View Full Version : Selected Poetry From, The War In Verse and Prose, 1918, Eben B. Norris

Tyr-Ziu Saxnot
05-22-2015, 11:02 AM
I will post a few poems each day from this collection of poems written by combatants in the First World War.
Remember this, these are words written by educated by men(soldiers) that were facing death daily.
Many of these poets did not survive the war.... a great many became famous for the poetic words they birthed amid chaos, turmoil and death..

I trust many of these will give the reader a much greater insight into the grim reality of war and the desperation in men's souls when they faced death daily ,hourly , by the minute... ....-Tyr

The Soldier
Rupert Brooke, 1887 - 1915

If I should die, think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England’s, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.

And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.

Leslie Coulson’s output consists of one slim volume published posthumously in 1917, but one poem, Who Made the Law, has become familiar to readers of First World War poetry since its appearance in the Hibberd and Onions anthology of 1986.

Coulson’s father worked his way out of poverty in the East End of London to become a columnist on The Sunday Chronicle. He sent his two sons to a modest but progressive Norfolk boarding school which fostered imagination, love of nature and the principles of gentleness and justice. Leslie became a reporter on The Evening News. In 1914 he moved to The Standard as an assistant foreign editor but, when war broke out, enlisted as a private in the 2/2nd Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers.

The poetry he was writing at that time employed conventional literary notions and forms: pastoral motifs, archaic diction and the metre, imagery and refrains of the English ballad.

He left England on Christmas Eve 1914. The battalion went first to Malta but in October 1915, after a months training in Egypt, was shipped to Helles on the Gallipoli Peninsula. After twelve weeks in and out of the lines came the evacuation to Egypt. Coulson was taken to hospital, suffering from a fever. Rejoining his unit, he wrote The Call of the Sea, a poem which continues to take the natural world as its subject but reveals a new sense of the malevolence of nature.

In April 1916 the battalion went to France, where it was disbanded; Coulson, now a sergeant, was sent to the 1/12th Battalion (the Rangers) who on 1 July were in the diversionary attack on the Gommecourt salient north of the main Somme offensive. The Rangers lost 17 of their 23 officers and 498 of the 780 other ranks that day.

Two poems show a change taking place in Coulson’s writing. In But a Short Time to Live his treatment of war is grimly realistic, while The Rainbow shows him employing the familiar pastoral tradition for ironic purposes; but what is startling in the latter poem is the poets implication of himself and his companions as agents of the forces of darkness:

When night falls dark we creep
In silence to our dead.
We dig a few feet deep
And leave them there to sleep
But blood at night is red,
Yea, even at night,
And a dead mans face is white. And I dry my hands, that are also trained to kill,
And I look at the stars for the stars are beautiful still.

On 7 October the Rangers took part in the battle for the Transloy Ridges. Coulson, in the first wave of the attack, was shot in the chest. He died the next day at Grove Town casualty clearing station. The manuscript of Who Made the Law? was discovered amongst his possessions.

Until its close this poem might be read as a political statement, but the final stanza reveals it as a spiritual outcry. It is God who has betrayed the human race. Perhaps, like Owen or Rosenberg, Coulson would have moved on to a more complex view of religion or a more politicised perception of the war, but the poem is a poignant and compelling conclusion to his life and his career as a poet. It is an attempt to break into new forms, with its insistent hexameters and the way in which the familiar rural images are yoked terribly to images of death. But it is principally about the waste of human life. It is remarkable for its anger, its humanity, its foresight – and its form. And it was written in September 1916, barely half-way through the war.

But A Short Time to Live

by Leslie Coulson

Our little hour, — how swift it flies
When poppies flare and lilies smile;
How soon the fleeting minute dies,
Leaving us but a little while
To dream our dream, to sing our song,
To pick the fruit, to pluck the flower,
The Gods — They do not give us long, —
One little hour.
Our little hour, — how short it is
When Love with dew-eyed loveliness
Raises her lips for ours to kiss
And dies within our first caress.
Youth flickers out like wind-blown flame,
Sweets of to-day to-morrow sour,
For Time and Death, relentless, claim
Our little hour.

Our little hour, — how short a time
To wage our wars, to fan our hates,
To take our fill of armoured crime,
To troop our banners, storm the gates.
Blood on the sword, our eyes blood-red,
Blind in our puny reign of power,
Do we forget how soon is sped
Our little hour?

