War Poems thread - please come in and comment!

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Lord Gort
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War Poems thread - please come in and comment!

Post by Lord Gort » 22 Jun 2004 18:51

Hey, I have just finished a course in war literature and in particular war poems.

So this is a trial thread on war poems, where I add one a day, and you guys add you own, and we comment on them etc.

I'll add a fresh one each day from all over the place.

Heres the first poem.....

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.

Sara Teasdale

Friendly Regards,

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Post by Aufklarung » 22 Jun 2004 19:27

Excellent topic, m'lud. Well chosen. :D

My personal favorite:
High Flight
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 even eagle flew.
And, while silent, lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

Pilot Officer John Gillespie Magee Jr.
September 1941

This link has some good ones: http://iwvpa.net/index.htm

Although not necessarily "war" poetry per se, this is powerful to me.

My Regiment, My Regiment
Disbanded in Disgrace?
The good you've done forgotten now
The tears run down my face
God bless my Country Canada
God bless my Country's Queen
God bless the troops in shiny red boots
Commandos in camouflage green

'Cause we are the guys who stood on the ramp
With a rucksack full and a brow wet damp
Hercs wafted toboggans down onto the snow
Reflections of stars twinkled up from below

Establishing ownership of Canada's North
Were the Airborne troops those Hercs spewed forth
The Manhattan sailed far, far below
Whilst the red berets marched o'er the snow

And overseas they kept the peace
They did what e're was asked
And some came home in body bags
For completing some dangerous tasks

Disband my Airborne Regiment?
Brave soldiers from the sky
I question the Minister of National Defence
I ask him to justify why?

©Billy Willbond
02 February 1995 - 0515 hours

Note: Sometimes proactive poetry is not effective in getting the message listened to, as is the case in this issue. Because a rouge trooper named Matchee got drunk and beat a Somalia Prisoner to death, our politicians saw fit to disband Canada's finest Regiment in disgrace. The media had a field day and the subsequent Somalia Investigation was cut off once the investigation committee was getting too close to those who were really responsible, the leadership, those running the head shed at 101 Colonel By Drive beside the Rideau Canal in downtown Ottawa. I feel the disbandment of Canada's finest Regiment was a colossal mistake (not only because I am a lifetime member of the Canadian Airborne Regiment Association and a former serving member of the Regiment, but because we need them now more than ever) - Especially with our troops going into Afghanistan as Peacekeepers to free up the Americans for Iraq. Afghanistan is a place where there is really no peace. I fear more of our lads will come home in body bags.

Pray for peace. Pray for the Peacekeepers. Matthew 5:9

A :)

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Post by Vesper » 22 Jun 2004 19:47

Good topic Gorty.

One of my favourites;
Wilfred Owen
Dulce Et Decorum Est

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of disappointed shells that dropped behind.

GAS! Gas! Quick, boys!-- An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And floundering like a man in fire or lime.--
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,--
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.
Everyone has probably heard of this poem, but I couldn't resist posting it. High Flight is also one of my favourites Aufklarung, it's amazing to think that it was written by a 18/19 year old. & a great shame to hear that he died in an air collision shortly afterwards.

What's the history on your poem Gort? I haven't heard of that one before.

I am &tc, Vesper.

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Post by Lord Gort » 22 Jun 2004 20:37

Vesper, Aufkarung, youve both chosen some darn good ones there.

Aufklarung, perhaps you can expalin the one on disbandment a bit more, it has alot to do with recent peace keeping if I remember rightly?

Well in terms of my history, Sara Teasdale's was a poem in a recent mock exam I sat.

It says on http://www.enotes.com/come-soft/, that ......

Teasdale’s poem is a response to her disdain for and disillusionment over World War I. When the United States became involved in the conflict, Teasdale turned some of her creative attention to writing anti-war lyrics, and when this poem appeared in Flame and Shadow, it carried the subtitle “War Time.” The poem addresses the atrocity of battle from the perspective of nature—of birds and frogs and trees whose lives will go on even if human beings obliterate themselves from the planet. It is interesting to note that in Bradbury’s short story based on the poem, nature and nonhuman objects do not fare quite as well, eventually succumbing to their own deaths without people around to support them. But Teasdale takes perhaps a more cynical approach in that nature will not only endure but will carry on without even noticing “that we were gone.”


