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The Great War

The war to end all wars.

8/4/17 01:00 am - duathir - A. E. Housman, 'I Did Not Lose My Heart In Summer's Even'

Cross-post from war_poetry:

I Did Not Lose My Heart In Summer's Even

I did not lose my heart in summer's even,
When roses to the moonrise burst apart:
When plumes were under heel and lead was flying,
In blood and smoke and flame I lost my heart.

I lost it to a soldier and a foeman,
A chap that did not kill me but he tried;
And took the saber straight and took it striking
And laughed and kissed his hand to me and died.

by A. E. Housman

8/3/17 01:00 am - duathir - Robert Nichols, 'Battle'

Cross-post from war_poetry:


1. Noon

It is midday; the deep trench glares....
A buzz and blaze of flies....
The hot wind puffs the giddy airs....
The great sun rakes the skies.

No sound in all the stagnant trench
Where forty standing men
Endure the sweat and grit and stench,
Like cattle in a pen.

Sometimes a sniper's bullet whirs
Or twangs the whining wire,
Sometimes a soldier sighs and stirs
As in hell's frying fire.

From out a high, cool cloud descends
An aeroplane's far moan,
The sun strikes down, the thin cloud rends....
The black speck travels on.

And sweating, dizzed, isolate
In the hot trench beneath,
We bide the next shrewd move of fate
Be it of life or death.

2. Night Bombardment

Softly in the silence the evening rain descends....
The soft wind lifts the rain-mist, flurries it, and spends
Itself in mournful sighs, drifting from field to field,
Soaking the draggled sprays which the low hedges wield
As they labour in the wet and the load of the wind.
The last light is dimming. Night comes on behind.

I hear no sound but the wind and the rain,
And trample of horses, loud and lost again
Where the wagons in the mist rumble dimly on
Bringing more shell.
The last gleam is gone.
It is not day or night; only the mists unroll
And blind with their sorrow the sight of my soul.
I hear the wind weeping in the hollow overhead:
She goes searching for the forgotten dead
Hidden in the hedges or trodden into muck
Under the trenches or maybe limply stuck
Somewhere in the branches of a high, lonely tree -
He was a sniper once. They never found his body.

I see the mist drifting. I hear the wind, the rain,
And on my clammy face the oozed breath of the slain
Seems to be blowing. Almost I have heard
In the shuddering drift the lost dead's last word:
Go home, go home, go to my house,
Knock at the door, knock hard, arouse
My wife and the children - that you must do -
What d' you say? - Tell the children too -
Knock at the door, knock hard, and arouse
The living. Say: the dead won't come back to this house.
Oh... but it's cold - I soak in the rain -
Shrapnel found me - I shan't go home again.
No, not home again - The mourning voices trail
Away into rain, into darkness... the pale
Soughing of the night drifts on in between.

The Voices were as if the dead had never been.

O melancholy heavens, O melancholy fields!
The glad, full darkness grows complete and shields
Me from your appeal.

With a terrible delight
I hear far guns low like oxen, at the night.

Flames disrupt the sky. The work is begun.
"Action!" My guns crash, flame, rock, and stun
Again and again. Soon the soughing night
Is loud with their clamour and leaps with their light.

The imperative chorus rises sonorous and fell:
My heart glows lighted as by fires of hell,
Sharply I pass the terse orders down.
The guns stun and rock. The hissing rain is blown
Athwart the hurtling shell that shrilling, shrilling goes
Away into the dark to burst a cloud of rose
Over their trenches.

A pause: I stand and see
Lifting into the night like founts incessantly,
The pistol-lights' pale spores upon the glimmering air...
Under them furrowed trenches empty, pallid, bare....
And rain snowing trenchward ghostly and white,
O dead in the hedges, sleep ye well to-night!

by Robert Nichols

8/2/17 01:00 am - duathir - Sabaton, 'The Price of a Mile'

Cross-post from war_poetry:

The Price of a Mile

Hear the sound of a machinegun
Hear it echo in the night
Mortars firing rains the scene
Scars the fields
that once were green

It's a stalemate at the frontline
where the soldiers rest in mud
roads and houses
all is gone
there is no glory to be won

know that many men will suffer
know that many men will die
half a million lives at stake
Ask the fields of Passchendaele

And as the night falls the general calls
and the battle carries on and on
How long?
What is the purpose of it all
What's the price of a mile?

