War Poems thread - please come in and comment!

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walterkaschner
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Post by walterkaschner » 06 Jul 2004 03:26

Here is one by Rainer Maria Rilke which I think I posted on a similar thread many months ago. For some reason it breaks my heart.

LETZTER ABEND

Und Nacht und fernes Fahren; denn der Train
des ganzen Heeres zog am Park vorüber.
Er aber hob den Blick vom Clavecin
und spielte noch und sah zu ihr hinüber

beinah, wie man in einen Spiegel schaut:
so sehr erfüllt von seinen jungen Zügen
und wissend, wie sie seine Trauer trügen,
schön und verfürhender bei jedem Laut.

Doch plötzlich wars, als ob sich das verwische:
sie stand wie mühsam in der Fensternische
und hielt des Herzens drängendes Geklopf.

Sein Spiel gab nach. Von draussen wehte Frische.
Und seltsam fremd stand auf dem Spiegeltische
der schwarze Tschako mit dem Totenkopf.


My attempt at a rough translation:

"THE LAST EVENING"

And night, and distant tramping; for the train
Of the entire army was marching by the park of the estate.
He, however, while still playing, raised his eyes
From the clavicord and gazed across at her

Almost, as one looks in a mirror:
So completely filled with his young features
And knowing how they bore his sorrow,
Beautiful and more seductive with every note.

But suddenly it was as if all of that were blotted out:
She stood, troubled, at the bay window
And held the urgent thumping of her heart.

His playing ended. From outside the wind blew fresh and cool.
And strangely alien on the table before the mirror
Stood the black shako with its white death's-head.


Regards, Kaschner

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Klaus Yurk
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Post by Klaus Yurk » 06 Jul 2004 14:43

Walter,

I like those. Yeats is a wonderful poet. I've always thought that the most pithy lines concerning the average modern soldier are these from the "Irish Airman"......"Those that I fight, I do not hate......Those that I guard, I do not love." The average soldier's story in a nutshell.

I sent you a "pm" about the history of my Dad that I have been writing. Hope you find it interesting.

Klaus

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Juha Hujanen
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Post by Juha Hujanen » 07 Jul 2004 17:20

I've alway liked of this classic Tennyson poem:

The Charge of the Light Brigade
Alfred, Lord Tennyson

1.

Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
"Forward, the Light Brigade!
"Charge for the guns!" he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

2.

"Forward, the Light Brigade!"
Was there a man dismay'd?
Not tho' the soldier knew
Someone had blunder'd:
Their's not to make reply,
Their's not to reason why,
Their's but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

3.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volley'd and thunder'd;
Storm'd at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
Rode the six hundred.

4.

Flash'd all their sabres bare,
Flash'd as they turn'd in air,
Sabring the gunners there,
Charging an army, while
All the world wonder'd:
Plunged in the battery-smoke
Right thro' the line they broke;
Cossack and Russian
Reel'd from the sabre stroke
Shatter'd and sunder'd.
Then they rode back, but not
Not the six hundred.

5.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them
Volley'd and thunder'd;
Storm'd at with shot and shell,
While horse and hero fell,
They that had fought so well
Came thro' the jaws of Death
Back from the mouth of Hell,
All that was left of them,
Left of six hundred.

6.

When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
All the world wondered.
Honor the charge they made,
Honor the Light Brigade,
Noble six hundred.

Copied from Poems of Alfred Tennyson,
J. E. Tilton and Company, Boston, 1870

Cheers/Juha

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Klaus Yurk
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Post by Klaus Yurk » 08 Jul 2004 04:48

Juha,

That is a classic. Perhaps the best known war poem of all time.

Thanks for posting it.


Klaus

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Lord Gort
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Post by Lord Gort » 12 Jul 2004 23:00

True Klaus, I think my favourite part is "There's not to make reply, theres not to reason why, theres but to do and die"!







Argonne Forest, at midnight
A German sapper's song from the World War, 1915



Argonne Forest, at midnight,
A sapper atands on guard.
A star shines high up in the sky,
bringing greetings from a distant homeland.

