War Poetry
Page 17 of 20

Author:  Marion Arnott [ Tue Nov 10, 2009 5:27 pm ]
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Siegfried Sassoon

Have you forgotten yet?...
For the world's events have rumbled on since those gagged days,
Like traffic checked while at the crossing of city-ways:
And the haunted gap in your mind has filled with thoughts that flow
Like clouds in the lit heaven of life; and you're a man reprieved to go,
Taking your peaceful share of Time, with joy to spare.
But the past is just the same--and War's a bloody game...
Have you forgotten yet?...
Look down, and swear by the slain of the War that you'll never forget.

Do you remember the dark months you held the sector at Mametz--
The nights you watched and wired and dug and piled sandbags on parapets?
Do you remember the rats; and the stench
Of corpses rotting in front of the front-line trench--
And dawn coming, dirty-white, and chill with a hopeless rain?
Do you ever stop and ask, 'Is it all going to happen again?'

Do you remember that hour of din before the attack--
And the anger, the blind compassion that seized and shook you then
As you peered at the doomed and haggard faces of your men?
Do you remember the stretcher-cases lurching back
With dying eyes and lolling heads--those ashen-grey
Masks of the lads who once were keen and kind and gay?

Have you forgotten yet?...
Look up, and swear by the green of the spring that you'll never forget.

Author:  Marion Arnott [ Wed Nov 18, 2009 11:54 pm ]
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Archibald MacLeish

Nevertheless they are heard in the still houses: who has not heard them?

They have a silence that speaks for them at night and when the clock counts.

They say, We were young. We have died. Remember us.

They say, We have done what we could but until it is finished it is not done.

They say, We have given our lives but until it is finished no one can know what our lives gave.

They say, Our deaths are not ours: they are yours: they will mean what you make them.

They say, Whether our lives and our deaths were for peace and a new hope or for nothing we cannot say: it is you who must say this.

They say, We leave you our deaths: give them their meaning: given them an end to the war and a true peace: give them a victory that ends the war and a peace afterwards: give them their meaning.

We were young, they say. We have died. Remember us.

Author:  Marion Arnott [ Sat Nov 28, 2009 7:01 pm ]
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Confession in Wartime

Henry Treece

Once, long ago, I ran beneath the sun,
Loved his warm hand upon me, kind as fur;
With arms and legs I swung a wide world over,
Brother to men of ice and girls of fire.
Then, words were air, and only hands showed hearts,
And only hearts showed love—or only hate;
Between the two worlds tinkling in my head
There was no place for poetry, no seat
Where I as white-haired shadow of myself
Could sit and count the hours, call to the feet
Of lusty bone and "blood that bore my soul
Each minute nearer to perdition's gate.
Now, not so much older—yet so old—
The fire is smothered, and my roaring men
Have whisked away my maidens to a land
Where they can laugh beneath another sun.
This hand, poor prince, that swung a rascal's stave,
Now prideless, begs a favour from the pen;
These eyes, now dull, that once a god's world knew,
Will glitter only in that moment when
They see I still exist upon a page.
My two worlds gone, I tread now like a ghost,
Intangible and featureless, alive
Only as letters crossing in the post.

Author:  Marion Arnott [ Sat Dec 19, 2009 2:19 am ]
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In the Morning
by Patrick MacGill
(Loos, 1915)

The firefly haunts were lighted yet,
As we scaled the top of the parapet;
But the east grew pale to another fire,
As our bayonets gleamed by the foeman's wire;
And the sky was tinged with gold and grey,
And under our feet the dead men lay,
Stiff by the loop-holed barricade;
Food of the bomb and the hand-grenade;
Still the slushy pool and mud -
Ah, the path we came was a path of blood,
When we went to Loos in the morning.

A little grey church at the foot of a hill,
With powdered glass on the window-sill -
The shell-scarred stone and the broken tile,
Littered the chancel, nave and aisle -
Broken the altar and smashed the pyx,
And the rubble covered the crucifix;
This we saw when the charge was done,
And the gas-clouds paled in the rising sun,
As we entered Loos in the morning.