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Post by alf » 23 Jun 2004 01:22

A brillant topic Lord Gort Thankyou!

I will add a poem by Keith Douglas from WW2

Aristocrats: "I Think I Am Becoming A God

The noble horse with courage in his eye,
clean in the bone, looks up at a shellburst:
away fly the images of the shires
but he puts the pipe back in his mouth.
Peter was unfortunately killed by an 88;
it took his leg away, he died in the ambulance.
I saw him crawling on the sand, he said
It's most unfair, they've shot my foot off.

How can I live among this gentle
obsolescent breed of heroes, and not weep?
Unicorns, almost,
for they are fading into two legends
in which their stupidity and chivalry
are celebrated.

Each, fool and hero, will be an immortal.
These plains were their cricket pitch
and in the mountains the tremendous drop fences
brought down some of the runners. Here then
under the stones and earth they dispose themselves,
I think with their famous unconcern.
It is not gunfire I hear, but a hunting horn.

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Post by Lord Gort » 23 Jun 2004 09:52

Brilliant, thankyou alf. Was Keith Douglas Australian, what was his role in the war?

My choice poem for today is by Siegfried Sassoon who gained the Military Cross for bravery but long announced his despiar with the war. His bravery helped shield him from the accusations of being a coward, and his 'Soldiers Declaration' was his announcement against the war. He in fact through his medal into the mersey as an act of defiance.......

Suicide in the Trenches

I KNEW a simple soldier boy
Who grinned at life in empty joy,
Slept soundly through the lonesome dark,
And whistled early with the lark.

In winter trenches, cowed and glum, 5
With crumps and lice and lack of rum,
He put a bullet through his brain.
No one spoke of him again.

. . . .
You smug-faced crowds with kindling eye
Who cheer when soldier lads march by, 10
Sneak home and pray you’ll never know
The hell where youth and laughter go.


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Post by alf » 23 Jun 2004 12:16

Hi Lord Gort,

Keith Douglas was British and fought through the North Africa campagain and was killed in action in Normandy in 1944


A forgotten poet but possibly the closest British WW2 poet to those of the First War

For WW1 poetry some of Kiplings "couplets" are powerful, those he wrote after the death of his son in France

ie "if any ask why we died
tell them because our fathers lied"

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Post by Locke » 23 Jun 2004 12:33

Another one by Siegfried Sasoon

Does it matter?

Does it matter?—losing your legs?...
For people will always be kind,
And you need not show that you mind
When the others come in after hunting
To gobble their muffins and eggs.

Does it matter ?—losing your sight?...
There's such splendid work for the blind;
And people will always be kind,
As you sit on the terrace remembering
And turning your face to the light.

Do they matter?—those dreams from the pit?...
You can drink and forget and be glad,
And people won't say that you're mad;
For they'll know you've fought for your country
And no one will worry a bit.

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Post by Vesper » 23 Jun 2004 16:23

& now on a lighter note, the Fleet Air Arm poem/toast.
Here's to us in sober moods
When we ramble, sit and think!

And here's to us in our drunken moods
When we gamble, sin and drink!

And when our flying days are over
And from this world we pass

May the fish-heads bury us upside down
So the world can kiss our arse!

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Post by Beppo Schmidt » 23 Jun 2004 22:03

I wrote this one myself, and posted it in the forum a long time ago...

I can still remember that sunny day in May
when I kissed my mother and my baby brother, and then I went away.

I tried out for the Luftwaffe, but I didn’t pass the test
so they marched me east to Poland, a boy like all the rest.

I can’t say now why I chose to go,
it all seemed great fun, a glorious show.

I know now how naïve we all were,
we meant nothing to the High Command, and nothing to the Führer.

