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The Great War

The war to end all wars.

2/2/18 01:00 am - duathir - Wilfrid Wilson Gibson, 'Before Action'

Cross-post from war_poetry:

Before Action

I sit beside the brazier's glow,
And, drowsing in the heat,
A dream of daffodils that blow
And lambs that frisk and bleat--

Black lambs that frolic in the snow
Among the daffodils,
In a far orchard that I know
Beneath the Malvern hills.

Next year the daffodils will blow,
And lambs will frisk and bleat;
But I'll not feel the the brazier's glow,
Nor any cold or heat.

By Wilfrid Wilson Gibson

1/31/18 01:00 am - duathir - Robert Laurence Binyon, 'Ypres'

Cross-post from war_poetry:


On the road to Ypres, on the long road,
Marching strong,
We'll sing a song of Ypres, of her glory
And her wrong.

Proud rose her towers in the old time,
Long ago.
Trees stood on her ramparts, and the water
Lay below.

Shattered are the towers into potsherds--
Jumbled stones.
Underneath the ashes that were rafters
Whiten bones.

Blood is in the cellar where the wine was,
On the floor.
Rats run on the pavement where the wives met
At the door.

But in Ypres there's an army that is biding,
Seen of none.
You'd never hear their tramp nor see their shadow
In the sun.

Thousands of the dead men there are waiting
Through the night,
Waiting for a bugle in the cold dawn
Blown for fight.

Listen when the bugle's calling Forward!
They'll be found,
Dead men, risen in battalions
From underground,

Charging with us home, and through the foemen
Driving fear
Swifter than the madness in a madman,
As they hear

Dead men ring the bells of Ypres
For a sign,
Hear the bells and fear them in the Hunland
Over Rhine!

by Robert Laurence Binyon

1/29/18 01:00 am - duathir - Siegfried Sassoon, 'A Subaltern'

Cross-post from war_poetry:

A Subaltern

He turned to me with his kind, sleepy gaze
And fresh face slowly brightening to the grin
That sets my memory back to summer days,
With twenty runs to make, and last man in.
He told me he’d been having a bloody time
In trenches, crouching for the crumps to burst,
While squeaking rats scampered across the slime
And the grey palsied weather did its worst.

But as he stamped and shivered in the rain,
My stale philosophies had served him well;
Dreaming about his girl had sent his brain
Blanker than ever—she’d no place in Hell....
‘Good God!’ he laughed, and slowly filled his pipe,
Wondering ‘why he always talked such tripe’.

By Siegfried Sassoon

1/25/18 01:00 am - duathir - Robert Service, 'The Haggis of Private McPhee'

Cross-post from war_poetry:

The Haggis of Private McPhee

"Hae ye heard whit ma auld mither's postit tae me?
It fair maks me hamesick," says Private McPhee.
"And whit did she send ye?" says Private McPhun,
As he cockit his rifle and bleezed at a Hun.
"A haggis! A HAGGIS!" says Private McPhee;
"The brawest big haggis I ever did see.
And think! it's the morn when fond memory turns
Tae haggis and whuskey -- the Birthday o' Burns.
We maun find a dram; then we'll ca' in the rest
O' the lads, and we'll hae a Burns' Nicht wi' the best."
"Be ready at sundoon," snapped Sergeant McCole;
"I want you two men for the List'nin' Patrol."
Then Private McPhee looked at Private McPhun:
"I'm thinkin', ma lad, we're confoundedly done."
Then Private McPhun looked at Private McPhee:
"I'm thinkin' auld chap, it's a' aff wi' oor spree."
But up spoke their crony, wee Wullie McNair:
"Jist lea' yer braw haggis for me tae prepare;
And as for the dram, if I search the camp roun',
We maun hae a drappie tae jist haud it doon.
Sae rin, lads, and think, though the nicht it be black,
O' the haggis that's waitin' ye when ye get back."

My! but it wis waesome on Naebuddy's Land,
And the deid they were rottin' on every hand.
And the rockets like corpse candles hauntit the sky,
And the winds o' destruction went shudderin' by.
There wis skelpin' o' bullets and skirlin' o' shells,
And breengin' o' bombs and a thoosand death-knells;
But cooryin' doon in a Jack Johnson hole
Little fashed the twa men o' the List'nin' Patrol.
For sweeter than honey and bricht as a gem
Wis the thocht o' the haggis that waitit for them.

Yet alas! in oor moments o' sunniest cheer
Calamity's aften maist cruelly near.
And while the twa talked o' their puddin' divine
The Boches below them were howkin' a mine.
And while the twa cracked o' the feast they would hae,
The fuse it wis burnin' and burnin' away.
Then sudden a roar like the thunner o' doom,
A hell-leap o' flame . . . then the wheesht o' the tomb.

