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The Great War

The war to end all wars.

7/2/17 02:00 am - duathir - John William Streets, 'To a Dead Poet'

Cross-post from war_poetry:

To a Dead Poet

I, too, have loved with you our mother Earth:
Listen'd at pensive eve the lyric thrush
Shake out his ecstasy to lovely birth
Rapturously in some lone shadowy bush.
I, too, have gazed on youth: watched in his eyes
The lightning passion flash, the vision glow,
Have watched him like a god ascendant rise-
I, too, have seen the fires of Youth burn low.
Sad with the presage of his chilling breath
Fearless you took the shadowy way with death.
You took the harp of life with broken strings
Sang in your passing brave of noble things.
That brave serenity I pray to know
When out with Death into the night I go.

By John William Streets

7/1/17 01:00 am - duathir - Robert Service, 'The Whistle Of Sandy McGraw'

Cross-post from war_poetry:

The Whistle Of Sandy McGraw

You may talk o' your lutes and your dulcimers fine,
Your harps and your tabors and cymbals and a',
But here in the trenches jist gie me for mine
The wee penny whistle o' Sandy McGraw.
Oh, it's: "Sandy, ma lad, will you lilt us a tune?"
And Sandy is willin' and trillin' like mad;
Sae silvery sweet that we a' throng aroun',
And some o' it's gay, but the maist o' it's sad.
Jist the wee simple airs that sink intae your hert,
And grup ye wi' love and wi' longin' for hame;
And ye glour like an owl till you're feelin' the stert
O' a tear, and you blink wi' a feelin' o' shame.
For his song's o' the heather, and here in the dirt
You listen and dream o' a land that's sae braw,
And he mak's you forget a' the harm and the hurt,
For he pipes like a laverock, does Sandy McGraw.

At Eepers I mind me when rank upon rank
We rose from the trenches and swept like the gale,
Till the rapid-fire guns got us fell on the flank
And the murderin' bullets came swishin' like hail:
Till a' that were left o' us faltered and broke;
Till it seemed for a moment a panicky rout,
When shrill through the fume and the flash and the smoke
The wee valiant voice o' a whistle piped out.
`The Campbells are Comin'': Then into the fray
We bounded wi' bayonets reekin' and raw,
And oh we fair revelled in glory that day,
Jist thanks to the whistle o' Sandy McGraw.

At Loose, it wis after a sconnersome fecht,
On the field o' the slain I wis crawlin' aboot;
And the rockets were burnin' red holes in the nicht;
And the guns they were veciously thunderin' oot;
When sudden I heard a bit sound like a sigh,
And there in a crump-hole a kiltie I saw:
"Whit ails ye, ma lad? Are ye woundit?" says I.
"I've lost ma wee whustle," says Sandy McGraw.
"'Twas oot by yon bing where we pressed the attack,
It drapped frae ma pooch, and between noo and dawn
There isna much time so I'm jist crawlin' back. . . ."
"Ye're daft, man!" I telt him, but Sandy wis gone.
Weel, I waited a wee, then I crawled oot masel,
And the big stuff wis gorin' and roarin' around,
And I seemed tae be under the oxter o' hell,
And Creation wis crackin' tae bits by the sound.
And I says in ma mind: "Gang ye back, ye auld fule!"
When I thrilled tae a note that wis saucy and sma';
And there in a crater, collected and cool,
Wi' his wee penny whistle wis Sandy McGraw.
Ay, there he wis playin' as gleg as could be,
And listenin' hard wis a spectacled Boche;
Then Sandy turned roon' and he noddit tae me,
And he says: "Dinna blab on me, Sergeant McTosh.
The auld chap is deein'. He likes me tae play.
It's makin' him happy. Jist see his een shine!"
And thrillin' and sweet in the hert o' the fray
Wee Sandy wis playin' The Watch on the Rhine.

