Two Julys

I was so vague in 1914; tossed
   Upon too many purposes, and worthless;
Moody; to this world or the other lost,
   Essential nowhere; without calm and mirthless.
And now I have gained for many ends,
   See my straight road stretch out so white, so slender,
That happy road, the road of all my friends,
   Made glad with peace, and holy with surrender.

Proud, proud we fling to the winds of Time our token,
   And in our need there wells in us the power,
Given England's swords to keep her honour clean.
Which they shall be which pierce, and which be broken,
   We know not, but we know that every hour
We must shine brighter, take an edge more keen.

Charles John Beech Masefield

From Courage

I was afraid of Fear,
   Not of the foe;
And when I thought that those I hold most dear
   My craven soul would know
And turn away ashamed, who praised before,
   Ashamed and deep distressed to find it so,
I was afraid the more.

Lo, when I joined the fight,
   And bared my breast
To all the darts of that wild, hellish night,
   I, only, stood the test,
For Fear, which I had feared, deserved then,
   And forward blithely at the foe I prest
King of myself again....

J.E. Stewart

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
   That mark our place; and in the sky
   The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard among the guns below.

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.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
   The torch; be yours to hold it high.
   If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
         In Flanders fields.

John McCrae

war-monger [Vietnam Era Poem]

...we'll splatter our verbal napalm
on the economic warriors
of the wall streets of the world
till their bonds are burned
and clobbering men on the head
with the truth
will be the folly
of the new special forces
as i unleash on the world
a multi-million megatonic fury:

r j s (age 17)


The young men of the world
Are condemned to death.
They have been called up to die
For the crime of their fathers.

The young men of the world,
The growing, the ripening fruit,
Have been torn from their branches,
While the memory of the blossom
Is sweet in women's hearts;
They have been cast for a cruel purpose
Into the mashing-press and furnace.

The young men of the world
Look into each other's eyes,
And read there the same words:
Not yet! Not yet!
But soon perhaps, and perhaps certain.

The young men of the world
No longer possess the road:
The road possesses them.
They no longer inherit the earth:
The earth inherits them.
They are no longer the masters of fire:
Fire is their master;
They serve him, he destroys them.
They no longer rule the waters:
The genius of the seas
Has invented a new monster,
And they fly from its teeth.
They no longer breathe freely:
The genius of the air
Has contrived a new terror
That rends them into pieces.

The young men of the world
Are encompassed with death
He is all about them
In a circle of fore and bayonets.

Weep, weep, o women,
And old men break your hearts.

F.S. Flint

To the Devil on His Appalling Decadence

Satan, old friend and enemy of man;
Lord of the shadows and sins whereby
We wretches glimpse the sun in Virtue's sky
Guessing at last the wideness of His plan
Who fashioned kid and tiger, slayer and slain,
The paradox of evil, and the pain
Which threshes joy as with a winnowing fan:

Satan, of your old custom `twas at least
To throw an apple to the soul you caught
Robbing your orchard. You, before you wrought
Damnation due and marked it with the beast,
Before its eyes were e'en disposed to dangle
Fruitage delicious. And you would not mangle
Nor maul the body of the dear deceased.

But you were called familiarly "Old Nick"--
The Devil, yet a gentleman you know!
Relentless -- true, yet courteous to a foe.
Man's soul your traffic was. You would not kick
His bloody entrails flying in the air.
Oh, "Krieg ist Krieg," we know, and "C'est la guerre!"
But Satan, don't you feel a trifle sick?

F.W. Harvey

In Memoriam (Easter, 1915)

The flowers left thick at nightfall in the wood
This Eastertide call into the mind of men,
Now far from home, who, with their sweethearts, should
Have gathered them and will do never again.

Edward Thomas

(Killed at the Dardanelles)

Bees hummed and rooks called hoarsely outside the quiet room
Where by an open window Gervais, the restless boy,
Fretting the while for cricket, read of Patroclos' doom
And flower of youth a-dying by far-off windy Troy.