Our little hour, — how soon it dies:
How short a time to tell our beads,
To chant our feeble Litanies,
To think sweet thoughts, to do good deeds.
The altar lights grow pale and dim,
The bells hang silent in the tower —
So passes with the dying hymn
Our little hour.

Tyr-Ziu Saxnot
05-23-2015, 10:11 AM

Written at the battle front in France and sent to his mother, Mrs. W. E. Damon. Lieutenant Wickersham was killed in action September 14, 1918.

Rain On Your Old Tin Hat

THE mist hangs low and quiet on a ragged line of hills,
There's a whispering of wind across the flat;
You'd be feeling kind of lonesome if it wasn't for one thing--
The patter of the raindrops on your old tin hat.
An' you just can't help a-figuring--sitting here alone--
About this war and hero stuff and that,
And you wonder if they haven't sort of got things twisted up,
While the rain keeps up its patter on your old tin hat.
When you step off with the outfit to do your little bit,
You're simply doing what you're s'posed to do--
And you don't take time to figure what you gain or what you lose,
It's the spirit of the game that brings you through.
But back at home she's waiting, writing cheerful little notes,
And every night she offers up a prayer
And just keeps on a-hoping that her soldier boy is safe--
The mother of the boy who's over there.
And, fellows, she's the hero of this great big ugly war,
And her prayer is on that wind across the flat;
And don't you reckon maybe it's her tears, and not the rain,
That's keeping up the patter on your old tin hat?



O guns, fall silent till the dead men hear
Above their heads the legions pressing on:
(These fought their fight in time of bitter fear,
And died not knowing how the day had gone.)

O flashing muzzles, pause, and let them see
The coming dawn that strikes the sky afar;
Then let your mighty chorus witness be
To them, and Caesar, that we still make war.

Tell them, O guns, that we have heard their call,
That we have sworn, and will not turn aside,
That we will onward till we win or fall,
That we will keep the faith for which they died.

Bid them be patient, and some day, anon,
They shall feel earth enwrapt in silence deep;
Shall greet, in wonderment, the quiet dawn,
And in content may turn them to their sleep.

By: Lt. Col. John McCrae, M.D., 1872-1918

The Flower of Remembrance

Before he died, John McCrae had the satisfaction of knowing that his poem had been a success. Soon after its publication, it became the most popular poem on the First World War. It was translated into many languages and used on billboards advertising the sale of the first Victory Loan Bonds in Canada in 1917. Designed to raise $150,000,000, the campaign raised $400,000,000.

In part because of the poem's popularity, the poppy was adopted as the Flower of Remembrance for the war dead of Britain, France, the United States, Canada and other Commonwealth countries.

Today, people continue to pay tribute to the poet of In Flanders Fields by visiting McCrae House, the limestone cottage in Guelph, Ontario where he was born. The house has been preserved as a museum. Beside it are a memorial cenotaph and a garden of remembrance.

The symbolic poppy and John McCrae's poems are still linked and the voices of those who have died in war continue to be heard each Remembrance Day.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders Fields.


Tyr-Ziu Saxnot
05-24-2015, 10:40 AM

The Blue and the Gray in France

HERE'S to the Blue of the wind-swept North,
When we meet on the fields of France;
May the spirit of Grant be with you all
As the sons of the North advance.
And here's to the Gray of the sun-kissed South,
When we meet on the fields of France;
May the spirit of Lee be with you all
As the sons of the South advance.
And here's to the Blue and the Gray as one,
When we meet on the fields of France;
May the spirit of God be with us all
As the sons of the Flag advance.

Three Hills

By Everard Owen

THERE is a hill in England,
Green fields and a school I know,
Where the balls fly fast in summer,
And the whispering elm-trees grow,
A little hill, a dear hill, 5
And the playing fields below.

There is a hill in Flanders,
Heaped with a thousand slain,
Where the shells fly night and noontide
And the ghosts that died in vain,— 10
A little hill, a hard hill
To the souls that died in pain.

