The trench was long and close and curved,
It seemed without an end;
And as I threaded each new bay
I thought to see my friend.

At last I saw his back. He crouched
As still as still could be,
And when I called his name aloud
He did not answer me.

The floor-way of the trench was wet
Where he was crouching dead;
The water of the pool was brown,
And round him it was red.

I stole up softly where he stayed
With head hung down all slack,
And on his shoulders laid my hands
And drew him gently back.

And then, as I had guessed, I saw
His head, and how the crown—
I saw then why he crouched so still,
And why his head hung down.

From: https://allpoetry.com/’I-Tracked-A-Dead-Man-Down-A-Trench

Date: 1915

By: Walter Scott Stuart Lyon (1886-1915)

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

The Dead Poet by Edward Richard Buxton Shanks

When I grow old they’ll come to me and say:
Did you then know him in that distant day?
Did you speak with him, touch his hand, observe
The proud eyes’ fire, soft voice and light lips’ curve?
And I shall answer: This man was my friend;
Call to my memory, add, improve, amend
And count up all the meetings that we had
And note his good and touch upon his bad.

When I grow older and more garrulous,
I shall discourse on the dead poet thus:
I said to him … he answered unto me …
He dined with me one night in Trinity . . .
I supped with him in King’s . . . Ah, pitiful
The twisted memories of an ancient fool
And sweet the silence of a young man dead!
Now far in Lemnos sleeps that golden head,
Unchanged, serene, for ever young and strong,
Lifted above the chances that belong
To us who live, for he shall not grow old
And only of his youth there shall be told
Magical stories, true and wondrous tales,
As of a god whose virtue never fails,
Whose limbs shall never waste, eyes never fall,
And whose clear brain shall not be dimmed at all.

From: Shanks, Edward, Poems, 1916, Sidgwick & Jackson: London, p. 39.
(https://archive.org/details/poemssha00shanuoft/)

Date: 1915

By: Edward Richard Buxton Shanks (1892-1953)