Do the old tales, half-remembered, come back to haunt him now
Who leaving his glad school-days and putting boyhood by
Joined England's bitter Iliad? Greek beauty on the brow
That frowns with dying wonder up to Hissarlik's sky!

Margaret Adelaide Wilson


I saw a man this morning
    Who did not wish to die:
I ask, and cannot answer,
    If otherwise wish I.

Fair broke the day this morning
    Against the Dardanelles;
The breeze blew soft, the morn's cheeks
    Were cold as cold sea-shells.

But other shells are waiting
    Across the Aegean Sea,
Shrapnel and high explosive,
    Shells and hells for me.

O hell of ships and cities,
    Hell of men like me,
Fatal second Helen,
    Why must I follow thee?

Achilles came to Troyland
    And I to Chersonese:
He turned from wrath to battle,
    And I from three days' peace.

Was it so hard, Achilles,
    So very hard to die?
Thou knowest and I know not--
    So much the happier am I.

I will go back this morning
    From Imbros over the sea;
Stand in the trench, Achilles,
    Flame-capped, and shout for me.
Patrick Shaw-Stewart

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 suns of home.
And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
    A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Give 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.

Rupert Brooke

The Ash and the Oak

When men discovered freedom first
The fighting was on foot
They were encouraged by their thirst
And promises of loot,
And when it feathered and bow boomed
Their virtue was a root.

O the ash and the oak and the willow tree
And green grows the grass on the infantry!

At Malplaquet and Waterloo
They were polite and proud,
They primed their guns with billets-doux
And, as they fired, bowed.
At Appomattox too, it seems
Some things were understood.

O the ash and the oak and the willow tree
And green grows the grass on the infantry!

But at Verdun and at Bastogne
There was a great recoil,
The blood was bitter to the bone,
The trigger to the soul,
And death was nothing if not dull,
A hero was a fool.

O the ash and the oak and the willow tree
And that's an end of the infantry.

Louis Simpson

Greater Love

Red lips are not so red
    As the stained stones kissed by the English dead.
Kindness of wooed and wooer
Seems shame to their love pure.
O love, your eyes lose lure
    When I behold eyes blinded in my stead!

Your slender attitude
    Trembles not exquisite like limbs knife-skewed,
Rolling and rolling there
Where God seems not to care;
Till the fierce Love they bear
    Cramps them in death's extreme decrepitude.

Your voice sings not so soft,--
    Though even as wind murmuring through raftered loft,--
Your dear voice is not dear,
Gentle, and evening clear,
As theirs whom now none hear,
    Now earth has stopped their piteous mouths that coughed.

Heart, you were never hot,
    Nor large, nor full like hearts made great with shot;
And though your hand be pale,
Paler are all which trail
Your cross through flame and hail:
    Weep, you may weep, for you may touch them not.

Wilfred Owen

Here Dead We Lie

Here dead we lie because we did not choose
    To live and shame the land from which we sprung.
Life, to be sure, is nothing much to lose;
    But young men think it is, and we were young.

A.E. Housman


How Shall we Rise to Greet the Dawn?

Continually they cackle thus,
Those venerable birds,
Crying, "Those whom the Gods love
Die young"
Or something of that sort.

Osbert Sitwell


When men are old, and their friends die,
They are not so sad,
Because their love is running slow,
And cannot spring from the wound with so sharp a pain;
And they are happy with many memories,
And only a little while to be alone.

But we are young, and our friends are dead
Suddenly, and our quick love is torn in two;
So our memories are only hopes that came to nothing.
We are left along like old men; we should be dead
--But there are years and years in which we shall still be young.

Margaret Postgate

Sonnet of a Son

Because I am young, therefore I must be killed;
Because I am strong, so must my strength be maimed;
Because I love life (thus it is willed)
The joy of life from me a forfeit's claimed.
If I were old or weak, if foul disease
Had robbed me of all love of living--then
Life would be mine to use as I might please;
Such the all-wise arbitraments of men!
Poor mad mankind! that like some Herod calls
For one wide holocaust of youth and strength!
Bitter your wakening when the curtain falls
Upon your drunken drama, and at length
With vision uninflamed you then behold
A world of sick and halt and weak and old.

