Dulce et Decorum est and all that

#1
Hope it's OK to post here as I'm not a serving member of the forces, but I wasn't sure how else to get a quick note out. Anyway I wanted to point you to a new site under google groups called 'Modern War Poetry' (http://groups.google.co.uk/group/modern-war-poetry). It's not about Wilfred Owen, more about the next Wilfred Owen. It's just started and will be a place for people to post and discuss new or old poems/song lyrics about war. More importantly we're looking for anyone in the forces (past or present) who has written, or wants to write some poetry about their experiences. We can give advice and maybe even help you get published. So if you have a moment then join the group.

And yes, I know the term 'War poetry' brings to mind Baldrick's 'Bang, bang, bang' war poem in 'Blackadder' but it can be much more than that as in the following.

S
------

'Does it Matter?' by S. Sassoon (1917)

Does it matter?—losing your legs?...
For people will always be kind,
And you need not show that you mind
When the others come in after hunting
To gobble their muffins and eggs.

Does it matter ?—losing your sight?...
There's such splendid work for the blind;
And people will always be kind,
As you sit on the terrace remembering
And turning your face to the light.

Do they matter?—those dreams from the pit?...
You can drink and forget and be glad,
And people won't say that you're mad;
For they'll know you've fought for your country
And no one will worry a bit
 
#3
SparkySteve said:
"To see a leap of purple spurt from his thigh"

Who was that?
ProWord NoWah

Disabled -Wilfred Owen

He sat in a wheeled chair, waiting for dark,
And shivered in his ghastly suit of grey,
Legless, sewn short at elbow. Through the park
Voices of boys rang saddening like a hymn,
Voices of play and pleasure after day,
Till gathering sleep had mothered them from him.


About this time Town used to swing so gay
When glow-lamps budded in the light-blue trees
And girls glanced lovelier as the air grew dim,
- In the old times, before he threw away his knees.
Now he will never feel again how slim
Girls' waists are, or how warm their subtle hands,
All of them touch him like some queer disease.


There was an artist silly for his face,
For it was younger than his youth, last year.
Now he is old; his back will never brace;
He's lost his colour very far from here,
Poured it down shell-holes till the veins ran dry,
And half his lifetime lapsed in the hot race,
And leap of purple spurted from his thigh.
One time he liked a bloodsmear down his leg,
After the matches carried shoulder-high.
It was after football, when he'd drunk a peg,
He thought he'd better join. He wonders why...
Someone had said he'd look a god in kilts.


That's why; and maybe, too, to please his Meg,
Aye, that was it, to please the giddy jilts,
He asked to join. He didn't have to beg;
Smiling they wrote his lie; aged nineteen years.
Germans he scarcely thought of; and no fears
Of Fear came yet. He thought of jewelled hilts
For daggers in plaid socks; of smart salutes;
And care of arms; and leave; and pay arrears;
Esprit de corps; and hints for young recruits.
And soon, he was drafted out with drums and cheers.


Some cheered him home, but not as crowds cheer Goal.
Only a solemn man who brought him fruits
Thanked him; and then inquired about his soul.
Now, he will spend a few sick years in Institutes,
And do what things the rules consider wise,
And take whatever pity they may dole.
To-night he noticed how the women's eyes
Passed from him to the strong men that were whole.
How cold and late it is! Why don't they come
And put him into bed? Why don't they come?


Wilfred Owen
 
#6
Dulce et Decorum est is not a poem I may ever read without welling up.

I was rather surprised to see The Old Lie still writ large above the chancel in the RMAS Chapel in the mid 90's.

Here's a lesser known WW1 masterpiece:
Offside Leader

This is the wish as he told it to me, Of Gunner McPherson of Battery B.
I want no ribbon nor medals to wear, I’ve done my bit, and I’ve had my share
Of filth and fighting, blood and tears, And doubt and death in the last four years.
My team and I were among the first Contemptible few, when the war-clouds burst.

We sweated our gun through dust and heat, We hauled her back in the big retreat,
With weary horses and short of shell, Turning our backs on them, that was Hell!
That was at Mons, but we came back there, With shining horses and shells to spare,
And much I’ve suffered and much I’ve seen, From Mons to Mons on the miles between.
But I want no medals nor ribbons to wear, All I ask for my fighting share
Is this, that England should give to me, The offside leader of Battery B.

