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The Great War

The war to end all wars.

7/23/17 01:00 am - duathir - Edmund Blunden, 'Vlamertinghe: Passing the Chateau'

Cross-post from war_poetry:

Vlamertinghe: Passing the ChateauCollapse )

7/21/17 01:00 am - duathir - Alys Fane Trotter, 'There's a Pathway'

Cross-post from war_poetry:

There's a Pathway

There's a pathway through a forest in the Picardie I know,
A port where girls haul up the boats with men and fish in tow,
And the hills run down to the market town where the country-women go.

And behind it is the village, and the coast-line lies below,
And down the road, the dusty road, the carts ply to and fro
By the stately frieze of forest trees beyond the old Chateau.

There were three of us on bicycles upon the road that day,
You wore your coat of hunting green, and vanished down the way.
"Le petit Chasseur, la mere et soeur", we heard the women say.

You vanished as a speck of green among the shadows blue,
And children trudging up the hill stood still and called to you:
"Le petit Chasseur, qui n'a pas peur", they laughed and called to you.

O boys, you wield a bayonet now and lift the soldier's load !
O girls you've learnt to drive the plough and use the bullock-goad !
But the hunter's laid, still unafraid, near the trodden Bethune road.

There's a pathway through the forest in the Picardie I know,
And O I'll dream and wander there; and poppy fields will glow;
And I'll watch the glare of the dusty air where the market wagons go.

By Alys Fane Trotter

[Lieutenant A. N. Trotter, her son, was killed near Bethune in France early in the First World War. This poem recalls a holiday they had spent in the same district six years earlier, when her son was a boy of fourteen.]
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7/19/17 01:00 am - duathir - Edmund Blunden, 'Concert Party: Busseboom'

Cross-post from war_poetry:

Blunden: "Although the words may have been put down after the war, the poem was actually composed in my mind almost at the moment we came out of our own concert to see quite a different concert on the horizon. [The poem] relates to the London Division's concert, which was open to us, and we were for an afternoon or two in billets there, or in huts within sight of the battlefield, easily only three or four miles east, and of course, not far from Ypres."

Concert Party: Busseboom

The stage was set, the house was packed,
The famous troop began;
Our laughter thundered, act by act;
Time light as sunbeams ran.

Dance sprang and spun and neared and fled,
Jest chirped at gayest pitch,
Rhythm dazzled, action sped
Most comically rich.

With generals and lame privates both
Such charms worked wonders, till
The show was over – lagging loth
We faced the sunset chill;

And standing on the sandy way,
With the cracked church peering past,
We heard another matinée,
We heard the maniac blast

Of barrage south by Saint Eloi,
And the red lights flaming there
Called madness: Come, my bonny boy,
And dance to the latest air.

To this new concert, white we stood;
Cold certainty held our breath;
While men in tunnels below Larch Wood
Were kicking men to death.

By Edmund Blunden

Blunden: "I would perhaps add the detail that this was the case - the Larchwood was a famous tunnel system of ours - the Germans got in, and the only weapons at hand for many of the miners were their feet and fists. And this fight was going on as we came out of our divisional concert party within just that short distance, but we could do nothing except just stare."

7/17/17 01:00 am - duathir - John Galsworthy, 'The Soldier Speaks'

Cross-post from war_poetry:

The Soldier Speaks

If courage thrives on reeking slaughter,
And he who kills is lord
Of beauty and of loving laughter—
Gird on me a sword!
If death be dearest comrade proven,
If life be coward's mate,
If Nazareth of dreams be woven—
Give me fighter's fate!

If God be thrilled by a battle cry,
If He can bless the moaning fight,
If when the trampling charge goes by
God himself is the leading Knight;
If God laughs when the gun thunders,
If He yells when the bullet sings—
Then my stoic soul but wonders
How great God can do such things!