Eliot Crawshay-Williams

`Now That You Too'

Now that you too must shortly go the way
Which in these bloodshot years uncounted men
Have gone in vanishing armies day by day,
And in their numbers will not come again:
I must not strain the moments of our meeting
Striving for each look, each accent, not to miss,
Or question of our parting and our greeting,
Is this the last of all? is this--or this?

Last sight of all it may be with these eyes,
Last touch, last hearing, since eyes, hands, and ears,
Even serving love, are our mortalities,
And cling to what they own in mortal fears:--
But oh, let end what will, I hold you fast
By immortal love, which has no first or last.

Elanor Farjeon

A Kiss

She kissed me when she said good-bye--
A child's kiss, neither bold nor shy.

We had met but a few short summer hours;
Talked of the sun, the wind, the flowers,

Sports and people; had rambled through
A casual catchy song or two,

And walked with arms linked to the car
By the light of a single misty star.

(It was war-time, you see, and the streets were dark
Lest the ravishing Hun should find a mark.)

And so we turned to say good-bye;
But somehow or other, I don't know why,

--Perhaps `t was the feel of the khaki coat
(She'd a brother in Flanders then) that smote

Her heart with a sudden tenderness
Which issued in that swift caress--

Somehow, to her, at any rate
A mere hand-clasp seemed inadequate;

And so she lifted her dewey face
And kissed me--but without a trace

Of passion,--and we said good-bye...
A child's kiss,...neither bold nor shy.

My friend, I like you--it seemed to say--
Here's to our meeting again some day!
Some happier day...

Bernard Freeman Trotter

The Wind on the Downs

I like to think of you as brown and tall,
As strong and living as you used to be,
In khaki tunic, Sam Brown belt and all,
And standing there and laughing down at me.
Because they tell me, dear, that you are dead,
Because I can no longer see your face,
You have not died, it is not true, instead
You seek adventure in some other place.
That you are round me, I believe;
I hear you laughing as you used to do,
Yet loving all the things I think of you;
And knowing you are happy, should I grieve?
You follow and are watchful where I go;
How should you leave me, having loved me so?

We walked along the tow-path, you and I,
Beside the sluggish-moving, still canal;
It seemed impossible that you should die;
I think of you the same and always shall.
We thought of many things and spoke of few,
And life lay all uncertainly before,
And now I walk alone and think of you,
And wonder what new kingdoms you explore.
Over the railway line, across the grass,
While up above the golden wings are spread,
Flying, ever flying overhead,
Here still I see your khaki figure pass,
And when I leave the meadow, almost wait
That you should open first the wooden gate.

Marian Allen

The Heart-Cry

She turned the page of wounds and death
With trembling fingers. In a breath
The gladness of her life became
Naught but a memory and a name.

Farewell! Farewell! I might not share
The perils it was yours to dare.
Dauntless you fronted death: for me
Rests to face life as fearlessly.

F.W. Bourdillon

My Company


You became
In many acts and quiet observances
A body and soul, entire.

I cannot tell
What time your life became mine:
Perhaps when one summer night
We halted on the roadside
In the starlight only,
And you sang your sad home-songs,
Dirges which I standing outside you
Coldly condemned.

Perhaps, one night, descending cold,
When rum was mighty acceptable,
And my doling gave birth to sensual gratitude.

And then our fights: we've fought together
Compact, unanimous;
And I have felt the pride of leadership.

In many acts and quiet observances
You absorbed me:
Until one day I stood eminent
And I saw you gathered round me,
And about you a radiance that seemed to beat
With variant glow and to give
Grace to our unity.

But, God! I know that I'll stand
Someday in the loneliest wilderness,
Someday my heart will cry
For the soul that has been, but that now
Is scatter'd with the winds,
Deceased and devoid.

I know that I'll wander with a cry:
"O beautiful men, O men I loved,
O whither are you gone, my company?'


