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Auimfo

Great War Poetry

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Auimfo

I'm interested to know everybody's favorite WW1 poem or who their favorite poet was.

Just about everyone has heard of Sassoon, Owen and McCrae and being from Australia, I have a soft spot for Leon Gellert, and they all deserve recognition for their wonderful work. But very often a single poem from a lesser known poet seems to strike a chord with a particular reader and I think it would be a good idea if we could share all these poems with each other.

I have to say that my favorite poet is Wilfrid Gibson. I find his poety stark, cold and fairly confronting in it's simplicity and I think this echoes the suffering of the ordinary footslogger.

Mad

Neck-deep in mud,

He mowed and raved -

He who had braved The field of blood -

And as a lad

Just out of school

Yelled - April Fool!

And laughed like mad.

The Bayonet

This bloody steel

Has killed a man.

I heard him squeal

As on I ran.

He watched me come

With wagging head.

I pressed it home

And he was dead.

Though clean and clear

I've wiped the steel,

I still can hear

That dying squeal

Back

They Ask me where I've Been.

And what I've done and seen.

But what can I reply?

Who knows it wasn't I,

But someone just like me,

Who went across the sea,

And with my head and hands,

Killed men in foreign lands.

Though I must bear the blame,

Because he bore my name.

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HarryBettsMCDCM
I'm interested to know everybody's favorite WW1 poem or who their favorite poet was.

Just about everyone has heard of Sassoon, Owen and McCrae and being from Australia, I have a soft spot for Leon Gellert, and they all deserve recognition for their wonderful work. But very often a single poem from a lesser known poet seems to strike a chord with a particular reader and I think it would be a good idea if we could share all these poems with each other.

I have to say that my favorite poet is Wilfrid Gibson. I find his poety stark, cold and fairly confronting in it's simplicity and I think this echoes the suffering of the ordinary footslogger.

Mad

Neck-deep in mud,

He mowed and raved -

He who had braved The field of blood -

And as a lad

Just out of school

Yelled - April Fool!

And laughed like mad.

The Bayonet

This bloody steel

Has killed a man.

I heard him squeal

As on I ran.

He watched me come

With wagging head.

I pressed it home

And he was dead.

Though clean and clear

I've wiped the steel,

I still can hear

That dying squeal

Back

They Ask me where I've Been.

And what I've done and seen.

But what can I reply?

Who knows it wasn't I,

But someone just like me,

Who went across the sea,

And with my head and hands,

Killed men in foreign lands.

Though I must bear the blame,

Because he bore my name.

How about "Boom Boom Boom Boom" By Private Baldrick! :lol:

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Guest dinkidi

Vance Palmer's "The Farmer Remembers the Somme"

Will they never fade or pass!

The mud,and the misty figures endlessly coming

In file through the foul morass,

And the grey flood-water lipping the reeds and grass,

And the steel wings drumming.

The hills are bright in the sun:

There's nothing changed or marred in the well-known places;

When work for the day is done

There's talk, and quiet laughter, and gleams of fun

On the old folks' faces.

I have returned to these:

The farm, and the kindly Bush, and the young calves lowing;

But all that my mind sees

Is a quaking bog in a mist --- stark, snapped trees,

And the dark Somme flowing.

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Guest Brummy

All the best poetry is written by people who do not know the meaning of the word stanza.

little Jack Horner at hell fire corner

sat down a biscuit to chew,

He didn't care for the shells that flew there,

He knew what the biscuit could do.

There came a twelve incher, but jack didn't flinch,sir,

He grasped at his biscuit, and waited,

and then true and well, with biscuit met shell,

And the crump with a sigh denotated.

Anon

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Viola

I like Alan Seeger's "I Have a Rendezvous with Death".

And most of Sasson's stuff. And Francis Ledwidge, an Irish poet who fought with the Inniskilling Fusiliers at 3rd Ypres and is buried in Artillery Wood Cemetery at Boezinge.

-- Viola

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HERITAGE PLUS

Viola

Mine is 'Man-at-arms' (Anon).

You will find the words on this previous thread.

Dave

http://1914-1918.org/forum/index.php?showt...&hl=man+at+arms

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Anthony Bagshaw

I did First World War poetry for my A Levels last year. It is really very good but i think my favourite is 'In Flanders Fields' by John Mcrae.

Favourite poet is Siegfried Sassoon. I love the satirical stuff like 'The General' and 'Base Details'

Anthony

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KateJ
I did First World War poetry for my A Levels last year. It is really very good but i think my favourite is 'In Flanders Fields' by John Mcrae.