The white gulls wheeling over the plough,
The sun, the reddening trees—
We being enemies, I and thou,
There is no meaning to these.
There is no flight on the wings of Spring,
No scent in the summer rose;
The roundelays that the blackbirds sing—
There is no meaning in those!

If you must kill me—why the lark,
The hawthorn bud, and the corn?
Why do the stars bedew the dark?
Why is the blossom born?
If I must kill you—why the kiss
Which made you? There is no why!
If it be true we were born for this—
Pitiful Love, Good-bye!

Not for the God of battles!
For Honour, Freedom and Right.
And saving of Gentle Beauty,
We have gone down to fight!

By John Galsworthy
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7/15/17 02:00 am - duathir - Guillaume Apollinaire, 'Hill 146'

Cross-post from war_poetry:

Hill 146

No flowers left but strange signs
gesturing down the blue nights
in my prolonged adoration Lou
my whole being bows down
with the low clouds of July
before your memory

It is a white plaster head buried
helplessly next a golden ring
and our promises are remoter echoes
they sound sometimes strangely

There is a permanent white noise
my caustic solitude is lit up only
by the great searchlight my love
I can hear the bass voice of Big Bertha

And down by the trenches
in front of me a cemetery
has been sown
with forty-six-thousand soldiers
after such sowings we must
wait with serenity for harvest

If ever there were desolation
it is here where I write my letter
leaning on a slab of asbestos
I keep looking at your portrait
the one with the wide hat

Some of my comrades have seen your photo
and assuming that I know you
they ask who is she
and I can’t quite think what to say
seeing as even now I hardly know you

Which pierces me
and deep inside the photograph
you are smiling still like light

By Guillaume Apollinaire
Translation by Stephen Romer


Original French:Collapse )
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7/13/17 01:00 am - duathir - Wilfred Owen, 'Preface'

Cross-post from war_poetry:

Preface

This book is not about heroes. English Poetry is not yet fit to speak
of them. Nor is it about deeds or lands, nor anything about glory, honour,
dominion or power,
except War.
Above all, this book is not concerned with Poetry.
The subject of it is War, and the pity of War.
The Poetry is in the pity.
Yet these elegies are not to this generation,
This is in no sense consolatory.

They may be to the next.
All the poet can do to-day is to warn.
That is why the true Poets must be truthful.
If I thought the letter of this book would last,
I might have used proper names; but if the spirit of it survives Prussia, --
my ambition and those names will be content; for they will have
achieved themselves fresher fields than Flanders.

By Wilfred Owen
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7/11/17 01:00 am - duathir - T.A. Girling, 'The Battle'

Cross-post from war_poetry:

The Battle

They are packed in the fresh-made trenches,
They have swallowed their ration of rum,
And they wait for the final signal,
For the zero hour has come.

They are there in the order of battle,
With ground-sheet and haversack,
Cartridges, rations and water,
And a shovel slung over the back.

The bayonets are fixed on the rifles,
The gas-masks are on the alert,
The Mills' grenades are handy,
So they scramble up over the dirt, and it's

Over the top to victory,
Over the top to pain,
Over the top where the H.E.'s drop
And the hissing bullets rain.

Stout hearts must keep them steady
And quiet their nerve-racked frames,
For they're willing and eager and ready
With a courage that other men shames.

All the world seems flung into chaos,
Full of crashing and humming and glare,
Solid earth and poor mangled creatures
Leap suddenly high in the air.

There are flares of artillery signals,
Dense smoke-clouds and pillars of flame,
But the long khaki line moves forward
With a valour no terrors can tame.

There's the short death-space to cover
Till they get to grips with the foe,
And the barrage is moving forward ;
So over the top they go.

Over the top to battle,
Over the top to kill,
Over the top as their comrades drop,
But they keep advancing still.

There's death in a hundred places
They must pass ere the goal is won,
But there's grim resolve in their faces
For the deadly work to be done.

There's no time for thoughts of the future,
But all the good in their lives
Is spent in one swift memory
Of mother, and children, and wives.