My men go wearily
With their monstrous burdens.
They bear wooden planks
And iron sheeting
Through the area of death.

When a flare curves through the sky
They rest immobile.

Then on again,
Sweating and blaspheming--
"Oh, bloody Christ!"

My men, my modern Christs,
Your bloody agony confronts the world.


A man of mine
          lies on the wire.
It is death to fetch his soulless corpse.

A man of mine
          lies on the wire; And he will rot
And first his lips
The worms will eat.

It is not thus I would have him kiss'd,
But with the warm passionate lips
Of his comrade here.


I can assume
A giant attitude and godlike mood,
And then detachedly regard
All riots, conflicts and collisions.

The men I've lived with
Lurch suddenly into a far perspective;
They distantly gather like a dark cloud of birds
In the autumn sky.

Urged by some unanimous
Volition or fate,
Clouds clash in opposition;
The sky quivers, the dead descend;
Earth yawns.

They are all of one species.

From my giant attitude,
In a godlike mood,
I laugh till space is filled
With hellish merriment.

Then again I resume
My human docility,
Bow my head
And share their doom.

Herbert Read

In Memoriam

Private D. Sutherland killed in action in the German trench, May 16th, 1916, and the others who died.

So you were David's father,
And he was your only son,
And the new-cut peats are rotting
And the work is left undone,
Because of an old man weeping,
Just an old man in pain,
For David, his son David,
That will not come again.

Oh, the letters he wrote you,
And I can see them still,
Not a word of the fighting
But just the sheep on the hill
and how you should get the crops in
Ere the year get stormier,
And the Bosches have got his body,
And I was his officer.

You were only David's father,
But I had fifty sons
When we went up in the evening
Under the arch of the guns,
And we came back at twilight--
O God! I heard them call
To me for help and pity
That could not help at all.

Oh, never will I forget you,
My men that trusted me,
More my sons than your fathers',
For they could only see
The little helpless babies
And the young men in their pride.
They could not see you dying,
And hold you while you died.

Happy and young and gallant,
They saw their first-born go,
But not the strong limbs broken
And the beautiful men brought low,
The piteous writhing bodies,
They screamed, "Don't leave me, sir,"
For they were only your fathers
But I was your officer.

E.A. Mackintosh

Anthem for Doomed Youth

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
-- Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells;
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs, --
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.
What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes.
The pallor of girls' brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.

Wilfred Owen

The Dead Soldier

Thy dear brown eyes which were as depths where truth
    Lay bowered with frolic joy, but yesterday
Shone with the fire of thy so guileless youth,
    Now ruthless death has dimmed and closed for aye.

Those sweet red lips, that never knew the stain
    Of angry words or harsh, or thoughts unclean,
Have sung their last gay song. Never again
    Shall I the harvest of their laughter glean.

The goodly harvest of they laughing mouth
    Is garnered in; and lo! the golden grain
Of all thy generous thoughts, which knew no drouth
    Of meanness, and thy tender words remain

Stored in my heart; and though I may not see
    Thy peerless form nor hear thy voice again,
The memory lives of what thou wast to me.
    We knew great love....We have not lived in vain.

Sydney Oswald


Of Gonnehem it shall be said
That we arrived there late and worn
With marching, and were given a bed
Of lovely straw. And then at morn
On rising from deep sleep saw dangle--
Shining in the sun to spangle,
The all-blue heaven--branchloads of red
Bright cherries which we bought to eat,
Dew-wet, dawn-cool, and sunny-sweet.
There was a tiny court-yard too,
Wherein one shady walnut grew.
Unruffled peace the farm encloses--
I wonder if beneath that tree,
The meditating hens still be.
Are the white walls now gay with roses?
Does the small fountain yet run free?
I wonder if the dog still dozes....
Some day we must go back to see.

F.W. Harvey

Night Flying

Aloft on footless levels of the night
A pilot thunders through the desolate stars,
Sees in the misty deep a fainting light
Of far-off cities cast in coal-dark bars
Of shore and soundless sea; and he is lone,
Snatched from the universe like one forbid,
Or like a ghost caught from the slay and thrown
Out on the void, nor God cared what he did.

