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The Great War

The war to end all wars.

9/23/17 01:00 am - duathir - Siegfried Sassoon, 'The Rank Stench Of Those Bodies Haunts Me Still'

Cross-post from war_poetry:

The Rank Stench Of Those Bodies Haunts Me Still

The rank stench of those bodies haunts me still
And I remember things I'd best forget.
For now we've marched to a green, trenchless land
Twelve miles from battering guns: along the grass
Brown lines of tents are hives for snoring men;
Wide, radiant water sways the floating sky
Below dark, shivering trees. And living-clean
Comes back with thoughts of home and hours of sleep.
To-night I smell the battle; miles away
Gun-thunder leaps and thuds along the ridge;
The spouting shells dig pits in fields of death,
And wounded men, are moaning in the woods.
If any friend be there whom I have loved,
God speed him safe to England with a gash.
It's sundown in the camp; some youngster laughs,
Lifting his mug and drinking health to all
Who come unscathed from that unpitying waste:
(Terror and ruin lurk behind his gaze.)
Another sits with tranquil, musing face,
Puffing his pipe and dreaming of the girl
Whose last scrawled letter lies upon his knee.
The sunlight falls, low-ruddy from the west,
Upon their heads. Last week they might have died
And now they stretch their limbs in tired content.
One says 'The bloody Bosche has got the knock;
'And soon they'll crumple up and chuck their games.
'We've got the beggars on the run at last!'
Then I remembered someone that I'd seen
Dead in a squalid, miserable ditch,
Heedless of toiling feet that trod him down.
He was a Prussian with a decent face,
Young, fresh, and pleasant, so I dare to say.
No doubt he loathed the war and longed for peace,
And cursed our souls because we'd killed bis friends.
One night he yawned along a haIf-dug trench
Midnight; and then the British guns began
With heavy shrapnel bursting low, and 'hows'
Whistling to cut the wire with blinding din.
He didn't move; the digging still went on;
Men stooped and shovelled; someone gave a grunt,
And moaned and died with agony in the sludge.
Then the long hiss of shells lifted and stopped.
He stared into the gloom; a rocket curved,
And rifles rattled angrily on the left
Down by the wood, and there was noise of bombs.
Then the damned English loomed in scrambling haste
Out of the dark and struggled through the wire,
And there were shouts and curses; someone screamed
And men began to blunder down the trench
Without their rifles. It was time to go:
He grabbed his coat; stood up, gulping some bread;
Then clutched his head and fell.
I found him there
In the gray morning when the place was held.
His face was in the mud; one arm flung out
As when he crumpled up; his sturdy legs
Were bent beneath his trunk; heels to the sky.

by Siegfried Sassoon

9/21/17 01:00 am - duathir - Thomas Ernest Hulme, 'Trenches: St Eloi"

Cross-post from war_poetry:

Trenches: St Eloi
(Abbreviated from the Conversation of Mr TEH)

Over the flat slopes of St Eloi
A wide wall of sand bags.
In the silence desultory men
Pottering over small fires, cleaning their mess- tins:
To and fro, from the lines,
Men walk as on Piccadilly,
Making paths in the dark,
Through scattered dead horses,
Over a dead Belgian's belly.

The Germans have rockets. The English have no rockets.
Behind the line, cannon, hidden, lying back miles.
Beyond the line, chaos:

My mind is a corridor. The minds about me are corridors.
Nothing suggests itself. There is nothing to do but keep on.

By T.E. Hulme

Thomas Ernest Hulme was killed in Flanders on September 28, 1917

9/18/17 01:00 am - duathir - Arthur Conan Doyle, 'Ypres'

Cross-post from war_poetry:


Push on, my Lord of Würtemberg, across the Flemish Fen!
See where the lure of Ypres calls you!
There's just one ragged British line of Plumer's weary men;
It's true they held you off before, but venture it again,
Come, try your luck, whatever fate befalls you!

You've been some little time, my Lord. Perhaps you scarce remember
The far-off early days of that resistance.
Was it in October last? Or was it in November?
And now the leaves are turning and you stand in mid-September
Still staring at the Belfry in the distance.

Can you recall the fateful day — a day of drifting skies,
When you started on the famous Calais onset?
Can it be the War-Lord blundered when he urged the enterprise?
For surely it's a weary while since first before your eyes
That old Belfry rose against the sunset.

You held council at your quarters when the budding Alexanders
And the Pickel-haubed Cæsars gave their reasons.
Was there one amongst that bristle-headed circle of commanders
Ever ventured the opinion that a little town of Flanders
Would hold you pounded here through all the seasons?