Favourite poet is Siegfried Sassoon. I love the satirical stuff like 'The General' and 'Base Details'

Anthony

Anthony - I like "The General" too - for those of you that don't know it, here it is

The General by Siegfried Sassoon - 1886-1967

"Good-morning; good-morning!" the General said

When we met him last week on our 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.

__________________________________________

Here's another of his - very to the point

Memorial Tablet

Squire nagged and bullied till I went to fight,

(Under Lord Derby's scheme). I died in hell -

(They called it Passchendaele). My wound was slight,

And I was hobbling back; and then a shell

Burst slick upon the duckboards: so I fell

Into the bottomless mud, and lost the light

At sermon-time, while Squire is in his pew,

He gives my gilded name a thoughtful stare;

For, though low down upon the list, I'm there;

"In proud and glorious memory" ... that's my due.

Two bleeding years I fought in France, for Squire:

I suffered anguish that he's never guessed.

I came home on leave: and then went west...

What greater glory could a man desire?

____________________________________________

This one by Charles Hamilton Sorley (1895-1915 - killed by a sniper at the battle of Loos) is one of my favourite war poems

When you see millions of mouthless dead

Across your dreams in pale battalions go,

Say not soft things as other men have said,

That you’ll remember, for you need not so.

Give them not praise. For, deaf, how should they know

It is not curses heaped on each gashed head?

Nor tears.Their blind eyes see not your tears flow.

Nor honour. It is easy to be dead.

Say only this,‘They are dead’, then add

‘Many a better one has died before’.

Then scanning all the crowded mass,

Should you perceive one face that you loved

It is a spook. None wears the face you knew.

Great death has made all yours forever more.

Kate

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Guest dinkidi

G'day Tim

I don't have favourite poets, but every so often something seems to jump off the page. This one from anthology "Other Banners" by J T Laird.

Light Loss

"Our loss was light," the paper said,

"Compared with damage to the Hun":

She was a widow, and she read

One name upon the list of dead

--Her son ---her only son.

J. LE GAY BRERETON

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stevedrew

dinkidi,

"They shall not grow old as we who are left grow old,

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn,

At the going down of the sun, and in the morning...

WE WILL REMEMBER THEM"

LEST WE FORGET

The most moving poem I've heard.

From "Ode to Rememberance"??? Laurence Binyon???

Steve Drew

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Auimfo

Thanks everyone,

Many wonderful poems in a variety of styles. Personally, I think the simple, confronting style of the ordinary soldier has the most effect on me and manages to convey reality the best.

Dinkidi, I'd never read Vance Palmer's poem before but thought it was excellent. The standout for me however was 'Light Loss'. Short and simple but as soon as I read it I knew what you meant by jumping off the page.

Steve, the poem you are thinking of is Laurence Binyon's 'For The Fallen' and you are absolutely right - this has to be one of the most moving I've come across as well. (I can't believe I omitted it in my first post!!) So many people have only ever heard that small portion of it but it deserves the full treatment - so here it is;

For The Fallen

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,

England mourns for her dead across the sea.

Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,

Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal

Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres,

There is music in the midst of desolation

And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,

Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.

They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;

They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old:

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning

We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;

They sit no more at familiar tables of home;

They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;

They sleep beyond England's foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,

Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,

To the innermost heart of their own land they are known

As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,

Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;

As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,

To the end, to the end, they remain.

Tim L.

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Anthony Pigott
"They shall not grow old as we who are left grow old,

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn,

At the going down of the sun, and in the morning...

WE WILL REMEMBER THEM"

LEST WE FORGET

The most moving poem I've heard.

From "Ode to Rememberance"???  Laurence Binyon???

Steve Drew

It's 'For The Fallen' by Laurence Binyon.

It was set to music by Edward Elgar (see the thread: http://1914-1918.org/forum/index.php?showtopic=14775 ).

Although many people associate it, especially the famous fourth stanza, with the larger scale losses in the later part of the war, it was in fact written in September 1914.

Anthony

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,

England mourns for her dead across the sea.

Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,

Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal

Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres,

There is music in the midst of desolation

And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,

Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.

They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;

They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old:

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning

We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;

They sit no more at familiar tables of home;

They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;

They sleep beyond England's foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,

Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,

To the innermost heart of their own land they are known

As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,

Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;

As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,

To the end, to the end, they remain.

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Anthony Pigott

... two people, almost opposite sides of the globe, think of almost exactly the same thing at the same time... :)

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Guest dinkidi

Tony

Well spotted.