"Haw, Jock! Are ye hurtit?" says Private McPhun.
"Ay, Geordie, they've got me; I'm fearin' I'm done.
It's ma leg; I'm jist thinkin' it's aff at the knee;
Ye'd best gang and leave me," says Private McPhee.
"Oh leave ye I wunna," says Private McPhun;
"And leave ye I canna, for though I micht run,
It's no faur I wud gang, it's no muckle I'd see:
I'm blindit, and that's whit's the maitter wi' me."
Then Private McPhee sadly shakit his heid:
"If we bide here for lang, we'll be bidin' for deid.
And yet, Geordie lad, I could gang weel content
If I'd tasted that haggis ma auld mither sent."
"That's droll," says McPhun; "ye've jist speakit ma mind.
Oh I ken it's a terrible thing tae be blind;
And yet it's no that that embitters ma lot --
It's missin' that braw muckle haggis ye've got."
For a while they were silent; then up once again
Spoke Private McPhee, though he whussilt wi' pain:
"And why should we miss it? Between you and me
We've legs for tae run, and we've eyes for tae see.
You lend me your shanks and I'll lend you ma sicht,
And we'll baith hae a kyte-fu' o' haggis the nicht."

Oh the sky it wis dourlike and dreepin' a wee,
When Private McPhun gruppit Private McPhee.
Oh the glaur it wis fylin' and crieshin' the grun',
When Private McPhee guidit Private McPhun.
"Keep clear o' them corpses -- they're maybe no deid!
Haud on! There's a big muckle crater aheid.
Look oot! There's a sap; we'll be haein' a coup.
A staur-shell! For Godsake! Doun, lad, on yer daup.
Bear aff tae yer richt. . . . Aw yer jist daein' fine:
Before the nicht's feenished on haggis we'll dine."

There wis death and destruction on every hand;
There wis havoc and horror on Naebuddy's Land.
And the shells bickered doun wi' a crump and a glare,
And the hameless wee bullets were dingin' the air.
Yet on they went staggerin', cooryin' doun
When the stutter and cluck o' a Maxim crept roun'.
And the legs o' McPhun they were sturdy and stoot,
And McPhee on his back kept a bonnie look-oot.
"On, on, ma brave lad! We're no faur frae the goal;
I can hear the braw sweerin' o' Sergeant McCole."

But strength has its leemit, and Private McPhun,
Wi' a sab and a curse fell his length on the grun'.
Then Private McPhee shoutit doon in his ear:
"Jist think o' the haggis! I smell it from here.
It's gushin' wi' juice, it's embaumin' the air;
It's steamin' for us, and we're -- jist -- aboot -- there."
Then Private McPhun answers: "Dommit, auld chap!
For the sake o' that haggis I'll gang till I drap."
And he gets on his feet wi' a heave and a strain,
And onward he staggers in passion and pain.
And the flare and the glare and the fury increase,
Till you'd think they'd jist taken a' hell on a lease.
And on they go reelin' in peetifu' plight,
And someone is shoutin' away on their right;
And someone is runnin', and noo they can hear
A sound like a prayer and a sound like a cheer;
And swift through the crash and the flash and the din,
The lads o' the Hielands are bringin' them in.

"They're baith sairly woundit, but is it no droll
Hoo they rave aboot haggis?" says Sergeant McCole.
When hirplin alang comes wee Wullie McNair,
And they a' wonnert why he wis greetin' sae sair.
And he says: "I'd jist liftit it oot o' the pot,
And there it lay steamin' and savoury hot,
When sudden I dooked at the fleech o' a shell,

And oh but the lads were fair taken aback;
Then sudden the order wis passed tae attack,
And up from the trenches like lions they leapt,
And on through the nicht like a torrent they swept.
On, on, wi' their bayonets thirstin' before!
On, on tae the foe wi' a rush and a roar!
And wild to the welkin their battle-cry rang,
And doon on the Boches like tigers they sprang:
And there wisna a man but had death in his ee,
For he thocht o' the haggis o' Private McPhee.

By Robert W. Service

Burns Night, January 25


1/23/18 01:01 am - duathir - W.B. Yeats, 'Reprisals'

Cross-post from war_poetry:

to Major Robert Gregory

Some nineteen German planes, they say,
You had brought down before you died.
We called it a good death. Today
Can ghost or man be satisfied?
Although your last exciting year
Outweighed all other years, you said,
Though battle joy may be so dear
A memory, even to the dead,
It chases other thought away,
Yet rise from your Italian tomb,
Flit to Kiltartan Cross and stay
Till certain second thoughts have come
Upon the cause you served, that we
Imagined such a fine affair:
Half-drunk or whole-mad soldiery
Are murdering your tenants there.
Men that revere your father yet
Are shot at on the open plain.
Where may new-married women sit
And suckle children now? Armed men
May murder them in passing by
Nor law nor parliament take heed.
Then close your ears with dust and lie
Among the other cheated dead.

