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Auimfo

Great War Poetry

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KateJ
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

Hi Gwen

Certainly isn't a private conversation! Thanks for your book recommendation - I've just added it to my amazon shopping basket (which is rather large and over flowing at the moment <sigh>)

I googled for Stramm's Wunde and came up with a translation - very stark and very different to anything I've read before.

Kate

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Dragon
Hi Gwen

Certainly isn't a private conversation!

Well ... Tim knows far more about it than I do, but he said he hadn't got his copies to hand. I wasn't being pointed!

I have an Amazon shopping trolley...

Gwyn (with a y :) )

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KateJ
Gwyn (with a y :) )

Ooops - sorry :( - put it down to one-handed typing - baby asleep in other arm!

Kate

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ianw

I'd like to nominate Leslie Coulson. Justifiably famous for the shockingly angry "Who Made the Law" but considerable merit in much of his work.

EBay recently yielded a copy of his posthumous anthology "From an Outpost " and this now resides on my bookshelf next to the register for Grove Town Cemetery where he is buried.

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Jon Miller

Somewhere in the back of my mind, I feel sure that my choice is not PC, that apparently even soldiers weren't keen on this writing; however, as has been said, poetry appreciation is subjective, so I put forward 'Rhymes of a Red Cross Man' by Robert Service.

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Eddie Morton

Herte's one you can actually go to the spot and walk it.

BEAUCOURT REVISITED

I wondered up to Beaucourt, I took the river track

And saw the lines we lived in before the bosche went back

But peace was now in pottage, the front was far ahead

The front had journied eastward, and only left the dead.

And I thought, how long we lay there, and watched across the wire

While the guns roared round the valley, and set the skies afire,

But now there are homes in Hamel, and tents in the vale of hell

And a camp at suicide corner, where half a regiment fell.

The new troops follow after, and tread the land we won

To them tis so much hillside re wrested from the hun

We only walk with reverence this sullen mile of mud

The shell holes hold our history and half of them our blood.

Here at the head of Peche St twas death to show your face

To me it seemed like magic to linger in this place

For me how many spirits hung around the Kentish caves

But the new man see no spirits, they only see the graves.

I found the half dug ditchs we fashioned for the fight

We lost a score of men there, young James was killed that night

I saw the star shells starting I heard the bullets hail

But the new trops passed unheeding, they never heard the tale.

I crossed the blood red ribbon that once was no mans land

I saw the misty daybreak the creeping minute hand

And there the lads went over and there was Harmsworth shot

And here was William lying but the new men knew them not.

And I said there is still the river and still the stiff stark trees

To treasure here our story, but there are only these

But under the white wood crosses, the dead men answer low

The new men knew not Beaucourt, but we are here, we know.

A P Herbert

PS The Line "There was Harmsworth shot" refers to Lt the Honerable Vere Harmsworth son of Lord Rothermere. He's buried in The Ancre Britsh Cemertery just outside Boaucourt.

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Guest Brummy

Ever since this thread started, it has made me wonder about a poem that is stuck in my head. I do not remember where I read it and most importantly I can not remember who wrote it if anybody could put a poets name to this I would be forever greatefull.

Every bullet has its billet

Some bullets more than one

For you sometimes kill a mother

When you kill a mothers son

Brum

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Laurent

La Bassee road poeme: "LA BASSEE ROAD

(Cuinchy, 1915.)

YOU'LL see from the La Bassée Road, on any

summer's day,

The children herding nanny-goats, the women

making hay.

You'll see the soldiers, khaki clad, in column

and platoon,

Come swinging up La Bassée Road from billets

in Bethune.

There's hay to save and corn to cut, but harder

work by far

Awaits the soldier boys who reap the harvest

fields of war.

You'll see them swinging up the road where

women work at hay,

The straight long road, -- La Bassée Road, -- on

any summer day.

The night-breeze sweeps La Bassée Road, the

night-dews wet the hay,

The boys are coming back again, a straggling

crowd are they.

The column's lines are broken, there are gaps

in the platoon,

They'll not need many billets, now, for soldiers

in Bethune,

For many boys, good lusty boys, who marched

away so fine,

Have now got little homes of clay beside the

firing line.

Good luck to them, God speed to them, the

boys who march away,

A-singing up La Bassée road each sunny é summer day. é

A LAMENT

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Tim Godden

sorry Kate, I completely forgot about the poems, I promise I'll put them up tomorrow. The book recommened is absolutely excellent, it has the poems in original and translation.

All the best,

Tim

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Auimfo

Tim G.

I looked up some of August Stramm's works on the net. Had to find translations as I'm no linguist and I hope they do the original justice. Very thought provoking and certainly different to anything I've seen. Must admit though, you've got me hooked on it. It seems that so much can be said in only a few simple words.

My favorite so far would be:

ANGRIFF

Tücher

Winken

Flattern

Knattern.

Winde klatschen.

Dein Lachen weht.