The dead men lay on the shell-scarred plain,
Where Death and the Autumn held their reign -
Like banded ghosts in the heavens grey
The smoke of the powder paled away;
Where riven and rent the spinney trees
Shivered and shook in the sullen breeze,
And there, where the trench through the graveyard wound
The dead men's bones stuck over the ground
By the road to Loos in the morning.

The turret towers that stood in the air,
Sheltered a foeman sniper there -
They found, who fell to the sniper's aim,
A field of death on the field of fame;
And stiff in khaki the boys were laid
To the sniper's toll at the barricade,
But the quick went clattering through the town,
Shot at the sniper and brought him down,
As we entered Loos in the morning.

The dead men lay on the cellar stair,
Toll of the bomb that found them there.
In the street men fell as a bullock drops,
Sniped from the fringe of the Hulluch copse.
And the choking fumes of the deadly shell
Curtained the place where our comrades fell.
This we saw when the charge was done
And the east blushed red to the rising sun
In the town of Loos in the morning.

Author:  Marion Arnott [ Sun Feb 14, 2010 12:16 am ]
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A Wartime Education
U A Fanthorpe

Lessons with Mam'zelle were difficult.
Le général would crop up in the middle of
The most innocent Daudet. Tears for la France,
La belle France embarrassed our recitation
Of nouns with tricky plurals: hibou, chou, hélas, bijou.

A father in uniform conferred status. Mine,
Camping it up with the Home Guard in Kent
On summer nights, too human for heroics.

Bananas and oranges, fruit of triumphant
Decimated convoys, were amazements
Of colour and light, too beautiful to eat.
(In any case, eating three bananas
Straight off, one after the other,
Was certain death. We all knew that.)

Struggling though adolescence, trying
To accommodate Macbeth, parents, God,
Teachers of mathematics, it was hard
To sustain plain hatred for the Hun,

Known only as nightly whines, searchlights, thuds, bomb-sites.
Might he not, like Aeneas, have reasons
(Insufficient, but understandable) for what he did?
I found it hard to remember which side

I was on, argued endlessly at home,
Once, rashly, in a bus, and had to be defended
By mother from a war-widow. Careless talk
Costs lives warned the posters. I had no secrets

To offer, but acquired a habit of
Permanent secrecy, never admitted
How I hated the wolf-whistling lorry-loaded
Soldiers, passing me en route to D-Day.

Author:  Marion Arnott [ Sat Feb 27, 2010 8:41 pm ]
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Shellshock: ... e-day-poem

Author:  Marion Arnott [ Fri Jun 11, 2010 10:12 pm ]
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WE ate our breakfast lying on our backs,
Because the shells were screeching overhead.
I bet a rasher to a loaf of bread
That Hull United would beat Halifax
When Jimmy Strainthorpe played full-back instead
Of Billy Bradford. Ginger raised his head
And cursed, and took the bet; and dropt back dead.
We ate our breakfast lying on our backs,
Because the shells were screeching overhead.

Wilfred Gibson

Author:  Marion Arnott [ Thu Sep 09, 2010 5:19 pm ]
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I walked from Ypres to Passchendale
In the first grey days of spring
Through flatland fields where life goes on
And carefree children sing
Round rows of ancient tombstones
Where a generation lies
And at last I understood
Why old men cry

Dick Gaughan

Author:  Marion Arnott [ Fri Nov 12, 2010 11:13 pm ]
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Good documentary about Keith Douglas, war poet ,here: ... h_Douglas/

Cairo Jag

Keith Douglas

Shall I get drunk or cut myself a piece of cake,
a pasty Syrian with a few words of English
or the Turk who says she is a princess--she dances
apparently by levitation? Or Marcelle, Parisienne
always preoccupied with her dull dead lover:
she has all the photographs and his letters
tied in a bundle and stamped Decede in mauve ink.
All this takes place in a stink of jasmin.

But there are the streets dedicated to sleep
stenches and the sour smells, the sour cries
do not disturb their application to slumber
all day, scattered on the pavement like rags
afflicted with fatalism and hashish. The women
offering their children brown-paper breasts
dry and twisted, elongated like the skull,
Holbein's signature. But his stained white town
is something in accordance with mundane conventions-
Marcelle drops her Gallic airs and tragedy
suddenly shrieks in Arabic about the fare
with the cabman, links herself so
with the somnambulists and legless beggars:
it is all one, all as you have heard.