Till from these unlinked whisperers that pain
The buried earth he swings his boat away,
Even as a lonely thinker who hath run
The gamut of greatlore, and found the Inane,
Then stumbles at midnight upon a sun
And all the honor of a mighty day.

Frederick V. Branford

A Moment's Interlude

One night I wandered alone from my comrades' huts;
The grasshoppers chirped softly
In the warm misty evening;
Bracken fronds beckoned from the darkness
With exquisite frail green fingers;
The tree-gods muttered affectionately about me
And from the distance came the grumble of a kindly train.

I was so happy to be alone
So full of love for the great speechless earth,
That I could have laid my cheek in the grasses
And caressed with my lips the hard sinewy body
Of Earth, the cherishing mistress of bitter lovers.

Richard Aldington


We who are left, how shall we look again
Happily on the sun or feel the rain
Without remembering how they who went
Ungrudgingly and spent
Their lives for us loved, too, the sun and rain?

A bird among the rain-wet lilac sings--
But we, how shall we turn to little things
And listen to the birds and winds and streams
Made holy by their dreams,
Nor feel the heart-break in the heart of things?

Wilfred Wilson Gibson

The Farmer Remembers the Somme

Will they never fade or pass--
The mud, and the misty figures endlessly coming
In file through the foul morass,
And the grey flood-water lipping the reeds and grass,
And the steel wings drumming?

The hills are bright in the sun:
There's nothing changed or marred in the well-known places;
When work for the day is done
There's talk, and quiet laughter, and gleams of fun
On the old folks' faces.

I have returned to these;
The farm, and kindly Bush, and the young calves lowing;
But all that my mind sees
Is a quaking bog in a mist--stark, snapped trees,
And the dark Somme flowing.

Vance Palmer

High Wood

Ladies and gentlemen, this is High Wood,
Called by the French, Bois des Fourneaux,
The famous spot which in Nineteen-Sixteen,
July, August and September was the scene
Of long and bitterly contested strife,
By reason of its High commanding site.
Observe the effect of shell-fire in the trees
Standing and fallen; here is wire; this trench
For months inhabited, twelve times changed hands;
(They soon fall in), used later as a grave.
It has been said on good authority
That in the fighting for this patch of wood
Were killed somewhere above eight thousand men,
Of whom the greater part were buried here,
This mound on which you stand being...

             Madame, please,
You are requested kindly not to touch
Or take away the Company's property
As souvenirs; you'll find we have on sale
A large variety, all guaranteed.
As I was saying, all is as it was,
This is an unknown British officer,
The tunic having lately rotted off.
Please follow me--this way...
             the path, sir, please,
The ground which was secured at great expense
The Company keeps absolutely untouched,
And in that dug-out (genuine) we provide
Refreshments at a reasonable rate.
You are requested not to leave about
Paper, or ginger-beer bottles, or orange-peel,
There are waste-paper baskets at the gate.

Philip Johnstone, 1918

The Son

I found the letter in a cardboard box,
Unfamous history. I read the words.
The ink was frail and brown, the paper dry
After so many years of being kept.
The letter was a soldier's, from the front--
Conveyed his love and disappointed hope
Of getting leave. It's cancelled now, he wrote.
My luck is at the bottom of the sea.

Outside the sun was hot; the world looked bright;
I heard a radio, and someone laughed.
I did not sing, or laugh, or love the sun,
Within the quiet room I thought of him,
My father killed, and all the other men,
Whose luck was at the bottom of the sea.

Clifford Dyment

A Confession of Faith

Who would remember me were I to die,
Remember with a pang and yet no pain;
Remember as a friend, and feel good-bye
Said at each memory as it wakes again?

I would not that a single heart should ache--
That some dear heart will ache is my one grief.
Friends, if I have them, I would fondly take
With me that best of gifts, a friend's belief.

