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The Great War

The war to end all wars.

5/24/17 01:00 am - duathir - Robert Service, 'On The Wire'

Cross-post from war_poetry:

On the Wire

O God, take the sun from the sky!
It's burning me, scorching me up.
God, can't You hear my cry?
`Water! A poor, little cup!'
It's laughing, the cursed sun!
See how it swells and swells
Fierce as a hundred hells!
God, will it never have done?
It's searing the flesh on my bones;
It's beating with hammers red
My eyeballs into my head;
It's parching my very moans.
See! It's the size of the sky,
And the sky is a torrent of fire,
Foaming on me as I lie
Here on the wire . . . the wire. . . .

Of the thousands that wheeze and hum
Heedlessly over my head,
Why can't a bullet come,
Pierce to my brain instead,
Blacken forever my brain,
Finish forever my pain?
Here in the hellish glare
Why must I suffer so?
Is it God doesn't care?
Is it God doesn't know?
Oh, to be killed outright,
Clean in the clash of the fight!
That is a golden death,
That is a boon; but this . . .
Drawing an anguished breath
Under a hot abyss,
Under a stooping sky
Of seething, sulphurous fire,
Scorching me up as I lie
Here on the wire . . . the wire. . . .

Hasten, O God, Thy night!
Hide from my eyes the sight
Of the body I stare and see
Shattered so hideously.
I can't believe that it's mine.
My body was white and sweet,
Flawless and fair and fine,
Shapely from head to feet;
Oh no, I can never be
The thing of horror I see
Under the rifle fire,
Trussed on the wire . . . the wire. . . .

Of night and of death I dream;
Night that will bring me peace,
Coolness and starry gleam,
Stillness and death's release:
Ages and ages have passed, --
Lo! it is night at last.
Night! but the guns roar out.
Night! but the hosts attack.
Red and yellow and black
Geysers of doom upspout.
Silver and green and red
Star-shells hover and spread.
Yonder off to the right
Fiercely kindles the fight;
Roaring near and more near,
Thundering now in my ear;
Close to me, close . . . Oh, hark!
Someone moans in the dark.
I hear, but I cannot see,
I hear as the rest retire,
Someone is caught like me,
Caught on the wire . . . the wire. . . .

Again the shuddering dawn,
Weird and wicked and wan;
Again, and I've not yet gone.
The man whom I heard is dead.
Now I can understand:
A bullet hole in his head,
A pistol gripped in his hand.
Well, he knew what to do, --
Yes, and now I know too. . . .

Hark the resentful guns!
Oh, how thankful am I
To think my beloved ones
Will never know how I die!
I've suffered more than my share;
I'm shattered beyond repair;
I've fought like a man the fight,
And now I demand the right
(God! how his fingers cling!)
To do without shame this thing.
Good! there's a bullet still;
Now I'm ready to fire;
Blame me, God, if You will,
Here on the wire . . . the wire. . . .

By Robert W. Service

5/23/17 01:00 am - duathir - Siegfried Sassoon, 'Attack'

Cross-post from war_poetry:


At dawn the ridge emerges massed and dun
In the wild purple of the glowering sun,
Smouldering through spouts of drifting smoke that shroud
The menacing scarred slope; and, one by one,
Tanks creep and topple forward to the wire.
The barrage roars and lifts. Then, clumsily bowed
With bombs and guns and shovels and battle-gear,
Men jostle and climb to meet the bristling fire.
Lines of grey, muttering faces, masked with fear,
They leave their trenches, going over the top,
While time ticks blank and busy on their wrists,
And hope, with furtive eyes and grappling fists,
Flounders in the mud. O Jesus, make it stop!

by Siegfried Sassoon

5/21/17 01:00 am - duathir - Eleanor Farjeon, 'Now That You Too'

Cross-post from war_poetry:

Now That You Too

Now that you too must shortly go the way
Which in these bloodshot years uncounted men
Have gone in vanishing armies day by day,
And in their numbers will not come again:
I must not strain the moments of our meeting
Striving for each look, each accent, not to miss,
Or question of our parting and our greeting,
Is this the last of all? is this—or this?

