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The Great War

The war to end all wars.

10/21/17 01:00 am - duathir - Eileen Newton, 'Last Leave'

Cross-post from war_poetry:

Last LeaveCollapse )
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10/20/17 01:00 am - duathir - Arthur Conan Doyle, 'Grousing'

Cross-post from war_poetry:

Grousing

"The army swore terribly in Flanders."
--Uncle Toby.

What do the soldiers say?
"Dam! Dam! Dam!
I don't mind cold, I don't mind heat,
Over the top for a Sunday treat,
With Fritz I'll always take my spell,
But I want my grub, and where in hell
Is the jam?"

What does the officer say?
"Dam! Dam! Dam!
Mud and misery, flies and stench,
Piggin' it here in a beastly trench,
But what I mean, by Jove, you see,
I like my men and they don't mind me,
So, on the whole, I'd rather be
Where I am."

What does the enemy say?
"Kolossal Verdam!
They told me, when the war began,
The British Tommy always ran,
And so he does, just as they said,
But, Donnerwetter! it's straight ahead,
Like a ram."

What does the public say?
"Dam! Dam! Dam!
They tax me here, they tax me there,
Bread is dear and the cupboard bare,
I'm bound to grouse, but if it's the way
To win the war, why then I'll pay
Like a lamb."

By Arthur Conan Doyle
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10/18/17 01:00 am - duathir - Gerrit Engelke, 'Book of the War [extract] '

Cross-post from war_poetry:

Book of the War [extract]

You my friend, broken eye now,
Broken glance, like that of the shot hare
Or the contemptuous, cold traitor –
Against our common twelve years sprang the wind of time,
Silently we shared books and bread,
Shared desks in the school house,
The resounding need of life’s urge,
Of some sense of recognition and tenets,
Friend, your eye is dead.

The Brimont is bare and its wood is shredded,
No spruce spared, from which to form a grave’s cross.
So you lie, silent in the shattered earth,
In oppressed dreamless sleep.
Not hero, not leader – just soldier, unknown.
Mortal remains in the wind of decay.
But the mighty peace of countless, blesséd bright legions,
When brazen and clanking they march over your grave,
You will shiver and hear of yore,
So listen and wait thereon.

By Gerrit Engelke
Translated from the German by Penelope Monkhouse


This poem is addressed to Engelke’s close friend August Deppe, who fell in late 1917 (the poem “To the soldiers of the great war” is also in memory of this friend). Here Gerrit not only laments the loss of his friend but also complains of the crude, non-individual way many soldiers are treated after their death and burial.
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10/17/17 01:00 am - duathir - Siegfried Sassoon, 'To A Very Wise Man'

Cross-post from war_poetry:

To A Very Wise Man

I

Fires in the dark you build; tall quivering flames
In the huge midnight forest of the unknown.
Your soul is full of cities with dead names,
And blind-faced, earth-bound gods of bronze and stone
Whose priests and kings and lust-begotten lords
Watch the procession of their thundering hosts,
Or guard relentless fanes with flickering swords
And wizardry of ghosts.

II

In a strange house I woke; heard overhead
Hastily-thudding feet and a muffled scream...
(Is death like that?) ... I quaked uncomforted,
Striving to frame to-morrow in a dream
Of woods and sliding pools and cloudless day.
(You know how bees come into a twilight room
From dazzling afternoon, then sail away
Out of the curtained gloom.)

III

You understand my thoughts; though, when you think,
You’re out beyond the boundaries of my brain.
I’m but a bird at dawn that cries ‘chink, chink’—
A garden-bird that warbles in the rain.
And you’re the flying-man, the speck that steers
A careful course far down the verge of day,
Half-way across the world. Above the years
You soar ... Is death so bad? ... I wish you’d say.

by Siegfried Sassoon
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10/15/17 01:00 am - duathir - Edgar Albert Guest, 'Kelly Ingram'

Cross-post from war_poetry:

Kelly Ingram

His name was Kelly Ingram; he was Alabama's son,
And he whistled 'Yankee Doodle,' as he stood beside his gun;
There was laughter in his make-up, there was manhood in his face,
And he knew the best traditions and the courage of his race;
Now there's not a heart among us but should swell with loyal pride
When he thinks of Kelly Ingram and the splendid way he died.