She was a round-ribbed, blaze-faced brown, Shy as a country girl in town,
Scared at the gangway, scared at the quay, Lathered in sweat at the sight of the sea.

But brave as a lion and strong as a bull, With the mud at the hub in an uphill pull.
She learned her job, as the best ones do, And we hadn’t been more than a week or two,
Before she would stand like a rooted oak, While bullets whined and the shrapnel broke,
And a mile of the ridges rocked in glee, As the shells went over from Battery B.

We swayed with the battle back and forth, Lugging the limbers south and north,
Round us the world was red with flame, As we gained or gave in the changing game.

But forwards or backwards, losses or gains, There were empty saddles and idle chains,
For death took some on the galloping track, And beckoned some from the bivouac,
Till at last were left but my mare and me, Of all who went over with Battery B.
My mates have gone and left me alone, Their horses are heaps of ash and bone.

Of all who went out in courage and speed, Was left but the little brown mare in the lead.
The little brown mare with a blaze on her face, Who would die of shame at a slack in her trace,

Who would swing the team at the least command, Who would charge a house at the clap of a hand,
Who would turn from a shell to nuzzle my knee, The offside leader of Battery B.
But I want no medals nor ribbons to wear, If I’ve done my bit, it was only my share,
If a man has his pride and the good of his cause, And the love of his home, they are unwritten laws.

But what of the horses who worked by our side? Who in faith as of children fought with us and died?
If I through it all have been true to my task, I ask for one honour, this only I ask.
The gift of one gunner, I know of a place, Where I’d leave a brown mare with a blaze on her face,
‘Neath low leafy lime trees, ‘mid cocksfoot and clover, To dream, with the dragon-flies glistening over.

DECEMBER 8th 1918
 
#8
I've just opened a new book, Condor Blues by Mark Nichol and the opening page has the following poem:

No Thanks Given.

I am he whom others do not want to be and go where others fear to go.
I do what others have failed to do and ask nothing from those who give nothing.
I accept, reluctantly, the thought of eternal loneliness should I fail.

I have seen the face of terror.

I have felt the stinging cold of fear and enjoyed the sweet taste of a moment's love.

I have cried, pained and hoped.
But most of all I have lived times others would say were best forgotten.

This day, I am proud of who I am.

I am an infantry soldier.

This poem was pinned to the wall at Camp Condor.
The identity of its author is unknown.
 
#9
wipers_times said:
...And yes, I know the term 'War poetry' brings to mind Baldrick's 'Bang, bang, bang' war poem in 'Blackadder' ...
I think you refer to that literary masterpiece "The German Guns"

"Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom,
Boom, Boom, Boom,
Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom,
Boom, Boom, Boom"


and you can put "url" and "/url" in [] brackets either side of the url in your first post so people can click on to the link like this

http://groups.google.co.uk/group/modern-war-poetry
 
#10
Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon were among the first of a new breed. The rise of socialism.

Both were socialist ,and both were probably 'poofters'.

That is not to say they didn't have a view, and a view that needed to be heard.
 
#11
Thanks for posting that poem up 'offside leader'. I think that was excellent.

Didnt I read somewhere that Sassoons VC and Webley pistol had recently been rediscovered?
 
#12
His MC was found by a member of the family, and maybe his pistol also. This is odd becuase I had a feeling that in his memoirs he says he threw this into the sea, but I may be wrong. I'm sure that is the scene in 'Regeneration' also.
 
#13
The Veteran
by Margaret Postgate

We came upon him sitting in the sun,
Blinded by war, and left. And past the fence
There came young soldiers from the Hand and Flower,
Asking of his experience.

And he said this, and that, and told them tales,
And all the nightmares of each empty head
Blew into air; then, hearing us beside,
'Poor chaps, how'd they know what its like?' he said.

And we stood there, and watched him as he sat,
Turning his sockets where they went away,
Until it came to one of us to ask
'And you're how old?'
'Nineteen, the third of May.'
 
#14
Odd, many think poetry is irrelevant, but still it has such power, as in this one by Yeats...

An Irish Airman Foresees His Death

I know that I shall meet my fate
Somewhere among the clouds above;
Those that I fight I do not hate,
Those that I guard I do not love;
My country is Kiltartan Cross,
My countrymen Kiltartan's poor,
No likely end could bring them loss
Or leave them happier than before.
Nor law, nor duty bade me fight,
Nor public men, nor cheering crowds,
A lonely impulse of delight
Drove to this tumult in the clouds;
I balanced all, brought all to mind,
The years to come seemed waste of breath,
A waste of breath the years behind
In balance with this life, this death.
 