Then on with a courage unmeasured
To face, as they ne'er did before,
The barbarous modern inventions
That substitute murder for war.

The pride and strength of the nation,
Free offered at liberty's call,
True sons of the heroes that built her,
Pass over to conquer or fall.

Over the top for freedom,
Over the top for right,
Over the top with never a stop
To the goal that is always in sight.

The vanguard of honour, life-giving,
Defenders of all we hold dear,
God guard them in dying and living,
Our bravest and best that pass here!

by T.A. Girling
llth July, 1917.

7/9/17 01:00 am - duathir - Robert Graves, 'The Last Post'

Cross-post from war_poetry:

The Last Post

The bugler sent a call of high romance—
"Lights out! Lights out!" to the deserted square.
On the thin brazen notes he threw a prayer:
"God, if it's this for me next time in France,
O spare the phantom bugle as I lie
Dead in the gas and smoke and roar of guns,
Dead in a row with other broken ones,
Lying so stiff and still under the sky—
Jolly young Fusiliers, too good to die..."
The music ceased, and the red sunset flare
Was blood about his head as he stood there.

by Robert Graves
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7/6/17 03:00 am - duathir - Siegfried Sassoon: 'Finished With The War: A Soldier's Declaration'

Cross-post from war_poetry

"Finished With The War": A Soldier's Declaration

Siegfried Sassoon had been back in England for almost three months, recovering from a severe bullet wound, when he wrote this portentous letter to his commanding officer, on 6 July 1917. He enclosed a statement that he intended to circulate:

I am making this statement as an act of wilful defiance of military authority because I believe that the war is being deliberately prolonged by those who have the power to end it. I am a soldier, convinced that I am acting on behalf of soldiers. I believe that the war upon which I entered as a war of defence and liberation has now become a war of aggression and conquest. I believe that the purposes for which I and my fellow soldiers entered upon this war should have been so clearly stated as to have made it impossible to change them and that had this been done the objects which actuated us would now be attainable by negotiation. I have seen and endured the sufferings of the troops and I can no longer be a party to prolonging these sufferings for ends which I believe to be evil and unjust. I am not protesting against the conduct of the war, but against the political errors and insincerities for which the fighting men are being sacrificed. On behalf of those who are suffering now, I make this protest against the deception which is being practised upon them; also I believe it may help to destroy the callous complacency with which the majority of those at home regard the continuance of agonies which they do not share and which they have not enough imagination to realise.

--When poet Siegfried Sassoon declared "I'm finished with the war."
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7/4/17 01:00 am - duathir - Edgar Albert Guest, 'July The Fourth, 1917'

Cross-post from war_poetry:

July The Fourth, 1917

Time was the cry went round the world:
America for freedom speaks,
A new flag is to-day unfurled,
An eagle on the mountain shrieks,
A king is failing on his throne,
A race of men defies his power!
And no one could have guessed or known
The burden of that splendid hour.

A bell rang out that summer day
And men and women stood and heard;
That tongue of brass had more to say
Than could be spoken by a word.
It spoke the thoughts of honest men,
It whispered Destiny's intents
And rang a warning loudly then
To Kings of all the continents.

The old bell in its holy loft
Where pigeons nest, has ceased to swing
And yet through many a day and oft
A weary people hear it sing.
That hour long years ago, when first
America for freedom fought,
The bonds of slavery were burst:
That hour began the reign of thought.

Here comes another summer day:
America is on the sea,
America has dared to say
That other people shall be free.
No selfish stain her banner mars,
Her flag, for truth and right, unfurled,
With every stripe and all its stars
Still speaks its message to the world

Out where the soldiers fight for men,
Out where, for others, heroes die,
Out where they storm the Tyrant's den,
The Starry Banner lights the sky.
And once again the cry goes out
That brings the flush of hope to cheeks
Grown pale by bitter war and doubt:
'America for Freedom speaks.'

By Edgar Albert Guest
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