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Great War Poetry

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Boreenatra

Dear all.This says it all for me.

KILLED IN ACTION.

Rupert is dead,and Rupert was my friend;

"Only surviving son of"-and so it ran-

"Beloved husband" and the rest of it.

But six months back I saw him full of life,

Ardent for fighting; now he lies at ease

In some obscure but splendid field of France

His strivings over and his conflicts done.

He was a fellow of most joyous moods

And quaint contrivings,ever on the point

Of shaking fame and fortune by the hand.

But always baulked at meeting them at last.

He could not brook- and always so declared

The weak pomposities of little men,

Scorned all the tin-gods of our petty world,

And plunged headlong into imprudences,

And smashed conventions with a reckless zeal,

Holding his luck and not himself to blame

For aught that might betide when reckoning came.

But he was true as steel and staunch as oak.

And if he pledged his word he bore it out

Unswerving to the finish and he gave

Whate'er he had of strength to help a friend.

When the great summons came he rushed to arms.

Counting no cost and all intent to serve

His country to prove himself a man.

Yet he could laugh at all his ardour too

And find some fun in glory as a child

Laughs at a bauble but will guard it well.

Now he is fall'n and on his shining brow

Glory has set her everlasting seal.

I like to think how cheerily he talked

Amid the ceasless tumult of the guns,

How, when the word was given, he stood erect,

Sprang from the trench and, shouting to his men,

Led them forthright to where the sullen foe

Waited their coming: and his brain took fire,

And all was exultation and a high

Heroic ardour and a pulse of joy.

"Forward!" his cry rang out and all his men

Thundered behind him with their eyes ablaze.

"Forward for England! Clear the beggars out!

Remember-" and death found him, and he fell

Fronting the Germans, and the rush swept on.

Thrice blessed fate! We linger here and droop

Beneath the heavy burden of our years,

And may not, though we envy,give our lives

For England and for honour and for right:

But still must wear our weary hours away,

While he, that happy fighter, in one leap,

From imperfection to perfection borne,

Breaks through the bonds that bound him to the earth.

Now of his failures is a triumph made:

His very faults are into virtues turned:

And, rest for ever from the haunts of men,

He wears immortal honour and is joined

With those who fought for England and are dead.

This was written by Rudolph Chambers Lehmann circa 1915.

Regards Steve.

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Derek Robertson

Marina,

There is to be a professionaly performed and recorded version of some Buchan war poetry available on cd this year. Watch this space.

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marina

Thanks, Derek - don't forget to post details. I really would be interested in hearing that cd. I've read Buchan's books but has no idea he wrote such powerful poetry.

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Derek Robertson

This is my favourite Buchan poem:

Home Thoughts From Abroad

Aifter the war, says the papers, they’ll no be content at hame,

The lads that hae feucht wi’ death twae ‘ear I’ the mud and the rain and the snaw:

For aifter a sodger’s life the shop will be unco tame:

They’ll ettle at fortune and freedom in the new lands far awa’.

No me!

By God! No me!

Aince we hae lickit oor faes

And aince I get oot o’ this hell

For the rest o’ my leevin’ days

I’ll mak a pet o’ mysel’.

I’ll haste me back wi’ an Eident fit

And settle again in the same auld bit.

And oh! The comfort to snowk again

The reek o’ my mither’s but-and-ben,

The wee box-bed and the ingle neuk

And the kail-pat hung frae the chimley-heuk!

I’ll gang back to the shop like a laddie to play,

Tak doun the shutters at skreigh o’ day,

And weigh oot floor wi’ a carefu’ pride,

And hear the clash o’ the contraside.

I’ll wear for ordinar’ a roond hard hat,

A collar and dicky and black cravat.

If the weather’s wat I’ll no stir ootbye

Wi’oot an umbrella to keep me dry.

I think I’d better no tak a wife –

I’ve had a’ the adventure I want in life. –

But a nicht, when the doors are steeked, I’ll sit,

While the bleeze loups high frae the aiken ruit,

And smoke my pipe aside the crook.

And read in some douce auld-farrant book;

Or crack wi’ Davie and mix a rummer,

While the auld wife’s pow nid-nods in slum’er;

And hark to the winds gaun tearin’ bye

And thank the Lord I’m sae warm and dry.

When simmer brings the lang bricht e’en,

I’ll dauner doun to the bowling-green,

Or delve my yaird and my roses tend

For the big floo’er-show in the next back-end.

Whiles, when the sun blinks aifter rain,

I’ll tak my rod and gang up the glen:

Me and Davie, we ken the pules

Whaur the troot grow great in the hows o’ the hills:

And, wanderin’ back when the gloamin’ fa’s

And the midges dance in the hazel shaws,

We’ll stop at the yet ayont the hicht

And drink great wauchts o’ the scented nicht,

While the hoose lamps kin’le raw by raw

And a yellow star hings ower the law.

Davie will lauch like a wean at a fair

And nip my airm to make certain shure

That we’re back frae yon place o’ dule and dreid,

To oor ain kind warld –

But Davie’s deid!