Thousands of feet march to the beat
It's an army on the march
Long way from home
Paying the price in young men's lives
Thousands of feet march to the beat
It's an army in despair
Knee-deep in mud
Stuck in the trench with no way out

Thousands of machineguns
Kept on firing through the night
Mortars blazed and wrecked the scene
Guns in the fields that once were green

Still a deadlock at the frontline
Where the soldiers die in mud
roads and houses since long gone
still no glory has been won
know that many men has suffered
know that many men has died

Six miles of ground has been won
Half a million men are gone
And as the men crawled the general called
And the killing carried on and on
How long?
What's the purpose of it all?
What's the price of a mile?

Thousands of feet march to the beat
It's an army on the march
Long way from home
Paying the price in young men's lives
Thousands of feet march to the beat
It's an army in despair
Knee-deep in mud
Stuck in the trench with no way out

Young men are dying
They pay the price
Oh how they suffer
So tell me what's the price of a mile

That's the price of a mile.

Thousands of feet march to the beat
It's an army on the march
Long way from home
Paying the price in young men's lives
Thousands of feet march to the beat
It's an army in despair
Knee-deep in mud
Stuck in the trench with no way out

by 'Sabaton'


8/1/17 01:00 pm - duathir - Walter de la Mare, 'Dry August Burned'

Cross-post from war_poetry:

Dry August Burned

Dry August burned. A harvest hare
Limp on the kitchen table lay,
Its fur blood-blubbered, eye astare,
While a small child that stood near by
Wept out her heart to see it there.

Sharp came the clop of hoofs, the clang
Of dangling chain, voices that rang
Out like a leveret she ran,
To feast her glistening bird-clear eyes
On a team of field artillery
Gay, to manaeuvres, thudding by.
Spur and gun and limber plate
Flashed in the sun. Alert, elate,
Noble horses, foam at lip,
Harness, stirrup, holster, whip,
She watched the sun-tanned soldiery,
Till dust-white hedge had hidden away —
Its din into a rumour thinned —
The laughing, jolting, wild array:
And then — the wonder and tumult gone —
Stood nibbling a green leaf, alone,
Her dark eyes, dreaming. . . . She turned, and ran,
Elf-like, into the house again.
The hare had vanished. . . . ' Mother, ' she said,
Her tear-stained cheek now flushed with red,
' Please, may I go and see it skinned? '

By Walter de la Mare

8/1/17 01:00 am - duathir - Francis Ledwidge, 'Fate'

Cross-post from war_poetry:


Lugh made a stir in the air
With his sword of cries,
And fairies thro' hidden ways
Came from the skies,
And their spells withered up the fair
And vanquished the wise.

And old lame Balor came down
With his gorgon eye
Hidden behind its lid,
Old, withered and dry.
He looked on the wattle town,
And the town passed by.

These things I know in my dreams,
The crying sword of Lugh,
And Balor's ancient eye
Searching me through,
Withering up my songs
And my pipe yet new.

By Francis Ledwidge

Francis Edward Ledwidge was killed on the first day of the Battle of Passchendaele, July 31, 1917

7/31/17 02:00 am - duathir - Gillian Clarke, 'Eisteddfod of the Black Chair'

Cross-post from war_poetry:

Eisteddfod of the Black Chair
(for Hedd Wyn, 1887-1917)

Robert Graves met him once,
in the hills above Harlech,
the shepherd poet,
the awdl and the englyn in his blood
like the heft of the mountain
in the breeding of his flock.

In a letter from France, he writes
of poplars whispering, the sun going down
among the foliage like an angel of fire,
and flowers half hidden in leaves
growing in a spent shell.
'Beauty is stronger than war.'

Yet he heard sorrow in the wind, foretold
blood in the rain reddening the fields
under the shadow of crows,
till he fell to his knees at Passchendaele,
grasping two fists-full of earth, a shell to the stomach
opening its scarlet blossom.

At the Eisteddfod they called his name three times,
his audience waiting to rise, thrilled,
to crown him, chair him,
to sing the hymn of peace,
not 'the festival in tears and the poet in his grave',
a black sheet placed across the empty chair.

by Gillian Clarke

"Hedd Wyn is the bardic name of Ellis Evans, eldest of 11 children of a north Wales hill farmer. I take his description of the beauty of France, and his foreboding of fields red with blood, from a letter he wrote home. A friend saw him struck, and fall. The "black chair" is a famously tragic image of the National Eisteddfod where, days later, he was announced as the anonymous poet who had won the chair."