The last scene o' a' -- 'twas the day that we took
That bit o' black ruin they ca' Labbiesell.
It seemed the hale hillside jist shivered and shook,
And the red skies were roarin' and spewin' oot shell.
And the Sergeants were cursin' tae keep us in hand,
And hard on the leash we were strainin' like dugs,
When upward we shot at the word o' command,
And the bullets were dingin' their songs in oor lugs.
And onward we swept wi' a yell and a cheer,
And a' wis destruction, confusion and din,
And we knew that the trench o' the Boches wis near,
And it seemed jist the safest bit hole tae be in.
So we a' tumbled doon, and the Boches were there,
And they held up their hands, and they yelled: "Kamarad!"
And I merched aff wi' ten, wi' their palms in the air,
And my! I wis prood-like, and my! I wis glad.
And I thocht: if ma lassie could see me jist then. . . .
When sudden I sobered at somethin' I saw,
And I stopped and I stared, and I halted ma men,
For there on a stretcher wis Sandy McGraw.
Weel, he looks in ma face, jist as game as ye please:
"Ye ken hoo I hate tae be workin'," says he;
"But noo I can play in the street for bawbees,
Wi' baith o' ma legs taken aff at the knee."
And though I could see he wis rackit wi' pain,
He reached for his whistle and stertit tae play;
And quaverin' sweet wis the pensive refrain:
The floors o' the forest are a' wede away.
Then sudden he stoppit: "Man, wis it no grand
Hoo we took a' them trenches?" . . . He shakit his heid:
"I'll -- no -- play -- nae -- mair ----" feebly doon frae his hand
Slipped the wee penny whistle and -- Sandy wis deid.

And so you may talk o' your Steinways and Strads,
Your wonderful organs and brasses sae braw;
But oot in the trenches jist gie me, ma lads,
Yon wee penny whistle o' Sandy McGraw.

By Robert W. Service

La Boiselle, First Battle of the Somme, July 1, 1916

'The Flowers of the Forest' - https://youtu.be/BOnjfo6f6kY
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6/29/17 01:00 am - duathir - Wilfrid Wilson Gibson, 'The Messages '

Cross-post from war_poetry:

The Messages

"I cannot quite remember... There were five
Dropt dead beside me in the trench - and three
Whispered their last messages to me..."

Back from the trenches, more dead than alive,
Stone-deaf and dazed, and with a broken knee,
He hobbled slowly, muttering vacantly:

"I cannot quite remember... There were five
Dropt dead beside me in the trench, and three
Whispered their dying messages to me...

"Their friends are waiting, wondering how they thrive -
Waiting a word in silence patiently...
But what they said, or who their friends may be

"I cannot quite remember... There were five
Dropt dead beside me in the trench - and three
Whispered their dying messages to me..."

by Wilfrid Wilson Gibson

6/27/17 01:00 am - duathir - . Willoughby Weaving, 'Birds in the Trenches'

Cross-post from war_poetry:

Birds in the Trenches

Ye fearless birds that live and fly where men
Can venture not and live, that even build
Your nests where oft the searching shrapnel shrilled
And conflict rattled like a serpent, when
The hot guns thundered further, and from his den
The little machine-gun spat, and men fell piled
In long-swept lines, as when a scythe has thrilled,
And tall corn tumbled ne'er to rise again.

Ye slight ambassadors twixt foe and foe,
Small parleyers of peace where no peace is,
Sweet disregarders of man's miseries
And his most murderous methods, winging slow
About your perilous nests - we thank you, so
Unconscious of sweet domesticities.

by Willoughby Weaving

6/25/17 01:00 am - duathir - T.P. Cameron Wilson, 'Magpies In Picardy'

Cross-post to war_poetry:

Magpies In Picardy

The magpies in Picardy
Are more than I can tell.
They flicker down the dusty roads
And cast a magic spell
On the men who march through Picardy,
Through Picardy to hell.

(The blackbird flies with panic,
The swallow goes with light,
The finches move like ladies,
The owl floats by at night;
But the great and flashing magpie
He flies as artists might.)

A magpie in Picardy
Told me secret things—
Of the music in white feathers,
And the sunlight that sings
And dances in deep shadows—
He told me with his wings.

(The hawk is cruel and rigid,
He watches from a height;
The rook is slow and sombre,
The robin loves to fight;
But the great and flashing magpie
He flies as lovers might.)

He told me that in Picardy,
An age ago or more,
While all his feathers still were eggs,
These dusty highways bore
Brown, singing soldiers marching out
Through Picardy to war.

He said that still through chaos
Works on the ancient plan,
And two things have altered not
Since first the world began—
The beauty of the wild green earth
And the bravery of man.

(For the sparrow flies unthinking
And quarrels in his flight;
The heron trails his legs behind,
The lark goes out of sight;
But the great and flashing magpie
He flies as poets might.)

by T.P. Cameron Wilson

6/23/17 01:00 am - duathir - Arthur Conan Doyle, 'The Guards Came Through'

Cross-post from war_poetry:

The Guards Came Through

Men of the Twenty-first
Up by the Chalk Pit Wood,
Weak with our wounds and our thirst,
Wanting our sleep and our food,
After a day and a night --
God, shall we ever forget!
Beaten and broke in the fight,
But sticking it -- sticking it yet.
Trying to hold the line,
Fainting and spent and done,
Always the thud and the whine,
Always the yell of the Hun!
Northumberland, Lancaster, York,
Durham and Somerset,
Fighting alone, worn to the bone,
But sticking it -- sticking it yet.