Nae mair gude nor ill can betide him.

We happit him doun by Beaumont toun,

And the half o’ my hert’s in the mools aside him.

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Derek Robertson
Thanks, Derek - don't forget to post details. I really would be interested in hearing that cd. I've read Buchan's books but has no idea he wrote such powerful poetry.

John Buchan's brother, Alistair died of wound at Arras in 1917.

He wrote a poem to his brothers memory.

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marina
This is my favourite Buchan poem:

Home Thoughts From Abroad

That's a lovely poem. Interesting that in both poems, he is hopeful of the future, able to come to terms with things in his own way. His account of what he'll do at home is SO beautiful. Quite different from some of the hopeless despair of other war poets.

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Desmond7

'We happit him doun ....'

A wonderful line.

How many parents who can speak the above vernacular have used the line to a child ... 'away up tae bed and I'll be up tae happ ye in.'?

Double emotional whammy.

Des

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marina

It is indeed. Just read the poem again - it really is most powerful in its restrained way.

Marina

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Boreenatra

Dear Marina.

I agree entirely with you about the Buchan poems. In a different vein I found this yesterday, but I don't have any accreditation for it.

THE PHILOSOPHY OF THOMAS.

In Summer we suffered from dust an' from flies,

The flies in our rations, the dust in our eyes,

And some of our fellows they drooped in the 'eat

But the Bosche,oh, the Bosch, was perspirin' a treat.

There were times when we longed for a tankard o' beer,

Bein' sick o' warm water- our tipple out 'ere

But our tongues might be furry an' throats like a flue,

Yet it's nothin' to wot the fat Bosches went through.

Now Winter is 'ere with the wet an' the cold

An' our rifles an' kit are a sight to be'old,

An' in trenches that's flooded we tumble an' splosh,

"Wot cheer?" we remarks, it's the same for the Bosch

If were standin' in two feet of water ,you see,

Quite likely the Bosches are standin' in three;

An' though the keen frost may be ticklin' our toes,

Oo doubts that the Bosches 'ole bodies is froze.

Are we sleepy or sick or 'arf dead for a meal?

Just think of 'ow underfed Bosches must feel!

Are we badly in need of a shave or a wash?

Consider the 'orrible state of the Bosch!

So 'ere's our philosophy simple an' plain,

Wotever we 'ates in the bloomin' campaign,

Tis balm to our souls, as we grumble an' cuss,

To feel that the Bosches are 'atin it wuss.

Not perhaps written with the eloquence of Graves or Buchan!!! but at least there seemed to be some humour there as well.As our man Thomas suggests that if the grass isn't greener on the other side, maybe the mud was browner!

Regards Steve.

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marina

Yes, it is a good one, Steve - spirited and full of character and humour. I don't think I've seen this one before - maybe someone will be able to identify it for us. I tried a google of the title and the first line, but no joy. Still, it speaks for itself, doesn't it?

Marina

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larneman

(1) Wilfrid Wilson Gibson, Breakfast (1914)

We ate our breakfast lying on our backs

Because the shells were screeching overhead.

I bet a rasher to a loaf of bread

That Hull United would beat Halifax

When Jimmy Stainthorpe played full-back instead

Of Billy Bradford. Ginger raised his head

And cursed, and took the bet, and dropt back dead.

We ate our breakfast lying on our backs

Because the shells were stretching overhead.

(2) Wilfrid Wilson Gibson, Mad (1914)

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.

(3) Wilfred Wilson Gibson, Lament (1916)

We who are left, how shall we look again

Happily on the sun or feel the rain

Without remembering how they who went

Ungrudgingly and spent

Their lives for us loved, too, the sun and rain?

A bird among the rain-wet lilac sings -

But we, how shall we turn to little things

And listen to the birds and winds and streams

Made holy by their dreams,

Nor feel the heart-break in the heart of things?

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Boreenatra

Dear Marina

I've found the author of The Philosophy of Thomas. It was R.A.Thorold, but can't find any info at the moment.Perhaps someone will oblige.Here is a great poem by Miss C.Fox Smith,who was well known for nautical stuff.

THE CONVERSATION BOOK.

I 'ave a conversation book; I brought it out from 'ome,

It tells the French for knife an' fork an' likewise brush an' comb:

It learns you 'ow to ast the time, the names of all the stars,

An' 'ow to order hoysters, an' 'ow to buy cigars.

But there ain't no shops to shop in, there ain't no grand hotels,

When you spend your days in dugouts doin' 'closal trade in shells;

It's nice to know the proper talk fer theatres an' such,

But when it comes to talkin', why, it doesn't help you much.

There's all them friendly kind o' things you'd naturally say

When you meet a feller casual-like an' pass the time of day.

Them little things as break the ice an' kind of clears the air'

Which when you turn the phrase book up ,why,them things ain't there!

I met a chap the other day a-rootin' in a trench,

'E didn't know a word of ours, nor me a word of French:

An' 'ow it was we managed,well, I cannot understand,

But I never used the phrase book, though I 'ad it in my 'and,

I winked at 'im to start with: 'e grinned from ear to ear,

An' 'e says "Tipperary", an' I say "Sooveneer"

'E 'ad my only Woodbine, I 'ad 'is thin cigar,

Which set the ball a-rollin' an' so- well there you are!