There is a hill in Jewry,
Three crosses pierce the sky,
On the midmost He is dying 15
To save all those who die,—
A little hill, a kind hill
To souls in jeopardy.
Harrow, December, 1915

Tyr-Ziu Saxnot
05-25-2015, 10:25 AM


By blazing homes, through forests torn
And blackened harvest fields,
The grim and drunken god of war
In frenzied fury reels.
His breath--the sulph'rous stench of guns--
That death and famine deals
And Pity, pleading, wounded falls
Beneath his steel-shod heels.

May Herschel-Clarke
May Herschel-Clarke was an English poet. She is chiefly known today for her anti-war poems Nothing to Report and The Mother, the latter of which was published in 1917 as a direct response to Rupert Brooke's famous poem The Soldier.
Born: 1850
Died: 1950

The Mother

*If I should die, think only this of me:
That there's some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. Rupert Brook*

If you should die, think only this of me
In that still quietness where is space for thought,
Where parting, loss and bloodshed shall not be,
And men may rest themselves and dream of nought:
That in some place a mystic mile away
One whom you loved has drained the bitter cup
Till there is nought to drink; has faced the day
Once more, and now, has raised the standard up.

And think, my son, with eyes grown clear and dry
She lives as though for ever in your sight,
Loving the things you loved, with heart aglow
For country, honour, truth, traditions high,
—Proud that you paid their price. (And if some night
Her heart should break—well, lad, you will not know.
May Herschel-Clarke

Tyr-Ziu Saxnot
05-26-2015, 10:32 AM

The War Horse


Shortly after the verses here following were received from France by the American Red Star Animal Relief, Lieutenant Fleming fell in action. His voice, coming to us as from a plane of life where dumb creatures do not suffer, is a call to civilization to do its duty by the animals whose kind were silent heroes of the war.

WHEN the shells are bursting round,
Making craters in the ground,
And the rifle fire's something awful cruel,
When you 'ear them in the night
(My Gawd! it makes you fight!)
An' yer thinks of them poor souls agoing 'ome,
When you 'ear the Sergeant shout
"Get y 'r respirators out,"
Then you looks and sees a cloud of something white.
The gas is coming on
An' yer knows before it's gone
That the 'orse wots with you now won't be by then;
Yer loves him like yer wife
An' yer wants to save 'is life,
But there ain't no respirators, not for them.
I was standing by 'is side
On the night my old 'orse died,
An' I shan't forget 'is looks towards the last.
'E is choking mighty bad,
An' is eyes was looking mad,
An' I seed that--'e--was dying--dying fast.
An' I want to tell yer 'ow
It's the 'orses gets us through,
For they strains their blooming 'earts out when they're pressed.
We was galloping like 'ell
When a bullet 'its old Bill,
I c'd see the blood a-streaming down 'is face,
It 'ad got 'im in the 'ead,
But 'e stuck to it and led
Till we comes to ''Action right,''
An' then 'e fell.
I 'adn't time to choose
I 'ad to cut 'im loose,
For 'e'd done all 'e c'd afore a gun.
When I looks at 'im again
'E was out of all 'is pain,
An' I 'opes 'is soul will rest for wot 'e done.
If it 'adn't been for Bill
We should all 'ave been in 'ell,
For we only got in action just in time.
Ain't it once occurred to you
Wot the 'orses there go through?
They 'elps to win our fight an' does it fine.
When 'is blood is flowing 'ot
From a wound what 'e's just got
An' 'is breath is coming 'ard an' short an' thin.
'E can see the men about,
Getting water dealed out,
But not a drop is brought to comfort 'im;
Tho 'is tongue is parched and dry,
'E can see the water by,
But 'is wounds are left to bleed,
An' 'e can't tell us 'is need,
So 'e's just got to bear 'is pain--an' think.
There are 'eroes big and small,
But the biggest of them all
Is the 'orse wot lays a--dying on the ground.
'E doesn't cause no wars,
An' 'e's only fighting yours,
An' 'e gives 'is life for you without a sound.
'E doesn't get no pay,
Just some oats, and p'r'aps some hay;
If 'e's killed, no one thinks a bit of 'im
"E's just as brave an' good
As any men wot ever stood,
But there's mighty little though or 'elp for 'im.