But our hearts were light as we marched beneath the sun
the sun shone so bright on that day in ‘41.

Not knowing we’d be in Russia by the end of the year,
not yet knowing the meaning of fear.

For now all was drills and listening to the Kommandant’s sermons;
our heads were all high; we were Germans.

I met Bernhard on a day in cloudy June
a sturdy young man, whistling a tune.

He was blond and blue-eyed and the girls always liked him
until my dying day his image will never dim.

He was my friend, my truest Kamerad,
always behind me with an encouraging nod.

I long to see that face again now, to speak to him all day until I’d had my fill,
I am growing old and sick, perhaps soon I will.

When our time came to be sent to Russia, my mouth went dry
but I was a German soldier; we were not supposed to cry.

Berni thought it would be a delightful romp,
journey to Moscow and give the Bolsheviks a good stomp.

That may seem foolish and childish and overly sure,
but then again children was what we were.

We had never been under fire, had never seen the dead
never walked past a charred body without any head.

All we had were the lies they told to my impressionable face
and ridiculous notions of a master race.

They said we were die übermensch, the supermen,
can do anything if we only have faith that we can.

I was stupid then; I believed much of what I was told,
a sixteen-year-old marching off to Russia, proud and bold.

Marching always with Berni, mein Kamerad, at my side,
marching to Kiev, where the first of us fought and died.

I marched past bodies covered in blood,
struggling on through the mud.

We were children no longer, instantly old
unable to bury our Kameraden because the ground was too cold.

We unloaded our wounded at the next German base,
Der Herr Doktor quickly writing off the most serious case.

I was called to a table on which lay a young man,
his clothes soaked in blood, collecting in a pan.

The Doktor bid me hold him down while he cut his into his arm,
the young man rambling throughout about his farm.

When the arm came off, I struggled unsuccessfully to keep my bile inside,
shortly thereafter the young farmer died.

I was lost, I couldn’t go on,
didn’t have the voice to sing the funeral song.

I fell in the snow and might have just lain there,
but arms pulled me up and eyes faced me with a sympathetic stare.

“Come on,” Berni said, “You’ve got to go on.”
I could no longer remember my childhood in Bonn....

At the next village the Kommandant greeted us with a loud “Sieg Heil!”,
smiling and saluting in desperate denial.

We advance on toward Stalingrad, the namesake of our foe,
only Berni keeping me from feeling completely low.

This is all wrong, I scream to myself, it can’t be like this,
surely this is a dream, I will wake and know bliss.

For the first time I wonder, why I am I here?
to my heart Communism is not despised, nor is Nazism dear.

Am I here for glory, some vision of a noble battle, pitched and dire?
Such pretensions were shattered the first time we came under fire.

I am not here for Stalin, I am not here for the Führer,
not even for the Fatherland, of that I am quite sure.

I am here for mein Kamerad, here for Berni
fighting for the men with whom I have made this journey.

We press on through the snow and ice,
supplies are low, the horses must suffice.

Through it all Berni never fails to lighten my load,
whenever I need it, he will goad.

His eyes are not as bright now; his smile keeps flashing reassuringly at me,
although I can tell by now this is no longer where he wishes to be.

I cannot recall my home, cannot recall my mother
cannot recall my class, father, or brother.

Out here in the Russian wilds, Berni is all the family there is for me
I no longer have anyone, save for he.

We approached Stalingrad, tense and primed,
but now Berni was falling behind.

I was now the one who went back for him,
he caught up as we probed the city’s southwestern rim.

He smiled at me, and patted my back,
tussled my hair, tightened my pack.

He said, “I’m not finished yet, we’ll make it through hell.”,
and then with a shattering boom the first shell fell.

Our regiment picked itself up and charged toward the Russian lines,
riddled by bullets, blown up by mines.

Berni ran alongside me, at our regiment’s core,
and then all of a sudden he just wasn’t there anymore.

Startled, I turned in the falling snow
and saw Berni laying below.