I showed 'im next my wife an' kids, 'e up 'an showed me 'is

Them little funny Frenchy kids with 'air all in a frizz:

"Annette" 'e says, Louise 'e says, an' 'is tears began to fall,

We was comrades when we parted, but we'd 'ardly spoke at all.

'E'd 'ave kissed me if i'd let 'im, we 'ad never met before,

An' I've never seen the beggar since, for that's the way o' war:

An' though we scarcely spoke a word, I wonder just the same

If e'll ever see them kids of 'is...... I never ast 'is name!

That speaks for itself really.I dont know if anybody has listed this before but in looking up C.Fox Smith I came across this site. Sorry if it's been mentioned before, but do try

http://cti.library.emory.edu/greatwar/index.html

There's some great stuff on there. Regards Steve.

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marina

http://cti.library.emory.edu/greatwar/index.html

There's some great stuff on there. Regards Steve.

There is indeed, Steve, thanks - it's a new site to me.

I liked the Fox Smith poem - so simply written and yet it has layers and layers of things to say. Touching too. Keep 'em coming!

Can't find anyhitng about Thorold on the internet either - anyone know him?

marina

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marina

Steve - just had a browse through the postcards on that site you mentioned - very interesting. I liked The Kaiser's Dream!

Marina

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larneman

A Poem from 'The Camp Magazine'

published by interned soldiers of the Royal Naval Brigade in Groningen Holland

from Issue no. 1 - April 1915

As weary once thro' Belgium I strode

Along the ancient cobbled road,

With tall dark trees on either side,

Suddenly a house there I espied.

Outside there stood an old, old, man,

His clothes were bare, his features wan,

Still he stood with concious pride,

With no sign of fear, no wish to hide,

While ever before him there passed along

The refugees - a silent throng.

I too, passed on my way,

But he stood firm, come what may.

Deep in thought I wondered why

He preferred to stay, perhaps to die.

Home - memories - and all those

That make the lives of peasants and Kings,

Better the bricks in a mould'ring cot,

Than to go away from this sacred spot.

Old man! Old man! A moral you taught,

Be firm in trouble: have strength in thought.

R. D. FIELDER.

http://www.greatwardifferent.com/Great_War...Refugees_00.htm

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marina

Fielder sounds the type who would be firm and strong - I hope so.

marina

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Boreenatra

Dear Marina. I agree about the Kaiser's Dream. Seems like plenty of irony in peoples thoughts at that time.

The good thing about the Emory.edu site is that I don't have to type them all out!!!

I liked My Son by Ada Tyrrell and The Dead by Sigourney Thayer. Regards Steve.

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marina

Liked the Thayer - not so keen on Tyrell - funny rhythm to it. Lot of names on that site - going to take ages to browse them all! Any other faves?

Marina

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Boreenatra

Dear Marina. Only chose those two because they were different. It will take as long to go thru them all as Jules will take with his diary. Regards Steve.P.S. How about broadening the subject out a bit by adding any funny or unusual articles from that time,especially any social history stuff. Steve

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larneman

Pacifist War Song - 1917

by H.P. Lovecraft

We are the valiant Knights of Peace

Who prattle for the Right:

Our banner is of snowy fleece,

Inscrib’d: "TOO PROUD TO FIGHT!"

By sweet Chautauqua’s flow’ry banks

We love to sing and play,

But should we spy a foeman’s ranks!

We’d proudly run away!

When Prussian fury sweeps the main

Our freedom to deny;

Of tyrant laws we ne’er complain;

But gladsomely comply!

We do not fear the submarines

That plough the troubled foam;

We scorn the ugly old machines -

And safely stay at home!

They say our country’s close to war

And soon must man the guns;

But we see naught to struggle for -

We love the gentle Huns!

What though their hireling Greaser bands

Invade our southern plains?

We well can spare those boist’rous lands,

Content with what remains!

Our fathers were both rude and bold,

And would not live like brothers;

But we are of a finer mould -

We’re much more like our mothers!

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marina

What scorn!

Marina

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larneman
by adding any funny or unusual articles from that time,especially any social history stuff.

Sorry Marina , :ph34r:

Just adding another view as a bit of "social history stuff". I think to remember reading that a lot of people still supported the "lads" but had more than enough of the war. This lot just did not like any form of war. It is not my taste of poety or song.

Liam

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marina

He's just having a go - probably represents a commonly held view of pacifists at the time, so it is one aspect of social commentary. Absolutely withering!

Marina

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larneman

I forgot to add he was an american. A noted writer of strange stories, as well as poems, etc.

HOWARD PHILLIPS LOVECRAFT (20 August 1890–15 March 1937)

click here==>H.P. Lovecraft B)

Liam B)

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marina

I knew of his prose writing - but as with Buchan, had no idea he wrote poetry too! You live and learn!

marina

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