Greifen Fassen

Balgen Zwingen

Kuss

Umfangen

Sinken

Nichts.

or translated to English:

ATTACK

Scarves

Wave

Flutter

Chatter

Winds clatter.

Your laughter blows

Grasp hold

Scuffle force

Kiss

Surrounded

Sink down

Nothingness.

Tim L.

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KateJ
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.

Hello Gwyn

Amazon delivered my copy of this today (had to wait a few weeks!). Thanks for the recommendation - an excellent book.

Kate

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Guest Rob2347

Hi All,

A family effort.

Remember

The bloody fields,

The barbed wire,

The guns blazing,

The men on fire.

The skies are greying,

The air so black.

The sounds are constant,

Rat a tat tat.

Crouching low,

Avoiding a shot.

Frozen solid,

To the spot.

Man steps up

And leads the way.

A blazing inferno,

Ends his day.

Comrades gather,

So few to say.

What life was given,

And lost this day.

In bloody fields

So far away.

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robbie

Hi all,

Alan Seeger has been mentioned in this thread before most often for his famous poem "I have a rendezvous with death". I haven't seen anyone refer to his volume of Letters and Diary which can be purchased alongside "Poems by Alan Seeger" as "Alan Seeger, The COmplete Works" by Amanda harlech (Ed.)

ISBN 3-88243-751-0, Edition, Paris.

Alan Seeger was an American who enlisted in the Foreign Legion of France in 1914. He died on 3rd July 1916 in the fight for Belloy-en-Santerre.

Reading the letters to his mother and the diary entries provide the context for his beautiful poems.

I strongly recommend the complete works.

Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/3...4269947-7490003

Robbie

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BeppoSapone
Ever since this thread started, it has made me wonder about a poem that is stuck in my head. I do not remember where I read it and most importantly I can not remember who wrote it if anybody could put a poets name to this I would be forever greatefull.

Every bullet has its billet

Some bullets more than one

For you sometimes kill a mother

When you kill a mothers son

Brum

Brum

Every bullet has its billet

Many bullets more than one

God! perhaps I killed a mother

When I killed a mother's son.

Joseph Lee (1875-1949)

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BatterySergeantMajor

A Soldier's Grave

Then in the lull of midnight, gentle arms

Lifted him slowly down the slopes of death

Lest he should hear again the mad alarms

Of battle, dying moans, and painful breath.

And where the earth was soft for flowers we made

A grave for him that he might better rest.

So, Spring shall come and leave it seet arrayed,

And there the lark shall turn her dewy nest

Francis Ledwidge

But Alan Seeger's Rendez-Vous is a close second.

Erwin

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BeppoSapone
Ever since this thread started, it has made me wonder about a poem that is stuck in my head. I do not remember where I read it and most importantly I can not remember who wrote it if anybody could put a poets name to this I would be forever greatefull.

Every bullet has its billet

Some bullets more than one

For you sometimes kill a mother

When you kill a mothers son

Brum

Brum

Every bullet has its billet

Many bullets more than one

God! perhaps I killed a mother

When I killed a mother's son.

Joseph Lee (1875-1949)

Brum

Well, outside of knowing that he wrote that poem, I had never heard of Lee. I have just done a little "googling" and found out something about him. See here:

http://www.holdthefrontpage.co.uk/news/200...040601lee.shtml

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mcfc1923

COMMON FORM

If any question why we died,

Tell them, because our fathers lied.

Rudyard Kipling

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Brigantian

One I find particularly poignant:

INSPECTION

'You! What d'you mean by this?' I rapped.

'You dare come on parade like this?'

'Please, sir, it's -' ''Old yer mouth,' the sergeant snapped.

'I takes 'is name, sir?' - 'Please, and then dismiss.'

Some days 'confined to camp' he got,

For being 'dirty on parade'.

He told me, afterwards, the damned spot

Was blood, his own. 'Well, blood is dirt,' I said.

'Blood's dirt,' he laughed, looking away

Far off to where his wound had bled

And almost merged for ever into clay.

'The world is washing out its stains,' he said.

'It doesn't like our cheeks so red:

Young blood's its great objection.

But when we're duly white-washed, being dead,

The race will bear Field-Marshal God's inspection.'

Wilfred Owen

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Matt Dixon

Brigantian,

I quite agree with your choice, truly a masterpiece.

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Auimfo

I hadn't read that Wilfred Owen poem before. Magnificent.

Tim L.

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Paul Nixon

How about this one:

TRENCH POETS

I knew a man, he was my chum,

but he grew blacker every day,

and would not brush the flies away,

nor blanch however fierce the hum

of passing shells; I used to read,

to rouse him, random things from Donne--

Like "Get with child a mandrake-root."

But you can tell he was far gone,

For he lay gaping, mackerel-eyed,

and stiff, and senseless as a post

Even when that old poet cried

"I long to talk with some old lover's ghost.

I tried the Elegies one day,

but he, because he heard me say:

"What needst thou have more covering than a man?"