And with a spade in his hand,
He waits forward in the sap-trench.
He thinks with longing on his love,
Wondering if he will ever see her again.

The artillery roars like thunder,
While we wait in front of the infantry,
With shells crashing all around.
The Frenchies want to take our position.

Should the enemy threaten us even more,
We Germans fear him no more.
And should he be so strong,
He will not take our position.

The storm breaks! The mortar crashes!
The sapper begins his advance.
Forward to the enemy trenches,
There he pulls the pin on a grenade.

The infantry stand in wait,
Until the hand grenade explodes.
Then forward with the assault against the enemy,
And with a shout, break into their position.

Argonne Forest, Argonne Forest,
Soon thou willt be a quiet cemetary.
In thy cool earth rests
much gallant soldiers' blood.


regards,

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Klaus Yurk
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Post by Klaus Yurk » 14 Jul 2004 00:07

Lord,

I agree on that quote.
"There's not to make reply, theres not to reason why, theres but to do and die"!


It somewhat reminds me of the attitude of the common soldier, especially in the German army. But maybe in all armies. Very pessimistic about getting out of it alive, yet willing to stay and do his duty. Which is often to die.

Klaus

Liked the Ardennes poem.

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Klaus Yurk
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Post by Klaus Yurk » 14 Jul 2004 00:09

Lord,

I agree on that quote.
"There's not to make reply, theres not to reason why, theres but to do and die"!


It somewhat reminds me of the attitude of the common soldier, especially in the German army. But maybe in all armies. Very pessimistic about getting out of it alive, yet willing to stay and do his duty. Which is often to die.

Klaus

Liked the Argonne Forrest poem.

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kordts
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Post by kordts » 17 Jul 2004 01:04

Thanks to all for the posts. I really enjoyed the poetry. Special props to Klaus for sharing that poem. Follow your muse! That poem showed talent. This isn't war poetry, but it's about Pres. Lincoln's assasination.



Oh Captain, My Captain!
O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip done,
The ship has weather'd every rack, the prize we sought is won,
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exalting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.
O Captain! my Captain! rise up and gear the bells;
Rise up--for you the flag is flung--for you the bugle trills,
For you bouquets and ribbon'd wreaths--for you the shores a-crowding,
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
Here Captain! dear Father!
This arm beneath your head!
It is some dream that on the deck,
You've fallen cold and dead.
My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still,
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will,
The ship is anchor'd safe and sound, its voyage closed and done,
From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won;
Exult O shores and ring O bells!
But I with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.


Walt Whitman


Cheers, Jeff

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Klaus Yurk
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Post by Klaus Yurk » 17 Jul 2004 02:09

Thanks for the kind words, Jeff.

I love the Whitman poem. I can remember having to recite that after a skit we students put on for "family night" at the one-room schoolhouse that I attended. I remember being terrified, having to be prompted by the teacher twice, and being so happy when I spoke the words, "Walk the deck my Captain lies, fallen cold and dead." But I'm sure every kid that ever had to memorize a poem and recite it in front of an audience knows what I mean. :lol:

Klaus

walterkaschner
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Post by walterkaschner » 17 Jul 2004 07:28

Klaus, I have a hunch that we must be of somewhat the same generation. I too had to memorize and recite that poem - was it in the 6th or 7th grade? And I confess that I still tear up a bit when I read it.

Regards, Kaschner

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Hanski
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Post by Hanski » 17 Jul 2004 08:56

I was just searching the Web for poems of Yrjö Jylhä, the most famous Finnish war poet. Unfortunately I could not find any, except this short sample in an article about his person:

http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/yrjojylh.htm

Translating poetry is most demanding, especially since in Jylhä's poems part of the effect comes from the rhythm and the rhyme, but it would be challenging to give it a try.

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Klaus Yurk
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Post by Klaus Yurk » 17 Jul 2004 16:14

Walter,

Yup, 7th grade here. I hated it at the time, the anticipation was the worst, but I was real proud when I finished. Looking back on it, it didn't hurt me any. Probably did a little good. Think the kids today could use some of that.


Hanski,

Translating poems from one language to another must be tough. I only know German and English (American is kind of like English :lol: ). I know some words just don't translate well. And rhyme and rhythm is always gone. Enjoyed the poem though. Thank you.