7/31/17 01:00 am - duathir - Hedd Wyn, 'War'

Cross-post from war_poetry:


Bitter to live in times like these.
While God declines beyond the seas;
Instead, man, king or peasantry,
Raises his gross authority.

When he thinks God has gone away
Man takes up his sword to slay
His brother; we can hear death's roar.
It shadows the hovels of the poor.

Like the old songs they left behind,
We hung our harps in the willows again.
Ballads of boys blow on the wind,
Their blood is mingled with the rain.

By Hedd Wyn

Original Welsh:

Gwae fi fy myw mewn oes mor ddreng,
A Duw ar drai ar orwel pell;
O'i ôl mae dyn, yn deyrn a gwreng,
Yn codi ei awdurdod hell.

Pan deimlodd fyned ymaith Dduw
Cyfododd gledd i ladd ei frawd;
Mae swn yr ymladd ar ein clyw,
A'i gysgod ar fythynnod tlawd.

Mae'r hen delynau genid gynt,
Ynghrog ar gangau'r helyg draw,
A gwaedd y bechgyn lond y gwynt,
A'u gwaed yn gymysg efo'r glaw

Hedd Wyn was killed in action July 31, 1917, at the opening battle of Passchendaele

7/30/17 01:00 am - duathir - Francis Ledwidge, 'Soliloquy'

Cross-post from war_poetry:


And now I'm drinking wine in France,
The helpless child of circumstance.
To-morrow will be loud with war,
How will I be accounted for?

It is too late now to retrieve
A fallen dream, too late to grieve
A name unmade, but not too late
To thank the gods for what is great;
A keen-edged sword, a soldier's heart,
Is greater than a poet's art.
And greater than a poet's fame
A little grave that has no name.

By Francis Ledwidge

Francis Edward Ledwidge was killed on the first day of the Battle of Passchendaele, July 31, 1917

7/28/17 01:00 am - duathir - Leon Gellert, 'Before Action'

Cross-post from war_poetry:

Before Action

We always had to do our work at night.
I wondered why we had to be so sly.
I wondered why we couldn’t have our fight
Under the open sky.
I wondered why I always felt so cold.
I wondered why the orders seemed so slow,
So slow to come, so whisperingly told,
So whisperingly low.
I wondered if my packing-straps were tight,
And wondered why I wondered … Sound
went wild …
An order came … I ran into the night,
Wondering why I smiled.

by Leon Gellert

7/27/17 12:00 am - duathir - Arthur Conan Doyle, 'The Guns In Sussex''

Cross-post from war_poetry:

The Guns in Sussex

Light green of grass and richer green of bush
Slope upwards to the darkest green of fir;
How still! How deathly still! And yet the hush
Shivers and trembles with some subtle stir,
Some far-off throbbing like a muffled drum,
Beaten in broken rhythm oversea,
To play the last funereal march of some
Who die to-day that Europe may be free.

The deep-blue heaven, curving from the green,
Spans with its shimmering arch the flowery zone;
In all God's earth there is no gentler scene,
And yet I hear that awesome monotone;
Above the circling midge's piping shrill,
And the long droning of the questing bee,
Above all sultry summer sounds, it still
Mutters its ceaseless menaces to me.
And as I listen, all the garden fair
Darkens to plains of misery and death,
And, looking past the roses, I see there
Those sordid furrows with the rising breath
Of all things foul and black. My heart is hot
Within me as I view it, and I cry,
"Better the misery of these men's lot
Than all the peace that comes to such as I!"

And strange that in the pauses of the sound
I hear the children's laughter as they roam,
And then their mother calls, and all around
Rise up the gentle murmurs of a home.
But still I gaze afar, and at the sight
My whole soul softens to its heart-felt prayer,
"Spirit of Justice, Thou for whom they fight,
Ah, turn in mercy to our lads out there!

"The froward peoples have deserved Thy wrath,
And on them is the Judgment as of old,
But if they wandered from the hallowed path,
Yet is their retribution manifold.
Behold all Europe writhing on the rack,
The sins of fathers grinding down the sons,
How long, O Lord?" He sends no answer back,
But still I hear the mutter of the guns.

By Arthur Conan Doyle
The London Times, July 27, 1917
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