But by a day's travelling you reach a new world
the vegetation is of iron
dead tanks, gun barrels split like celery
the metal brambles have no flowers or berries
and there are all sorts of manure, you can imagine
the dead themselves, their boots, clothes and possessions
clinging to the ground, a man with no head
has a packet of chocolate and a souvenir of Tripoli.

Author:  Marion Arnott [ Sat Nov 13, 2010 4:40 pm ]
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Wilfred Owen

His fingers wake, and flutter up the bed.
His eyes come open with a pull of will,
Helped by the yellow may-flowers by his head.
A blind-cord drawls across the window-sill...
How smooth the floor of the ward is! what a rug!
And who's that talking, somewhere out of sight?
Why are they laughing? What's inside that jug?
"Nurse! Doctor!" "Yes; all right, all right."

But sudden dusk bewilders all the air -
There seems no time to want a drink of water.
Nurse looks so far away. And everywhere
Music and roses burnt through crimson slaughter.
Cold; cold; he's cold; and yet so hot:
And there's no light to see the voices by -
No time to dream, and ask - he knows not what.

Author:  Marion Arnott [ Tue Jan 25, 2011 6:12 pm ]
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A selection of Brian Turner's poetry, courtesy of the Sunday Times.

Author:  Marion Arnott [ Thu Feb 17, 2011 11:19 pm ]
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by: Aeschylus (c. 525-456 B.C.)
translated by E. H. Plumptre

From Agamemnon

Spectral forms in visions of the night
Come, bringing sorrow with their vain delight:
For vain it is when one
Thinks that great joy is near,
And, passing through his hands, the dream is gone
On gliding wings, that bear
The vision far away on paths of sleep.
Such woes were felt at home
Upon the sacred altar of the hearth,
And worse than these remain for those who roam
From Hellas' parent earth:
In every house, in number measureless,
Is seen a sore distress:
Yea, sorrows pierce the heart:
For those who from his home he saw depart
Each knoweth all too well;
And now, instead of warrior's living frame,
There cometh to the home where each did dwell
The scanty ashes, relics of the flame,
The urn of bronze that keep
The dust of those who sleep.

Author:  Marion Arnott [ Sat Mar 05, 2011 5:15 pm ]
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Today's Saturday Poem from the Guardian:

Godzilla in Mexico
Roberto Bolaño

Listen carefully, my son: bombs were falling
over Mexico City
but no one even noticed.
The air carried poison through
the streets and open windows.
You'd just finished eating and were watching
cartoons on TV.
I was reading in the bedroom next door
when I realized we were going to die.
Despite the dizziness and nausea I dragged myself
to the kitchen and found you on the floor.
We hugged. You asked what was happening
and I didn't tell you we were on death's program
but instead that we were going on a journey,
one more, together, and that you shouldn't be afraid.
When it left, death didn't even
close our eyes.
What are we? you asked a week or year later,
ants, bees, wrong numbers
in the big rotten soup of chance?
We're human beings, my son, almost birds,
public heroes and secrets.

From The Romantic Dogs by Roberto Bolaño, translated by Laura Healy (Picador, £8.99). To order a copy for £7.19 with free UK p&p call Guardian book service on 0330 333 6846 or go to

Author:  Marion Arnott [ Sun Mar 27, 2011 12:44 am ]
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Siegfried Sassoon

He stood alone in some queer sunless place
Where Armageddon ends. Perhaps he longed
For days he might have lived; but his young face
Gazed forth untroubled: and suddenly there thronged
Round him the hulking Germans that I shot
When for his death my brooding rage was hot.

He stared at them, half-wondering; and then
They told him how I’d killed them for his sake—
Those patient, stupid, sullen ghosts of men;
And still there seemed no answer he could make.
At last he turned and smiled. One took his hand
Because his face could make them understand.

Author:  Marion Arnott [ Sun Apr 17, 2011 4:28 pm ]
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Courtesy of the Sunday Telegraph, five new war poems, part of an anthology called 'Injured' which will be launched in time for Remembrance Day. ... verse.html

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