Apparently at the 1st meeting of the liner Q E [1] and HMS Queen Elizabeth on the high seas, he civvie captain sent flew a Nelsonistic signal about the significance of the event in British Maritime History, The RN bloke flew "SNAP" :)

Pat

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Tim Godden

There are some excellent poets from Germany, Alfred Lichtenstein, August Stramm.

British poems were very much the same I find. They use old poetry methods to write about modern things. The Germans, however, did not feel that they could adapt the carnage into words with in the limitations of pre-war poetry and thus developed a highly minimalist approach to poetry. The same can be seen in the painting of the war, although the British painters such as Nevinson and the Nash brothers also adopt this style.

Whilst, yes, Sassoon and Owen and, and, and....are fine poets they struggle to find their own style.

I, of course, like to read Sassoon, Owen, Rosenburg, Thomas, Brooke and many others, and whilst I find their poetry moving I do not find it as stark. Lines, yes, but complete works, no.

At the end of the day though, poetry is an art form and is thus open to personal opinion. This is mine, make of it what you will.

All the best,

Tim

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KateJ

Tim - can you post some of the poems by Alfred Lichtenstein and August Stramm? I would be interested to read them.

Kate

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andyspiller

Pals

Although I agree with all of you that have voted for 'For the fallen' - it always brings a lump to my throat, I would like to share another poem with you. It was written by a chap who I knew and served in WW2 and Korea including 4 years in Changi.

The Glory of War

At the sharp end of a war

You grovel in the dirt

For the evil whistling crack

Of bullets, ill directed, passing close

And you become one

With a muddy slit trench wall

When mortars cough their warning

Or incoming shells explode

With a spiteful fury.

You live with your body stench

Which is the stink of fear

While masticating meals from tins

With all your body crying

For the gentle peaceful sleep

You never seem to get.

Books all talk of bravery

And gallant deeds well done

But not the slightest mention

Of crawling through the dark to kill

Or walking into enemy fire

As you take their useless ground.

It often makes me wonder

If those patriotic imbeciles

Who wave the flag and chant

Their meaningless juvenile slogans

Have ever lived and feared

Dark forces set against them

Or felt the glowing warmth

Of close mates all around.

Please be aware that copyright exists for this work.

If this does not make you think - then I'm not sure what will.

With respects

Andy

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Auimfo

Tim G. (very classy given name!!)

What do you think about the German authors writing about WW1 (novels or memoirs). Most of us have probably read Remarque but do you think they also adopted a different approach from their allied counterparts. I have a copy of 'The Way of Sacrifice' by Fritz von Unruh, but haven't had a chance to read it yet.

Tim L.

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Malcolm

Joe Lee. 4th Black Watch.

The Mother.

'Mother o' mine ; O Mother o' mine '

My Mother rose from her grave last night,

And bent above my bed,

And laid a warm kiss on my lips,

A cool hand on my head;

And ' Come to me and come to me,

My bonny boy,' she said.

And when they found him at the dawn,

His brow with blood defiled,

And gently laid him in the earth,

They wondered why he smiled.

' Fighter Writer ' by Bob Burrows. published by Breedon Books.

Aye

Malcolm

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Graham-McAdam

I happened to take this photo last week of the grave of a man most of us admire. (My first photo post - hope its OK)

post-3-1086968998.jpg

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KateJ
At the end of the day though, poetry is an art form and is thus open to personal opinion. This is mine, make of it what you will.

You're very right about poetry being open to personal opinion - it's a bit like classical music - some pieces you just love and can't understand why people don't appreciate them the same way!

Anyway, to give another slant to the poetry discussion, here's two more - this time from women poets.

The Veteran - May 1916

by Margaret Postgate Cole

We came upon him sitting in the sun

Blinded by war, and left. And past the fence

There came young soldiers from the Hand and Flower,

Asking advice of his experience.

And he said this, and that, and told them tales,

And all the nightmares of each empty head

Blew into air; then, hearing us beside,

"Poor chaps, how'd they know what it's like?" he said.

And we stood there, and watched him as he sat,

Turning his sockets where they went away,

Until it came to one of us to ask "And you're how old?"

"Nineteen, the third of May."

_____________________________

Lamplight by May Wedderburn Cannan

We planned to shake the world together, you and I.

Being young, and very wise;

Now in the light of the green shaded lamp

Almost I see your eyes

Light with the old gay laughter; you and I

Dreamed greatly of an Empire in those days,

Setting our feet upon laborious ways,

And all you asked of fame

Was crossed swords in the Army List;

My Dear, against your name.

We planned a great Empire together, you and I,

Bound only by the sea;

Now in the quiet of a chill Winter's night

Your voice comes hushed to me

Full of forgotten memories: you and I

Dreamed great dreams of our future in those days,

Setting our feet on undiscovered ways,

And all I asked of fame

A scarlet cross on my breast, my Dear,

For the swords by your name.

