Tag Archives: World War I

Friday Poem – The Dead Beat

poppiesIn honour of the centenary of the Battle of the Somme, here is a poem by Wilfred Owen, based on a real-life incident he saw in France, and the first he wrote after meeting his mentor Siegfried Sassoon.

In this poem he relies heavily on speech and straight-forward description to show us both the pity and horror of war.

The Dead Beat

He dropped, – more sullenly than wearily,
Lay stupid like a cod, heavy like meat,
And none of us could kick him to his feet;
-just blinked at my revolver, blearily;
– Didn’t appear to know a war was on,
Or see the blasted trench at which he stared.
‘I’ll do ’em in,’ he whined. ‘If this hand’s spared,
I’ll murder them, I will.’

A low voice said,
‘It’s Blighty, p’raps, he sees; his pluck’s all gone,
Dreaming of all the valiant, that aren’t dead:
Bold uncles, smiling ministerially;
Maybe his brave young wife, getting her fun
In some new home, improved materially.
It’s not these stiffs have crazed him; nor the Hun.’

We sent him down at last, out of the way.
Unwounded; – stout lad, too, before that strafe.
Malingering? Stretcher-bearers winked, ‘Not half!’

Next day I heard the Doc’s well-whiskied laugh:
‘That scum you sent last night soon died. Hooray!’

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The Soldier

This wonderful and poignant poem by Rupert Brookes is perhaps amongst the most famous poems written during the 1st World War.poppies

For all the fallen in conflict since 1914 – thank you for your sacrifice in trying to make the world a better place.

The Soldier

IF I should die, think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is forever 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 the 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.

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Friday Poem – Trees

A beautiful poem for this sultry Friday, by the American poet Joyce Kilmer (1886-1918). He was born in New Brunswick, New Jersey and died on 30th July 1918 on the battlefields of dancing treeFrance.

Trees

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

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Remembrance Day

There are so many wonderful poems that describe the horrors of war, and more especially of World War I, but I stumbled across this one today, by someone I have neverpoppies heard of, and yet its words are as poignant with all the horror in the world today as it was when it was written.

It is by a poet called Geoffrey Anketell Studdert Kennedy (1883-1929), an Anglican priest and poet nicknamed “Woodbine Willie” during WWI.

Whatever our personal views, soldiers risk their lives daily to try to make the world a better place, and we should all ask ourselves if we would be prepared to do the same!

I know not where they have laid him.

I wouldn’t mind if I only knowed
The spot where they’d laid my lad;
If I could see where they’d buried ‘im,
It wouldn’t be arf so bad.
But they do say some’s not buried at all,
Left to the maggots and flies,
Rottin’ out there in that no man’s land,
Just where they falls — they lies.
Parson ‘e says as it makes no odds,
‘Cause the soul o’ the lad goes on,
‘Is spirit ‘as gorn to ‘is Gawd, ‘e says,
Wherever ‘is body ‘as gorn.
But Parson ain’t never ‘ad no child,
‘E’s a man, not a woman, see?
‘Ow can he know what a woman feels,
And what it can mean to me?
For my boy’s body were mine — my own,
I bore it in bitter pain,
Bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh,
It lies and rots in the rain.
Parson ain’t never suckled a child
Nor broken ‘is nights o’ rest,
To ‘ush it to sleep in ‘is aching arms,
While it drew life from ‘is breast.
‘E ain’t never watched by a sick child’s bed
Nor seed it fightin’ for life,
A man don’t know what a mother knows,
‘E leaves all that to ‘is wife.
I minds that chapter as Parson read
When poor little Jenny died,
And I were feeling as I feel now,
Wiv this emptiness inside.
Thou fool — it said — thou Fool — for to ask
And ‘ow do the dead arise?
What is the body that they shall wear
Up there in God’s Paradise?
I may be a fool, but that’s just it,
That’s just what I wants to know,
What is the body my boy shall bear,
And ‘ow does that body grow?
I reckons as ‘ow that Scripture piece
Were writ by a single man,
They never knows what a body costs
And I don’t see ‘ow they can.
A married man ‘as a bit ov sense
If ‘e’s been and stood wiv ‘is wife,
‘E knows the body ‘is baby wears
‘As cost ‘er all but ‘er life.

But even a Father never knows
The ache in a Mother’s ‘eart,
When she and the body ‘er body bore
Are severed and torn apart.
The men wouldn’t make these cursed wars
If they knowed of a body’s worth,
They wouldn’t be blowin’ ’em all to bits
If they ‘ad the pains ov birth.
But bless ye—the men don’t know they’re born,
For they gets away scot free.
‘Ow can they know what their cruel wars
Is costin’ the likes ov me?
I were proud to give, I’d give again
If I knowed the cause were right,
For I wouldn’t keep no son of mine
When ‘is dooty called to fight.
But I’d like to know just where it’s laid,
That body my body bore,
And I’d like to know who’ll mother ‘im
Out there on that other shore,
Who will be bearin’ the mother’s part
And be makin’ your body, boy?
Who will be ‘avin’ the mother’s pain,
And feelin’ the mother’s joy?

Gawd, is it you? Then bow you down
And ‘ark to a Mother’s prayer.
Don’t keep it all to yourself, Good Lord,
But give ‘is old Mother a share.
Gimme a share of the travail pain
Of my own son’s second birth,
Double the pain if you double the joy
That a mother feels on earth.
Gimme the sorrow and not the joy
If that ‘as to be your will,
Gimme the labour and not the pride,
But make me ‘is mother still.
Maybe the body as ‘e shall wear
Is born of my breaking heart,
Maybe these pains are the new birth pangs
What’ll give my laddie ‘is start.
Then I’d not trouble ‘ow hard they was,
I’d gladly go through the mill,
If that noo body ‘e wore were mine,
And I were ‘is mother still.

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