Last sight of all it may be with these eyes,
Last touch, last hearing, since eyes, hands, and ears,
Even serving love, are our mortalities,
And cling to what they own in mortal fears:—
But oh, let end what will, I hold you fast
By immortal love, which has no first or last.

by Eleanor Farjeon

5/20/17 01:00 am - duathir - Robert Service, 'Young Fellow My Lad'

Cross-post from war_poetry:

Young Fellow My Lad

"Where are you going, Young Fellow My Lad,
On this glittering morn of May?"
"I'm going to join the Colours, Dad;
They're looking for men, they say."
"But you're only a boy, Young Fellow My Lad;
You aren't obliged to go."
"I'm seventeen and a quarter, Dad,
And ever so strong, you know."

. . . . .

"So you're off to France, Young Fellow My Lad,
And you're looking so fit and bright."
"I'm terribly sorry to leave you, Dad,
But I feel that I'm doing right."
"God bless you and keep you, Young Fellow My Lad,
You're all of my life, you know."
"Don't worry. I'll soon be back, dear Dad,
And I'm awfully proud to go."

. . . . .

"Why don't you write, Young Fellow My Lad?
I watch for the post each day;
And I miss you so, and I'm awfully sad,
And it's months since you went away.
And I've had the fire in the parlour lit,
And I'm keeping it burning bright
Till my boy comes home; and here I sit
Into the quiet night."

. . . . .

"What is the matter, Young Fellow My Lad?
No letter again to-day.
Why did the postman look so sad,
And sigh as he turned away?
I hear them tell that we've gained new ground,
But a terrible price we've paid:
God grant, my boy, that you're safe and sound;
But oh I'm afraid, afraid."

. . . . .

"They've told me the truth, Young Fellow My Lad:
You'll never come back again:
For you passed in the night, Young Fellow My Lad,
And you proved in the cruel test
Of the screaming shell and the battle hell
That my boy was one of the best.

"So you'll live, you'll live, Young Fellow My Lad,
In the gleam of the evening star,
In the wood-note wild and the laugh of the child,
In all sweet things that are.
And you'll never die, my wonderful boy,
While life is noble and true;
For all our beauty and hope and joy
We will owe to our lads like you."

By Robert Service

5/18/17 01:00 am - duathir - Edgar Albert Guest, 'Drafted'

Cross-post from war_poetry:


The biggest moment in our lives was that when first he cried,
From that day unto this, for him, we've struggled side by side.
We can recount his daily deeds, and backwards we can look,
And proudly live again the time when first a step he took.

I see him trudging off to school, his mother at his side,
And when she left him there alone she hurried home and cried.
And then the sturdy chap of eight that was, I proudly see,
Who packed a little grip and took a fishing trip with me.

Among the lists of boys to go his name has now appeared;
To us has come the sacrifice that mothers all have feared;
And though we dread the parting hour when he shall march away,
We love him and the Flag too much to ask of him to stay.

His baby ways shall march with him, and every joy we've had,
Somewhere in France some day shall be a little brown-eyed lad;
A toddler and a child at school, the chum that once I knew
Shall wear our country's uniform, for they've been drafted, too.

By Edgar Albert Guest

Selective Service Act enacted May 18, 1917

5/16/17 01:00 am - duathir - Winifred Letts, 'Screens (In a Hospital)'

Cross-post from war_poetry:

Screens (In a Hospital)

They put the screens around his bed;
a crumpled heap I saw him lie,
White counterpane and rough dark head,
those screens — they showed that he would die.

The put the screens about his bed;
We might not play the gramophone,
And so we played at cards instead
And left him dying there alone.

The covers on the screens are red,
The counterpanes are white and clean;
He might have lived and loved and wed
But now he’s done for at nineteen.

An ounce or more of Turkish lead,
He got his wounds at Suvla Bay
They’ve brought the Union Jack to spread
Upon him when he goes away.

He’ll want those three red screens no more,
Another man will get his bed,
We’ll make the row we did before
But — Jove! — I’m sorry that he’s dead.

By Winifred Letts

5/15/17 01:00 am - duathir - Laurence Binyon, 'The Arras Road'

Cross-post from war_poetry:

The Arras Road

The early night falls on the plain
In cloud and desolating rain.
I see no more, but feel around
The ruined earth, the wounded ground.

There in the dark, on either side
The road, are all the brave who died.
I think not on the battles won;
I think on those whose day is done.

Heaped mud, blear pools, old rusted wire,
Cover their youth and young desire.
Near me they sleep, and they to me
Are dearer than their victory.