Klaus

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Siegfried Wilhelm
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Post by Siegfried Wilhelm » 23 Jul 2004 20:43

JUST A COMMON SOLDIER
by A. Lawrence Vaincourt

He was getting old and paunchy and his hair was falling fast,
And he sat around the Legion, telling stories of the past

Of a war that he had fought in and the deeds that he had done,
In his exploits with his buddies; they were heroes, every one.

And tho' sometimes, to his neighbors, his tales became a joke,
All his Legion buddies listened, for they knew whereof he spoke.

But we'll hear his tales no longer for old Bill has passed away,
And the world's a little poorer, for a soldier died today.

He will not be mourned by many, just his children and his wife,
For he lived an ordinary and quite uneventful life.
Held a job and raised a family, quietly going his own way,
And the world won't note his passing, though a soldier died today.

When politicians leave this earth, their bodies lie in state,
While thousands note their passing and proclaim that they were great.
Papers tell their whole life stories, from the time that they were young,

But the passing of a soldier goes unnoticed and unsung.
Is the greatest contribution to the welfare of our land
A guy who breaks his promises and cons his fellow man?

Or the ordinary fellow who, in times of war and strife,
Goes off to serve his Country and offers up his life?

A politician's stipend and the style in which he lives
Are sometimes disproportionate to the service that he gives.
While the ordinary soldier, who offered up his all,
Is paid off with a medal and perhaps, a pension small.

It's so easy to forget them for it was so long ago
That the old Bills of our Country went to battle, but we know
It was not the politicians, with their compromise and ploys,
Who won for us the freedom that our Country now enjoys.

Should you find yourself in danger, with your enemies at hand,
Would you want a politician with his ever-shifting stand?

Or would you prefer a soldier, who has sworn to defend
His home, his kin and Country and would fight until the end?

He was just a common soldier and his ranks are growing thin,
But his presence should remind us we may need his like again.
For when countries are in conflict, then we find the soldier's part
Is to clean up all the troubles that the politicians start.

If we cannot do him honor while he's here to hear the praise,
Then at least let's give him homage at the ending of his days.
Perhaps just a simple headline in a paper that would say,
"Our Country is in mourning, for a soldier died today."

Copyright © 1985; A. Lawrence Vaincourt

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Klaus Yurk
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Post by Klaus Yurk » 24 Jul 2004 15:10

Siegfried,

Nice poem. I like the lines...

He was just a common soldier and his ranks are growing thin,
But his presence should remind us we may need his like again.
For when countries are in conflict, then we find the soldier's part
Is to clean up all the troubles that the politicians start.


Maybe if the politicians had to fight the wars personally, we'd have fewer of them? But no...they always get kids who only shave once a week to do it for them. :cry:

Klaus

walterkaschner
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Post by walterkaschner » 27 Aug 2004 06:43

With the hope of generating some more interest in this thread, I offer a WWI poem byEdward Thomas, which, although far from one of my favorites, catches, I believe, the feeling of many soldiers of that and subsequent wars:


This is No Case of Petty Right or Wrong

This is no case of petty right or wrong
That politicians or philosophers
Can judge. I hate not Germans, nor grow hot
With love of Englishmen, to please newspapers.
Beside my hate for one fat patriot
My hatred of the Kaiser is love true:--
A kind of god he is, banging a gong.
But I have not to choose between the two,
Or between justice and injustice. Dinned
With war and argument I read no more
Than in the storm smoking along the wind
Athwart the wood. Two witches' cauldrons roar.
From one the weather shall rise clear and gay;
Out of the other an England beautiful
And like her mother that died yesterday.
Little I know or care if, being dull,
I shall miss something that historians
Can rake out of the ashes when perchance
The phoenix broods serene above their ken.
But with the best and meanest Englishmen
I am one in crying, God save England, lest
We lose what never slaves and cattle blessed.
The ages made her that made us from dust:
She is all we know and live by, and we trust
She is good and must endure, loving her so:
And as we love ourselves we hate her foe.

Regards, Kaschner

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