Never a message of hope!
Never a word of cheer!
Fronting Hill 70's shell-swept slope,
With the dull dead plain in our rear.
Always the whine of the shell,
Always the roar of its burst,
Always the tortures of hell,
As waiting and wincing we cursed
Our luck and the guns and the Boche,
When our Corporal shouted, "Stand to!"
And I heard some one cry, "Clear the front for the Guards!"
And the Guards came through.

Our throats they were parched and hot,
But Lord, if you'd heard the cheers!
Irish and Welsh and Scot,
Coldstream and Grenadiers.
Two brigades, if you please,
Dressing as straight as a hem,
We -- we were down on our knees,
Praying for us and for them!
Lord, I could speak for a week,
But how could you understand!
How should your cheeks be wet,
Such feelin's don't come to you.
But when can me or my mates forget,
When the Guards came through?

"Five yards left extend!"
If passed from rank to rank.
Line after line with never a bend,
And a touch of the London swank.
A trifle of swank and dash,
Cool as a home parade,
Twinkle and glitter and flash,
Flinching never a shade,
With the shrapnel right in their face
Doing their Hyde Park stunt,
Keeping their swing at an easy pace,
Arms at the trail, eyes front!

Man, it was great to see!
Man, it was fine to do!
It's a cot and a hospital ward for me,
But I'll tell'em in Blighty, wherever I be,
How the Guards came through.

by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The London Times, June 23, 1917

6/20/17 01:00 am - duathir - Gabrielle Elliot, 'Pierrot Goes To War'

Cross-post from war_poetry:

Pierrot Goes To War

In the sheltered garden pale beneath the moon,
(Drenched with swaying fragrance, redolent with June!)
There, among the shadows, someone lingers yet –
Pierrot, the lover, parts from Pierrette.

Bugles, bugles, bugles, blaring down the wind,
Sound the flaming challenge - Leave your dreams behind!
Come away from the shadows, turn your back on June –
Pierrot, go forward to face the golden noon.

In the muddy trenches, black and torn and still,
(How the charge swept over, to break against the hill!)
Huddled in the shadows, boyish figures lie –
They whom Death, saluting, called upon to die.

Bugles, ghostly bugles, whispering down the wind –
Dreams too soon are over, gardens left behind.
Only shadows linger, for love does not forget –
Pierrot goes forward – but what of Pierrette?

by Gabrielle Elliot

6/18/17 01:00 am - duathir - Wilfrid Wilson Gibson, 'Comrades'

Cross-post from war_poetry:


As I was marching in Flanders
A ghost kept step with me--
Kept step with me and chuckled
And muttered ceaselessly:

"Once I too marched in Flanders,
The very spit of you,
And just a hundred years since,
To fall at Waterloo.

"They buried me in Flanders
Upon the field of blood,
And long I've lain forgotten
Deep in the Flemmish mud.

"But now you march in Flanders,
The very spit of me;
To the ending of the day's march
I'll bear you company."

By Wilfrid Wilson Gibson

Battle of Waterloo, 18 June 1815

6/16/17 01:00 am - duathir - George Herbert Clarke, 'Lines Written In Surrey, 1917'

Cross-post from war_poetry:
Lines Written In Surrey, 1917

A sudden swirl of song in the bright sky—
The little lark adoring his lord the sun;
Across the corn the lazy ripples run;
Under the eaves, conferring drowsily,
Doves droop or amble; the agile waterfly
Wrinkles the pool; and flowers, gay and dun,
Rose, bluebell, rhododendron, one by one,
The buccaneering bees prove busily.
Ah, who may trace this tranquil loveliness
In verse felicitous?—no measure tells;
But gazing on her bosom we can guess
Why men strike hard for England in red hells,
Falling on dreams, 'mid Death's extreme caress,
Of English daisies dancing in English dells.

By George Herbert Clarke

6/15/17 01:00 am - duathir - Alexis Child, 'The Reprisal'

Cross-post from war_poetry:

The Reprisal

The slain arise from the dust
Hands awash in history's blood
Uncleansed from sorrow
In time's forgotten graves
Hear the call bringing darkness
The horrors of betrayal
The past shall revisit us
No escape

by Alexis Child
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