Grinned nastily, and so I knew

The worms had got his brains at last.

There was one thing that I might do

to starve the worms; I racked my head

for healthy things and quoted Maud.

His grin got worse and I could see

He sneered at passion's purity.

He stank so badly, though we were great chums

I had to leave him; then rats ate his thumbs.

Edgell Rickword

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peter-t

I would like to nominate Charles Sorley's "All The Hills And Vales Along". Sorley was killed at the age of just 20 at Loos in 1915. His name is inscribed on the Loos Memorial. Had he lived, I feel his work could have developed to rank alongside Sassoon and Owen.

It is quite a long poem, so I will just quote the first and last verses.

All the hills and vales along,

Earth is bursting into song,

And the singers are the chaps,

Who are going to die perhaps.

O sing, marching men,

Till the valleys ring again.

Give your gladness to earth's keeping,

So be glad when you are sleeping.

On, marching men, on

To the gates of death with song,

Sow your gladness for earth's reaping,

So you may be glad, though sleeping,

Strew your gladness on earth's bed,

So be merry, so be dead.

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carninyj

The Ulsterman in me is drawn to Blunden's poem:

The Ancre at Hamel: Afterwards

Where tongues were loud and hearts were light

I heard the Ancre flow;

Waking oft at the mid of night

I heard the Ancre flow.

I heard it crying, that sad rill,

Below the painful ridge

By the burnt unraftered mill

And the relic of a bridge.

And could this sighing river seem

To call me far away,

And its pale word dismiss as dream

The voices of to-day?

The voices in the bright room chilled

And that mourned on alone;

The silence of the full moon filled

With that brook's troubling tone.

The struggling Ancre had no part

In these new hours of mine,

And yet its stream ran through my heart;

I heard it grieve and pine,

As if its rainy tortured blood

Had swirled into my own,

When by its battered bank I stood

And shared its wounded moan.

Edmund Blunden

Regards

Carninyj

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carninyj

Though it not quite on the same literary level and though I can't remember where I first saw it, I love this one:

The Road to La Bassée

I went across to France again, and walked about the line,

The trenches have been all filled in - the country's looking fine.

The folks gave me a welcome, and lots to eat and drink,

Saying, 'Allo, Tommee, back again? 'Ow do you do? In ze pink?'

And then I walked about again, and mooched about the line;

You'd never think there'd been a war, the country's looking fine.

But the one thing that amazed me, most shocked me, I should say

- There's buses running now from Bethune to La Bassée!

I sat at Shrapnel Corner and I tried to take it in,

It all seemed much too quiet, I missed the war-time din.

I felt inclined to bob down quick - Jerry sniper in that trench!

A minnie coming over! God, what a hellish stench!

Then I pulled myself together, and walked on to La Folette -

And the cows were calmly grazing on the front line parapet.

And the kids were playing marbles by the old Estaminet -

Fancy kiddies playing marbles on the road to La Bassée!

You'd never think there'd been a war, the country's looking fine -

I had a job in places picking out the old front line.

You'd never think there'd been a war - ah, yet you would, I know,

You can't forget those rows of headstones every mile or so.

But down by Tunnel Trench I saw a sight that made me start,

For there, at Tourbieres crossroads - a gaudy ice-cream cart!

It was hot, and I was dusty, but somehow I couldn't stay -

Ices didn't seem quite decent on the road to La Bassée.

Some of the sights seemed more than strange as I kept marching on.

The Somme's a blooming garden, and there are roses in Peronne.

The sight of dear old Arras almost made me give three cheers;

And there's kiddies now in Plugstreet, and mamselles in Armentiers.

But nothing that I saw out there so seemed to beat the band

As those buses running smoothly over what was No Man's Land.

You'd just as soon expect them from the Bank to Mandalay

As to see those buses running from Bethune to La Bassée.

Then I got into a bus myself, and rode for all the way,

Yes, I rode inside a bus from Bethune to La Bassée.

Through Beuvry and through Annequin, and then by Cambrin Tower -

The journey used to take four years, but now it's half an hour.

Four years to half an hour - the best speedup I've met.

Four years? Aye, longer still for some - they haven't got there yet.

Then up came the conductor chap, 'Vos billets s'il vous plait.'

Fancy asking for your tickets on the road to La Bassée.

And I wondered what they'd think of it - those mates of mine who died -

They never got to La Bassée, though God knows how they tried.

I thought back to the moments when their number came around,

And now those buses rattling over sacred, holy ground,

Yes, I wondered what they'd think of it, those mates of mine who died.

Of those buses rattling over the old pave close beside.

'Carry on! That's why we died!' I could almost hear them say,

To keep those buses always running from Bethune to La Bassée!'

Sixteen years after the Great War, in 1934, Bernard Newman and Harold Arpthorp, two British veterans, together wrote 'The Road to La Bassée'.

Regards

Carninyj

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marina

I really enjoyed that, Caninyj - the second verse has something about it...

Marina

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