A bullet had shot straight through his head,
and thirty feet from the city center, Berni was dead.

We fought on for a time, and then were forced to retreat,
the war was lost, Germany was beat.

The High Command contacted Berni’s mother and informed her,
that her son had fallen for “the Fatherland and the Führer”.

There were more battles for us, but nothing mattered to me,
there was no longer any point to this that I could see.

The Reds pursued us out of Russia
drove us into Poland, and then into Prussia

Maybe we shouldn’t have been surprised at all the fuss
but the Russians didn’t stop with us

I had lived to see the turning of the tide;
our homes were burned, our women were raped, and many died

The Soviets said this was less than the Germans had done, that it was now their time
but they were punishing our children before they had committed any crime

I didn’t recognize my home when it was first sighted
everything was destroyed, our country divided

Only one thing made me happy; that Berni at least could no longer be hurt,
was beyond Russian vengeance, was buried in the dirt.

I sit now in my house and ponder those days,
unable to understand why the world couldn’t have found other ways.

The endless years have passed with no one who understands,
I question authority now, I challenge demands.

I sit in my room and spend my quiet day,
and to Berni alone I have something to say:

Sleep now, mein Kamerad, sleep in the rest that is due,
be patient, soon we will once again be with you.

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Post by alf » 23 Jun 2004 23:31

Thankyou Beppo for sharing



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Lord Gort
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Post by Lord Gort » 24 Jun 2004 07:36

Thanks Beppo.

Alf, the link was very useful. And now youve mentioned him, I'll post a Kipling poem, about war, but written in 1930 I think as todays poem.

Though all the dead were forgot
And razed were every tomb
The worm - the worm that dieth not
Compels Us to our doom
Though all which one was England stands
Subservient to Our will,
The dead of whom we washed Our hands,
They have observance still.

We laid no finger To Their load.
We multiplied their woes.
We used their dearly - opened road
To traffic with Their foes:

And yet to them Men turn their eyes,
Tom them are vows renewed
Of Faith, Obedience, Sacrifice,
Honour and Fortitude!

Which things must perish. But our hour
Comes not by staves or swords
So much as, subtly, through the power
Of small coroding words.
No need to make the plot more plain
By any open thrust;
But - See their memory is slain
Long ere Their bones are dust!

Wisely, but yearly, filch some wreath -
Lay some proud rite aside -
And daily tarnish with Our breath
The ends for which they died.
Distract, deride, decry, confuse -
(Or - if it serves Us - pray!)
So presently we break the use
And meaning of Their day!


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Post by Daryl Leeworthy » 24 Jun 2004 09:15

Interesting one Mr Gort, how about this one:

'Good-morning; good-morning!' the General said
When we met him last week on the way to the line.
Now the soldiers he smiled at are most of 'em dead,
And we're cursing his staff for incompetent swine.
'He's a cheery old card,' grunted Harry to Jack
As they slogged up to Arras with rifle and pack.


But he did for them both by his plan of attack

I really liked this one when I did war poetry in year 11. I remember hearing Stephen Fry as Melchett saying good-morning and that worked rather well.

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Post by Klaus Yurk » 24 Jun 2004 13:36

Sleep now, mein Kamerad, sleep in the rest that is due,
be patient, soon we will once again be with you.
Thank you, Mr. Schmidt. Loved your poem. My father is there too.


(As per "High Flight," our local TV stations used to play this poem, narrated over some wonderful footage of Jets playing at high altitude. It was beautiful and very moving. It was normally right after the National Anthem, and before the station signed off. (Remember when stations used to sign off for the night?) It was very cool.


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Post by Aufklarung » 24 Jun 2004 18:34

In response to your query about the CAR and Somalia; please browse here for all the facts and some of the hype/lies.

Further investigation of the site will yield other info you wish.

Sorry if that's not what you're after but the disbandment (in shame) was a very sore point with me. If you want more, feel free to PM with any questions you may have.

Just a note that the link I gave in my previous post has some excellent war poetry by Veterans.

A :)

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