On the swift Destroyer Cassin he was merely gunner's mate,
But up there to-day, I fancy, he is standing with the great.
On that grim day last October his position on the craft
Was that portion of the vessel which the sailors christen aft;
There were deep sea bombs beside him to be dropped upon the Hun
Who makes women folks his victims and then gloats o'er what he's done.

From the lookout came a warning; came the cry all sailors fear,
A torpedo was approaching, and the vessel's doom was near;
Ingram saw the streak of danger, but he saw a little more,
A greater menace faced them than that missile had in store;
If those deep sea bombs beside him were not thrown beneath the wave,
Every man aboard the Cassin soon would find a watery grave.

It was death for him to linger, but he figured if he ran
And quit his post of duty, 'twould be death for every man;
So he stood at his position, threw those depth bombs overboard,
And when that torpedo struck them, he went forth to meet his Lord.
Oh, I don't know how to say it, but these whole United States
Should remember Kelly Ingram—he who died to save his mates.

By Edgar Albert Guest

Osmond Kelly Ingram, the first U.S. Navy enlisted man killed by the enemy in WWI, October 15, 1917

10/13/17 01:00 am - duathir - Robert William Service, 'Kelly Of The Legion'

Cross-post from war_poetry:

Kelly Of The Legion

Now Kelly was no fighter;
He loved his pipe and glass;
An easygoing blighter,
Who lived in Montparnasse.
But 'mid the tavern tattle
He heard some guinney say:
"When France goes forth to battle,
The Legion leads the way.

"The scourings of creation,
Of every sin and station,
The men who've known damnation,
Are picked to lead the way."

Well, Kelly joined the Legion;
They marched him day and night;
They rushed him to the region
Where largest loomed the fight.
"Behold your mighty mission,
Your destiny," said they;
"By glorious tradition
The Legion leads the way.

"With tattered banners flying
With trail of dead and dying,
On! On! All hell defying,
The Legion sweeps the way."

With grim, hard-bitten faces,
With jests of savage mirth,
They swept into their places,
The men of iron worth;
Their blooded steel was flashing;
They swung to face the fray;
Then rushing, roaring, crashing,
The Legion cleared the way.

The trail they blazed was gory;
Few lived to tell the story;
Through death they plunged to glory;
But, oh, they cleared the way!

Now Kelly lay a-dying,
And dimly saw advance,
With split new banners flying,
The fantassins of France.
Then up amid the melee
He rose from where he lay;
"Come on, me boys," says Kelly,
"The Layjun lades the way!"

Aye, while they faltered, doubting
(Such flames of doom were spouting),
He caught them, thrilled them, shouting:
"The Layjun lades the way!"

They saw him slip and stumble,
Then stagger on once more;
They marked him trip and tumble,
A mass of grime and gore;
They watched him blindly crawling
Amid hell's own affray,
And calling, calling, calling:
"The Layjun lades the way!"

And even while they wondered,
The battle-wrack was sundered;
To Victory they thundered,
But . . . Kelly led the way.

Still Kelly kept agoing;
Berserker-like he ran;
His eyes with fury glowing,
A lion of a man;
His rifle madly swinging,
His soul athirst to slay,
His slogan ringing, ringing,
"The Layjun lades the way!"

Till in a pit death-baited,
Where Huns with Maxims waited,
He plunged . . . and there, blood-sated,
To death he stabbed his way.

Now Kelly was a fellow
Who simply loathed a fight:
He loved a tavern mellow,
Grog hot and pipe alight;
I'm sure the Show appalled him,
And yet without dismay,
When Death and Duty called him,
He up and led the way.

So in Valhalla drinking
(If heroes meek and shrinking
Are suffered there), I'm thinking
'Tis Kelly leads the way.

By Robert William Service
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10/13/17 01:00 am - duathir - Anatoly Marienhof, 'Savage, Nomad Hordes'

Cross-post from war_poetry:

Savage, Nomad Hordes

Savage, nomad hordes
Of Asia
Poured fire out of the vats!
Razin’s execution is avenged,
And Pugachov’s pain
Whose beard was torn away.
Hooves
Have broken
The scruff of the earth,
Cold with centuries,
And the supernal sky, like a stocking
With a hole in its heel
Has been taken out of the laundry-trough
Wholly clean.