I have believed, and for my faith reaped tares;
Believed again, and, losing, was content;
A heart perchance touched blindly, unawares,
Rewards with friendship faith thus freely spent.

Bury the body--it has served its ends;
Mark not the spot, but "On Gallipoli,"
Let it be said, "he died." Oh, Hearts of Friends,
If I am worth it, keep my memory.

James Sprent


Sometimes in the homes of the elderly,
Among the shabby, cherished possessions
You will find a framed photograph
Of a young man in a quaint uniform.

Slouch-hatted, posing with a full gaze.
`My brother Jim. He went to the War...'
And something in the aged voice conveys
The unspoken `and didn't come home.'

One sees a troopship thronged at the wharf;
Jim's parents being cheerful, hugging their boy;
Younger brothers vowing to follow soon;
A little sister not understanding.

Tumultuous months follow, with excited
Gatherings to hear Jim's letters read aloud,
Until an official telegram
Makes something die in all of them.

Yet life goes on. The family
Faces the long future, strife, Depression,
Accident, illness, another war,
The casualty lists of the commonplace.

And Jim has acquired an aura
Forever tragic and beautiful,
Growing not old as those who remain
Grow old...Till gradually

The minds wherein he is enshrined
As son, brother, neighbour, friend, grow fewer.
Those brief, sliding minutes on the wharf
Have become sixty years.

Now, in a musty room somewhere,
An old person makes a cup of tea
And a not-yet-anonymous soldier
Stares out of the photograph.

Peter Kocan


Was there love once? I have forgotten her.
Was there grief once? Grief yet is mine.
Other loves I have, men rough, but men who stir
More grief, more joy, than love of thee and thine.

Faces cheerful, full of whimsical mirth,
Lined by the wind, burned by the sun;
Bodies enraptured by the abounding earth,
As whose children we are brethren: one.

And any moment may descend hot death
To shatter limbs! Pulp, tear, blast
Beloved soldiers who love rough, life and breath
Not less for dying faithful to the last.

O the fading eyes, the grimed face turned bony,
Oped mouth gushing, fallen head,
Lessening pressure of a hand, shrunk, clammed and stony!
O sudden spasm, release of the dead!

Was there love once? I have forgotten her.
Was there grief once? Grief yet is mine.
O loved, living, dying, heroic soldier,
All, all my joy, my grief, my love, are thine.

Robert Nichols

Last Leave

Let us forget tomorrow! For tonight
At least, with curtains drawn, and driftwood piled
On our own hearthstone, we may rest, and see
The firelight flickering on familiar walls.
(How the blue flames leap when an ember falls!)
Peace, and content, and soul-security--
These are within. Without, the waste is wild
With storm-clouds sweeping by in furious flight,
And ceaseless beating of autumnal rain
Upon our window pane.

The dusk grows deeper now, the flames are low:
We do not heed the shadows, you and I,
Nor fear the grey wings of encroaching gloom,
So softly they enfold us. One last gleam
Flashes and flits, elusive as a dream,
And then dies out upon the darkened room.
So, even so, our earthly fires must die;
Yet, in our hearts, love's flame shall leap and glow
When this dear night, with all it means to me,
Is but a memory!

Eileen Newton

Because You Are Dead

Because you are dead so many words they say.
If you could hear them, how they crowd, they crowd!
"Dying for England--but you must be proud."
And "Greater Love" -- "Honor" -- "A debt to pay."
And "Cry, dear!" some one says: and some one "Pray!"
What do they mean, their words that throng so loud?

This, dearest, that for us there will not be
Laughter and joy of living dwindling cold;
Ashes of words that dropped in flame first told;
Stale tenderness made foolish suddenly.
This only, heart's desire, for you and me,
We who lived love will not see love grown old.

We, who had morning-time and crest o' the wave
Will have no twilight chill after the gleam.
Nor any ebb-tide with a sluggish stream;
No, nor clutch wisdom as a thing to save.
We keep forever--and yet they call me brave!--
Untouched, unbroken, unrebuilt, our dream.

Kathleen Montgomery Wallace