You all clasped hands upon it. You would break the British line,
You would smash a road to westward with your host,
The howitzers should thunder and the Uhlan lances shine
Till Calais heard the blaring of the distant "Wacht am Rhein,"
As you topped the grassy uplands of the coast.

Said the Graf von Feuer-Essen, "It's a fact beyond discussion,
That man to man we can outfight the foe.
There is valour in the French, there is patience in the Russian,
But blend all war-like virtues and you get the lordly Prussian,"
And the bristle-headed murmured, "Das ist so."

"And the British," cried another, "they are mercenary cattle,
Without one noble impulse of the soul,
Degenerate and drunken; if the dollars chink and rattle,
'Tis the only sort of music that will call them to the battle."
And all the bristle-headed cried, "Ja wohl!"

And so next day your battle rolled across the Menin Plain,
Where Capper's men stood lonely to your wrath.
You broke him, and you broke him, but you broke him all in vain,
For he and his contemptibles kept closing up again,
And the khaki bar was still across your path.

And on the day when Gheluvelt lay smoking in the sun,
When Von Deimling stormed so hotly in the van,
You smiled as Haig reeled backwards and you thought him on the run,
But, alas for dreams that vanish, for before the day was done
It was you, my Lord of Würtemberg, that ran.

A dreary day was that—but another came, more dreary,
When the Guard from Arras led your fierce attacks,
Spruce and splendid in the morning were the Potsdam Grenadiere,
But not so spruce that evening when they staggered spent and weary,
With those cursed British storming at their backs.

You knew—your spies had told you—that the ranks were scant and thin,
That the guns were short of shell and very few,
By all Bernhardi's maxims you were surely bound to win,
There's the open town before you. Haste, my Lord, and enter in,
Or the War-Lord may have telegrams for you.

Then came the rainy winter, when the price was ever dearer,
Every time you neared the prize of which you dreamed,
Each day the Belfry faced you but you never brought it nearer,
Each night you saw it clearly but you never saw it clearer.
Ah, what a weary time it must have seemed!

At last there came the Easter when you loosed the coward gases,
Surely you have got the rascals now!
You could see them spent and choking as you watched them thro' your glasses,
Yes, they choke, but never waver, and again the moment passes
Without one leaf of laurel for your brow.

Then at Hooge you had them helpless, for their guns were one to ten,
And you blasted trench and traverse at your will,
You had them dead and buried, but they still sprang up again.
"Donnerwetter!" cried your Lordship, "Donnerwetter!" cried your men,
For their very ghosts were guarding Ypres still.

Active, Guards, Reserve—men of every corps and name
That the bugles of the War-Lord muster in,
Each in turn you tried them, but the story was the same;
Play it how you would, my Lord, you never won the game,
No, never in a twelvemonth did you win.

A year, my Lord of Würtemberg — a year, or nearly so,
Since first you faced the British vis-à-vis!
Your learned Commandanten are the men who ought to know,
But to ordinary mortals it would seem a trifle slow,
If you really mean to travel to the sea.

If you cannot straf the British, since they strafen you so well,
You can safely smash the town that lies so near,
So it's down with arch and buttress, down with belfry and with bell,
And it's hoch the seven-seven that can drop the petrol shell
On the shrines that pious hands have loved to rear!

Fair Ypres was a relic of the soul of other days,
A poet's dream, a wanderer's delight,
We will keep it as a symbol of your brute Teutonic ways
That millions yet unborn may come and curse you as they gaze
At this token of your impotence and spite.

For shame, my Lord of Würtemberg! Across the Flemish Fen
See where the little army calls you.
It's just the old familiar line of fifty thousand men,
They've beat you once or twice, my Lord, but venture it again,
Come, try your luck, whatever fate befalls you.

By Arthur Conan Doyle

Ypres before the Great War

9/16/17 01:00 am - duathir - Leon Gellert, 'In The Trench'

Cross-post from war_poetry:

In The Trench

Every night I sleep,
And every night I dream
That I'm strolling with my sheep
By the old stream.

Every morn I wake,
And every morn I stand
And watch the shrapnel break
On the smashed land.

Some night I’ll fall asleep,
And will not wake at dawn.
I'll lie and feed my sheep
On a green lawn.

by Leon Gellert

9/15/17 01:00 am - duathir - Donovan Leitch, 'A Soldier's Dream'

Cross-post from war_poetry:

A Soldier's Dream

Oh, the drums are so mournful
My dear, oh, my love
As my thoughts they are turning your way
Where are the eyes I beheld with my own
On that long ago lazy day?