By Anatoly Marienhof

Razin's Rebellion of 1670-71

Pugachev's Rebellion of 1773-75
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10/12/17 01:00 am - duathir - Carl Sandburg, 'Among The Red Guns'

Cross-post from war_poetry:

Among The Red Guns
After waking at dawn one morning when the wind sang low among dry leaves in an elm

Among the red guns,
In the hearts of soldiers
Running free blood
In the long, long campaign:
Dreams go on.

Among the leather saddles,
In the heads of soldiers
Heavy in the wracks and kills
Of all straight fighting:
Dreams go on.

Among the hot muzzles,
In the hands of soldiers
Brought from flesh-folds of women--
Soft amid the blood and crying--
In all your hearts and heads
Among the guns and saddles and muzzles:

Dreams,
Dreams go on,
Out of the dead on their backs,
Broken and no use any more:
Dreams of the way and the end go on.

by Carl Sandburg
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10/11/17 01:00 am - duathir - Fredegond Shove, 'The Farmer, 1917'

Cross-post from war_poetry:

The Farmer, 1917

I see a farmer walking by himself
In the ploughed field, returning like the day
To his dark nest. The plovers circle round
In the gray sky; the blackbird calls; the thrush
Still sings---but all the rest have gone to sleep.
I see the farmer coming up the field,
Where the new corn is sown, but not yet sprung;
He seems to be the only man alive
And thinking through the twilight of this world.
I know that there is war behind those hills,
And I surmise, but cannot see the dead,
And cannot see the living in their midst---
So awfully and madly knit with death.
I cannot feel, but know that there is war,
And has been now for three eternal years,
Behind the subtle cinctures of those hills.
I see the farmer coming up the field,
And as I look, imagination lifts
The sullen veil of alternating cloud,
And I am stunned by what I see behind
His solemn and uncompromising form:
Wide hosts of men who once could walk like him
In freedom, quite alone with night and day,
Uncounted shapes of living flesh and bone,
Worn dull, quenched dry, gone blind and sick, with war;
And they are him and he is one with them;
They see him as he travels up the field.
O God, how lonely freedom seems to-day!
O single farmer walking through the world,
They bless the seed in you that earth shall reap,
When they, their countless lives, and all their thoughts,
Lie scattered by the storm: when peace shall come
With stillness, and long shivers, after death.

By Fredegond Shove

10/8/17 01:00 am - duathir - Gerrit Engelke, 'To the Soldiers of the Great War'

Cross-post from war_poetry:

To the Soldiers of the Great War

Rise up! Out of trenches, muddy holes, bunkers, quarries!
Up out of mud and fire, chalk dust, stench of bodies!
Off with your steel helmets! Throw your rifles away!
Enough of this murderous enmity!

Do you love a woman? So do I.
And have you a mother? A mother bore me.
What about your child? I too love children.
And the houses reek of cursing, praying, weeping.

Were you at ruined Ypres? I was there too.
At stricken Mihiel? I was opposite you.
I was there at Dixmuide, surrounded by floods,
At hellish Verdun, in the smoke and the crowds;
Freezing, demoralised, in the snow,
At the corpse-ridden Somme I was opposite you.
I was facing you everywhere, but you did not know it!
Body is piled on body. Poet kills poet.

I was a soldier. I did my job.
Thirsty, sick, yawning, on the march or on guard,
Surrounded by death and missing home –
And you – were your feelings so unlike mine?
Tear open your tunic! Let’s see your bare skin;
I know that old scar from 1915,
And there on your forehead the stitched-up gash.
But so you won’t think my pain is less,
I open my shirt, here’s my discoloured arm!
Aren’t we proud of our wounds, your wounds and mine?

You did not give better blood or greater force,
And the same churned-up sand drank our vital juice.
Did your brother die in the blast of that shell?
Did your uncle or your classmate fall?

Does not your bearded father lie in his grave?
Hermann and Fritz, my cousins, bled to death.
And my young, fair-haired friend, always helpful and good,
His home is still waiting, and his bed.
His mother has waited since 1916,
Where is his cross and his grave?
Frenchmen,
Whether from Bordeaux, Brest, Garonne;
Ukrainian, Turk, Serb, Austrian;
I appeal to all soldiers of the Great War –
American, Russian, Britisher –
You were brave men. Now throw away national pride.
The green sea is rising. Just take my hand.

By Gerrit Engelke
Translation by Merryn Williams
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