Where now are they who once had peace
Here, and the fruitful tilth's increase?
Shattered is all their hands had made,
And the orchards where their children played.

But night, that brings the darkness, brings
The heart back to its dearest things.
I feel old footsteps plodding slow
On ways that they were used to know.

And from my own land, past the strait,
From homes that no more news await,
Absenting thoughts come hither flying
To the unknown earth where Love is lying.

There are no stars to--night, but who
Knows what far eyes of lovers true
In star--like vigil, each alone
Are watching now above their own?

England and France unconscious tryst
Keep in this void of shadowy mist
By phantom Vimy, and mounds that tell
Of ghostliness that was Gavrelle.

The rain comes wildly down to drench
Disfeatured ridge, deserted trench.
Guns in the night, far, far away
Thud on the front beyond Cambrai.

But here the night is holy, and here
I will remember, and draw near,
And for a space, till night be sped,
Be with the beauty of the dead.

By Laurence Binyon

5/13/17 01:00 am - duathir - Helen Hamilton, 'The Romancing Poet'

Cross-post from war_poetry:

The Romancing Poet

Granted that you write verse,
Much better than I,
(Which isn’t saying much!)
I wish you would refrain
From making glad romance
Of this most hideous war.
It has no glamour,
Save man’s courage,
His indomitable spirit,
His forgetfulness of self!
If you have words –
Fit word, I mean,
Not your usual stock-in-trade,
Of tags and clichés-
To hymn such greatness,
Use them.
But have you?
Anyone can babble.
If you must wax descriptive,
Do get the background right,
A little right!

The blood, the filth, the horrors,
Suffering on such a scale
That you and I, try as we may,
Can only faintly vision it.
Don’t make a pretty song about it!
It is an insult to the men,
Doomed to be crucified each day,
For us at home!
Abstain too, if you can,
From bidding us to plume ourselves
For being of the self-same breed
As these heroic souls,
With the obvious implication
We have the right to take the credit,
Vicarious credit,
For their immortal deeds!
What next?
It is an outrage!
We are not glory-snatchers!

by Helen Hamilton

5/12/17 01:00 am - duathir - Edgar Albert Guest, 'Along The Paths O' Glory'

Cross-post from war_poetry:

Along The Paths O' Glory

Along the paths o' glory there are faces new to-day,
There are youthful hearts and sturdy that have found the westward way.
From the rugged roads o' duty they have turned without a sigh,
To mingle with their brothers who were not afraid to die.
And they're looking back and smiling at the loved ones left behind,
With the Old Flag flying o'er them, and they're calling 'Never mind.

'Never mind, oh, gentle mothers, that we shall not come again;
Never mind the years of absence, never mind the days of pain,
For we've found the paths o' glory where the flags o' freedom fly,
And we've learned the things we died for are the truths that never die.
Now there's never hurt can harm us, and the years will never fade
The memory of the soldiers of the legions unafraid.'

Along the paths o' glory there are faces new to-day,
And the heavenly flags are flying as they march along the way;
For the world is safe from hatred; men shall know it at its best
By the sacrifice and courage of the boys who go to rest.
Now they've claimed eternal splendor and they've won eternal youth,
And they've joined the gallant legions of the men who served the truth.

By Edgar Albert Guest

5/10/17 03:00 am - duathir - Marian Allen, 'The Wind on the Downs'

Cross-post from war_poetry:

The Wind on the Downs

I like to think of you as brown and tall,
As strong and living as you used to be,
In khaki tunic, Sam Brown belt and all,
And standing there and laughing down at me.
Because they tell me, dear, that you are dead,
Because I can no longer see your face,
You have not died, it is not true, instead,
You seek adventure some other place.
I hear you laughing as you used to,
Yet loving all the things I think of you;
And knowing you are happy, should I grieve?
You follow and are watchful where I go;
How should you leave me, having loved me so?
We walked along the towpath, you and I,
Beside the sluggish-moving, still canal;
It seemed impossible that you should die;
I think of you the same and always shall.
We thought of many things and spoke of few,
And life lay all uncertainly before,
And now I walk alone and think of you,
And wonder what new kingdoms you explore.
Over the railway line, across the grass,
While up above the golden wings are spread,
Flying, ever flying overhead,
Here still I see you khaki figure pass,
And when I leave meadow, almost wait,
That you should open first the wooden gate.

by Marian Allen
May 10, 1917
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