#15
Not sure if it's still available but there is a vg poetry/prose book called 'Captive Voices'. It's probably not everyone's cup of tea and isn't strictly speaking 'war poetry' but still very thought provoking.

The book includes a mixture of prose and poetry written by folks who have been imprisoned for their beliefs/consciences/politics inc poems from the Balkans, South America etc. In some cases it is a good reminder of why we have a Global responsibility to the people of other nations....

As I say, quite contemporary, a little controversial and not everyone's cup of tea, but recommended nonetheless
 
#16
Anyone remember a poem about a Willie McBride - think he was in WWI? I know one of the lines was something like, "Did you really believe that this war would end wars?"

Thanks.
 
#17
The Green Fields of France
Well how do you do, Private William McBride
Do you mind if I sit here down by your grave side?
A rest for awhile in the warm summer sun,
I've been walking all day and I'm nearly done.
And I see by your gravestone that you were only 19
when you joined the glorious fallen in 1916.
Well, I hope you died quick and I hope you died clean
Or, William McBride, was it slow and obscene?

CHORUS:
Did they beat the drum slowly?
did they sound the pipes lowly?
Did the rifles fire o'er ye as they lowered you down?
Did the bugle sing 'The Last Post' in chorus?
Did the pipes play 'The Flowers o' the Forest'?

And did you leave a wife or a sweetheart behind?
In some loyal heart is your memory enshrined
And though you died back in 1916
To that loyal heart are you always 19.
Or are you just a stranger without even a name
Forever enclosed behind some glass-pane
In an old photograph torn and tattered and stained
And fading to yellow in a brown leather frame?

Well, the sun it shines down on these green fields of France,
The warm wind blows gently and the red poppies dance.
The trenches are vanished now under the plough
No gas, no barbed wire, no guns firing now.
But here in this graveyard it is still No Man's Land
And the countless white crosses in mute witness stand.
To man's blind indifference to his fellow man
And a whole generation that was butchered and downed.

And I can't help but wonder now Willie McBride
Do all those who lie here know why they died?
Did you really believe them when they told you the cause?
Did you really believe them that this war would end war?
The suffering, the sorrow, some the glory, the shame -
The killing and dying - it was all done in vain.
For Willie McBride, it's all happened again
And again, and again, and again, and again.

Did they beat the drum slowly?
did they sound the pipe lowly?
Did the rifles fire o'er ye as they lowered you down?
Did the bugle sing 'The Last Post' in chorus?
Did the pipes play 'The Flowers o' the Forest'?

Stunning words, just found it, must hear it sung
 
#18
This one?

Well, how do you do, Private William McBride,
Do you mind if I sit down here by your graveside?
And rest for awhile in the warm summer sun,
I've been walking all day, and I'm nearly done.
And I see by your gravestone you were only 19
When you joined the glorious fallen in 1916,
Well, I hope you died quick and I hope you died clean
Or, Willie McBride, was it slow and obscene?

Did they Beat the drum slowly, did the play the pipes lowly?
Did the rifles fir o'er you as they lowered you down?
Did the bugles sound The Last Post in chorus?
Did the pipes play the Flowers of the Forest?

And did you leave a wife or a sweetheart behind
In some loyal heart is your memory enshrined?
And, though you died back in 1916,
To that loyal heart are you forever 19?
Or are you a stranger without even a name,
Forever enshrined behind some glass pane,
In an old photograph, torn and tattered and stained,
And fading to yellow in a brown leather frame?

The sun's shining down on these green fields of France;
The warm wind blows gently, and the red poppies dance.
The trenches have vanished long under the plow;
No gas and no barbed wire, no guns firing now.
But here in this graveyard that's still No Man's Land
The countless white crosses in mute witness stand
To man's blind indifference to his fellow man.
And a whole generation who were butchered and damned.

And I can't help but wonder, no Willie McBride,
Do all those who lie here know why they died?
Did you really believe them when they told you "The Cause?"
Did you really believe that this war would end wars?
Well the suffering, the sorrow, the glory, the shame
The killing, the dying, it was all done in vain,
For Willie McBride, it all happened again,
And again, and again, and again, and again.
 
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