Dead are the leaves
On the stark battlefield
The stench of the flesh sickens me
I slept soaking wet and the worms ate my bread
And the moaning of men filled the air

Oh, green are the leaves
Of the old apple tree
Those sweet perfumed blossoms of spring
Entwined in your hair the smile in your eye
A soft blade of grass for a ring

Warm are the loaves
That cool on the sill
To the song of the clear, trickling stream
The good, clean smell of the rough woven sheets
The song of the children at play

Oh, the drums are so mournful
My dear, oh, my love
As my thoughts they are turning your way
Where are the eyes I beheld with my own?
On that long ago lazy day
On that long ago lazy day.

by Donovan Leitch

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9/14/17 01:00 am - duathir - Unknown, 'The Draft'

Cross-post from war_poetry:

The Draft

The morning air is ringing with the tread of martial men
As they take the road that stretches far beyond their Highland glen;
They have heard the call of duty and, like their fathers, go
To face in mortal combat a brutish boasting foe.

The pipes are wailing plaintively a parting sad refrain,
A mourning sound that seems to say "you'll no' come back again"
The slumbering hills are stirring to the music of the drones
And they, too, add their tribute in echoed fare-well tones.

A blood red dawn is chasing the shades of passing night,
A portent of the storms that wait these men who march to fight,
But Highland hearts are brave hearts and they will never yield,
Though all hell's fury faces them on some far forgotten field.

No cheering crowd has gathered to speed them on their way;
No weeping girls are standing by, their last farewells to say;
But, high up on the hillsides, where peat fires brightly burn,
Many a prayer is offered for the warriors' safe return.

But hark ! -the music quickens as the pipers clear the glen;
As familiar haunts are left behind for lands beyond their ken;
For the blood of youth is fiery, and adventure calls them forth
And we know, because they're Highland that they will prove their worth.

Author unknown

9/9/17 01:00 am - duathir - Nancy Cunard, 'Zeppelins'

Cross-post from war_poetry:


I saw the people climbing up the street
Maddened with war and strength and thoughts to kill;
And after followed Death, who held with skill
His torn rags royally, and stamped his feet.

The fires flamed up and burnt the serried town,
Most where the sadder, poorer houses were;
Death followed with proud feet and smiling stare,
And the mad crowds ran madly up and down.

And many died and hid in unfounded places
In the black ruins of the frenzied night;
And death still followed in his surplice, white
And streaked in imitation of their faces.

But in the morning men began again
To mock Death following in bitter pain.

by Nancy Cunard

Great War: Zeppelin Raids

9/7/17 01:00 am - duathir - Blaise Cendrars, 'Orion'

Cross-post from war_poetry:


It’s my constellation
It’s shaped like a hand
It’s my own hand high in the sky
All through the war through a gap I saw Orion
The Zeppelins that came to bomb Paris always came from Orion
Today it’s above my head
The long pole pierces the palm of the hand that must suffer
As my severed hand makes me suffer pierced constantly by a spear

By Blaise Cendrars
Translated by A.S. Kline

[Cendrars is credited as one of the first to introduce modernity into European poetry. At the outbreak of the First World War he joined the French Foreign Legion and was at the front line in the Somme from December 1914 to February 1915. In September 1915 during the attacks in Champagne he was wounded and lost his right arm, leading to his discharge from the army.]

9/4/17 01:00 am - duathir - John Freeman, 'The Return'

Cross-post from war_poetry:

The Return

I heard the rumbling guns. I saw the smoke,
The unintelligible shock of hosts that still,
Far off, unseeing, strove and strove again;
And Beauty flying naked down the hill

From morn to eve: and the stern night cried Peace!
And shut the strife in darkness: all was still,
Then slowly crept a triumph on the dark—
And I heard Beauty singing up the hill.

By John Freeman

9/3/17 01:00 am - duathir - Unknown, 'On The One Road'

Cross-post from war_poetry:

On The One Road

We're on the one road
Sharing the one load
We're on the road to God knows where
We're on the one road
It may be the wrong road
But we're together now who cares
North men, South men, comrades all
Dublin, Belfast, Cork and Donegal
We're on the one road swinging along
Singing a soldier's song

Though we've had our troubles now and then
Now is the time to make them up again
Sure aren't we all Irish anyhow
Now is the time to step together now

Tinker, tailor, every mother's son
Butcher, baker shouldering his gun
Rich man, poor man, every man in line
All together just like Old Lang Syne

Night is darkest just before the dawn
From dissention Ireland is reborn
Soon we'll all be United Irishmen
Make our land a Nation Once Again

We're on the one road
Sharing the one load
We're on the road to God knows where
We're on the one road
It may be the wrong road
But we're together now who cares
North men, South men, comrades all
Dublin, Belfast, Cork and Donegal
We're on the one road swinging along
Singing a soldier's song

Author unknown

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