By W.B. Yeats

William Robert Gregory died January 23, 1918

'In Memory of Major Robert Gregory' by W.B. Yeats

1/22/18 01:00 am - duathir - Anonymous, 'Soldiers Who Wish to be a Hero'

Cross-post from war_poetry:

Soldiers Who Wish to be a Hero

Soldiers who wish to be a hero
Are practically zero.
But those who wish to be civilians,
Jesus, they run into millions.


1/21/18 01:01 am - duathir - W.B Yeats, 'An Irish Airman Foresees His Death'

Cross-post from war_poetry:

An Irish Airman Foresees His Death

I know that I shall meet my fate
Somewhere among the clouds above;
Those that I fight I do not hate
Those that I guard I do not love;
My country is Kiltartan Cross,
My countrymen Kiltartan's poor,
No likely end could bring them loss
Or leave them happier than before.
Nor law, nor duty bade me fight,
Nor public men, nor cheering crowds,
A lonely impulse of delight
Drove to this tumult in the clouds;
I balanced all, brought all to mind,
The years to come seemed waste of breath,
A waste of breath the years behind
In balance with this life, this death.

by William Butler Yeats

1/18/18 12:00 am - duathir - Smalley Sarson, 'R.B M.W., Reported Missing at Passchendaele'

Cross-post from war_poetry:

R.B.M.W., Reported Missing at Passchendaele

My boy is dead: for how long have I toiled
Through dense, black night? You do not understand.
You take no heed! I saw, was it yesterday?
Girls laughing in the street; an organ played
Jingly, discordant sounds; and men cried out
In harsh, sharp monosyllables the news,
And sold their papers.
Someone spoke to me,
I felt--but then my boy is dead. Now all
The tiny pleasant memories of our lives
Corne flooding back to me; how he would laugh
And cheer me; I remember, when he was four
He fell and bruised his head against a chair,
Then cried until I kissed the tears away;
Now, he is dead.
No! You will not sheathe
The sword until your honour is avenged;
People must trust the government, believe
What we are told, but will that bring him back?
The day he got his Blue how proud I was;
He knew it too and teased me.
Yes, of course
You do not think it would benefit
The Allies' cause: I know, I read it all;
I must read something to benumb my soul,
For I am mourning, mourning for my boy;
My happy, fair-haired boy.

By Smalley Sarson

1/17/18 01:00 am - duathir - Bert Layne, 'The Forgotten Soldier Boy'

Cross-post from war_poetry:

The Forgotten Soldier Boy

I'm just a poor ex-soldier that's broken down and blue,
Fought out in the Great War for the old red, white, and blue.
I left my parents and my girl I loved, to France did go
And fought out on the battlefield through hunger, sleet, and snow.

I saw my buddies dying, and some shellshocked and torn
Although we never faltered at the battle of Amarne
And we were told when we left home we'd be heroes of the land,
So we came back and found no one would lend a helping hand.

They promised gold and silver, and bid us all adieu.
They said they'd welcome us back home when the terrible war was through.
We fought until the war was o'er, they said we'd won the fight,
But we have no job or money, no place to sleep at night.

They called us wandering boys bums, asking for shelter and bread
Although we fought in no man's land and a-many poor boy is dead.
So listen to my story and lend a helping hand
To the poor forgotten soldier boy who fought to save our land.

by Bert Layne

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1/16/18 01:00 am - duathir - Lew Brown, 'Au Revoir, But Not Good-Bye'

Cross-post from war_poetry:

Au Revoir, But Not Good-Bye

Though you’re leaving me today, never fear,
In my thoughts you’ll always be ever near
There’s a tear in every eye, as the boys go marching by,
Buy they’re out to do or die, hear them cheer
All the things you planned to do,
I am sure they will come true,
And I’ll watch and wait for you, over here.

Au revoir but not Good Bye, Soldier Boy
Brush that tear drop from your eye, Soldier Boy
When you’re on the deep blue sea
Will you sometimes think of me?
I’ll be waiting anxiously, Soldier Boy

Tho’ we’re many miles apart Soldier Boy
Keep my picture near your heart, Soldier Boy
When you’ve won your victory
God will bring you back to me
Au revoir but not Good Bye Soldier Boy.

Though your mother old and grey ‘waits you here
I will comfort her each day never fear
We all love you and you know
That we’re proud to see you go,
But we’re going to miss you so, over here
When your fighting days are through
For the old Red White and Blue
We’ll be here to welcome you, with a cheer.

By Lew Brown

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