Tyr-Ziu Saxnot
05-28-2015, 10:39 AM
The Boy Next Door


IN The Saturday Evening Post
Permission to reproduce in this book

THERE used to be a boy next door
Whom I often have longed to throttle;
I've wished a thousand times and more
That he had died while "on the bottle"!
Oft in the past it has been hard
For me to check my inclination,
When he had cluttered up our yard,
To hand him heavy castigation.
With freckles on his tilted nose
And ears that far in space protruded,
He was not one, as heaven knows,
To whom I in my prayers alluded.
Derisively he showed his tongue
And scorned the warnings which I gave him,
But now I list myself among
The ones who pray the Lord to save him.
How vividly I can recall
Him at the window, making faces;
I used to think that in him all
The impish traits had lurking places.
He stole the green fruit from my trees,
Not caring how it might affect him;
Today he's fighting overseas,
And may the God of hosts protect him!
From childhood into youth he passed,
And then my little garden flourished;
And still his friendship was not classed
Among the treasures which I nourished.
He tortured first a slide trombone,
And next he tried a squeaky fiddle;
His voice took on a raucous tone
That used to rasp me down the middle.
How soldierly our lad appeared
When with his comrades he departed!
I wonder if he knew I cheered,
Or guessed that I was heavy--hearted.
If I have damned him heretofore
I now retract each foul aspersion
God bless the boy who lived next door,
And used to be my pet aversion!

Tyr-Ziu Saxnot
05-29-2015, 08:19 PM

by Robert William Service

In the shadow of the grave
I will be brave;
I'll smile,--I know I will
E'er I be still;
Because I will not smile
So long a while.

But I'll be sad, I fear,
And shed a tear,
For those I love and leave
My loss to grieve:
'Tis just their grief I'll grieve,
Believe, believe.

Not for myself I care
As forth I fare;
But for those left behind
Wae is my mind
Knowing how they will miss
My careless kiss.

Oh I'll be brave when I
Shall come to die;
With courage I will quaff
The Cup and laugh,
Aye, even mock at Death
With failing breath.

It is not those who go
Who suffer woe;
But stricken ones who bide
By cold bedside:
God comfort you who keep
Watch by my sleep!

Tyr-Ziu Saxnot
05-31-2015, 10:56 AM
Two poems by Paul Granier translated by Ian Higgins
Posted on 17 January 2014 by David Roberts

TWO POEMS BY PAUL GRANIER from Cockerels and Vultures

The Andante

The rain, endlessly unravelling;

the rain, shovelling at the mud the whole sullen day;

the rain, unendingly sobbing its toneless chords;

and the whispering wind, crumbling the cloud into drizzle . . .

Why, this evening, am I haunted so

by that majestic andante

from the Seventh Symphony?

Its chords, as magnificently simple

as the triumphal arches of the ancients,

hold me in a vast enchantment.

Its harmony is velvet to my soul,

its murmur a caress that soothes

the melancholy as we pick our way

along the bank of this canal.

The rain has never stopped . . .

The mud is all long, snaking rivulets of agate

and clouded onyx, chopped into splashes

with every drawn-out hoof-fall of my horse.

The rain has never stopped, the whole lead-blue day.

The andante

gently eases my resentment

with its divine serenity . . .

Ah, those Sundays, not two years ago —

the Sunday afternoons,

the lamp-lit hall,

the huge orchestra a single mind and spirit

in every flying bow-tip:

The miraculous fluid

a fountain spreading up to the galleries, then

falling like snowflakes onto souls laid bare,

like springtime sunlight through stained glass

on a girl’s communion veil.

The andante,

the andante is gentle, with a touch of sadness,

like an autumn evening over ponds,

or the voix céleste of an organ;

and my chrysalid soul

weaves itself a wonderful cocoon

from this aching blessedness,

on the purple silk weft of the rain.

Paul Granier, Chauvoncourt road. 1915, translated by Ian Higgins.


The Mortars

Juddering iron buckets clanging,

jerking deadweight chains clanking,

the thunderlumbering caravan

labours on, along the baking roads and tracks,

all thunderous crash and clash.

The straining, weary horses

ponderingly nod,

as though to doubt

their onward slog will ever end . . .

Wheels as thick as millstones

mill the crunching road.

And in towns and villages along the way

thunderstruck groups watch

the deadweight cortege of death grind past,

the squat carriages, bolt-stubbled muscles bulging,

and, mute, menacing, brutal,

the black barrels, muzzled and bound like lunatics.

Paul Granier, 1914, translated by Ian Higgins.

This entry was posted in War Poetry News by David Roberts.