We shall never shake the world together, you and I,

For you gave your life away;

And I think my heart was broken by war,

Since on a summer day

You took the road we never spoke of; you and I

Dreamed greatly of an Empire in those days;

You set your feet upon the Western ways

And have no need of fame -

There's a scarlet cross on my breast, my Dear,

And a torn cross with your name.

_______________________

Kate

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Guest Northumberland

Total bias but I must chip in with a poem from Wilfred Gibson, born in Hexham 1878, died 1962

BACK

They ask me where I've been,

and what I've done and seen.

but what can I reply

who know it wasn't I,

but someone just like me,

who went across the sea

and with my head and hands

killed men in foreign lands...

though I must bear the blame,

because he bore my name

However his greatest work in the eyes of most fellow Northumbrians has to be:

Heather land and bent land

Black land and white

God bring me to Northumberland

The land of my delight

Land of singing waters

And words from off the sea

God bring me to Northumberland

The land where I would be

Heather land and bent land

And valley rich with corn

God bring me to Northumberland

The land where I was born.

Gibson was a private unlike most war poets, I understand he served towards the end of the war but with which regiment and where?

post-3-1086996974.jpg

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Guest dinkidi
Total bias but I must chip in with a poem from Wilfred Gibson, born in Hexham 1878-1962

Geez! That must be the world record! Mother & Son Both Well?

I have often read of, but never sighted, the special trench editions of "Ginger Mick"

by C J Dennis. Doesn't quite fit the gung - ho Aussie image. All them chappies sitting around reading poetry!

The censors would not allow the "Battle of the Wazzir" to be included in the wartime editions, but it is now freely available. The poems sold 700,000 copies before 1920. [Probably only beaten by sales of The (other) Bible].

He shore talks funny though!

ooRoo

Pat

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Tim Godden

Hi Tim L.

I wrote my dissertation last year on German literature of the Great War so I have, as a result, read a fair number of German WW1 related novels/memoirs.

I found as a whole the German novel of the time is the opposite to the poetry. It does not really break new ground in writing styles. There are some for the war, i.e. Jünger's 'The Storm of Steel', and some are against, i.e. Remarque's 'All Quiet...'. As whole though they are a very well structured, as you would expect, approach to relating an experience. They do, of course, 'break the mould' in regards to the way war had been viewed within their generation and the pre-war generation, but the writing style is similar to German writing pre-war.

British writing, however, is another story (no pun intended!). Henry Williamson's 'Patriot's Progress' is a masterpiece of minimalistic sentences. It deals with the same feelings as the German novels but takes on the same type of form as the German poetry. Manning's 'The Middle Parts of Forune' is, and will probably remain, for me, thebest novel to come out of the war. Though not as overtly anti-war as Remarque, or as pro-war as Jünger, not as stylistic as Williamson, it captures the reader and draws them into the world in which the soldiers lived. Well worth a read if you get a chance.

Obviously it is quite hard to go into detail in such a short time as I am frantically rattling this off before I have to give my next lesson. Hope it helps though.

Kate,

Yes, I can, but it will be on Monday. I only have access to the net a work at the moment and I have just read your post.

All the best,

Tim G.

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Dragon
Tim - can you post some of the poems by Alfred Lichtenstein and August Stramm? I would be interested to read them.

Kate

Hello Kate

Without wishing to intrude in a private dialogue, I'd like to suggest The Lost Voices of Word War One, An International Anthology of Writers, Poets and Playwrights, by Tim Cross. (Bloomsbury) ISBN 0-7475-0276-5 I'm not sure if it's still in print. My copy is ancient.

It includes pieces by the authors mentioned as well as 60 or so more, with accompanying translations into English and a helpful commentary. The selection includes drama and prose as well as poetry. As the title suggests, the emphasis is on those who died.

I can't comment on the quality of the selection, as my subject is English and not European literature, but it seems fine to me!

Stramm's work has the same effect on me as seeing the apocalyptic woodcuts of Emil Nolde or the chalk drawings of Otto Dix: seeing an independent, anguished mind's interpretation of the savagery and elemental chaos around him. I'm not sure about quoting - are there copyright issues in quoting the translation? So I'll just add a short one as a sort of flavour:

Wunde

Die Erde blutet unterm Helmkopf

Sterne fallen

Der Weltraum tastet

Schauder brausen

Wirbeln

Einsamkeiten

Nebel

Weinen

Ferne

Deinen Blick.

Gwyn

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