Looking for a Poem for Remembrance Sunday


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I'm looking for inspiration for Remembrance Sunday. Its a small service with a few RN, Army, RAF bods serving and retired etc

Last year they used 'In Flanders Fields'. The boss asked me if could think of anything Tri-service and not specific to any particular war.

If anyone has any ideas I'd be grateful to hear them.
Dont know any tri service ones - know a moving one about WWI - forget what its called but the catch line is 40000 soldiers lost that day but not one general died...its about the somme.

wilfred owen

strange meeting!
Strange Meeting
It seemed that out of battle I escaped
Down some profound dull tunnel, long since scooped
Through granites which titanic wars had groined.

Yet also there encumbered sleepers groaned,
Too fast in thought or death to be bestirred.
Then, as I probed them, one sprang up, and stared
With piteous recognition in fixed eyes,
Lifting distressful hands, as if to bless.
And by his smile, I knew that sullen hall,-
By his dead smile I knew we stood in Hell.

With a thousand pains that vision's face was grained;
Yet no blood reached there from the upper ground,
And no guns thumped, or down the flues made moan.
'Strange friend,' I said, 'here is no cause to mourn.'
'None,' said that other, 'save the undone years,
The hopelessness. Whatever hope is yours,
Was my life also; I went hunting wild
After the wildest beauty in the world,
Which lies not calm in eyes, or braided hair,
But mocks the steady running of the hour,
And if it grieves, grieves richlier than here.
For by my glee might many men have laughed,
And of my weeping something had been left,
Which must die now. I mean the truth untold,
The pity of war, the pity war distilled.
Now men will go content with what we spoiled,
Or, discontent, boil bloody, and be spilled.
They will be swift with swiftness of the tigress.
None will break ranks, though nations trek from progress.
Courage was mine, and I had mystery,
Wisdom was mine, and I had mastery:
To miss the march of this retreating world
Into vain citadels that are not walled.
Then, when much blood had clogged their chariot-wheels,
I would go up and wash them from sweet wells,
Even with truths that lie too deep for taint.
I would have poured my spirit without stint
But not through wounds; not on the cess of war.
Foreheads of men have bled where no wounds were.

'I am the enemy you killed, my friend.
I knew you in this dark: for so you frowned
Yesterday through me as you jabbed and killed.
I parried; but my hands were loath and cold.
Let us sleep now....'
A tri-service angle might be tricky. Royal Flying Corps was part of the Army for much of the war and the Army suffered many more casualties than the Navy. There does not seem to be any tradition of poetry other than from the Western Front.

You might have to go for something pretty general about death or loss. Nothing springs to mind I'm afraid.
Okay, so it's WWI specific, and nor is it tri-service, [so actually it fails to measure up on all points really :oops: ] but it is very sobering.

Siegfried Sassoon (1919) said:

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.
I HAVE a rendezvous with Death
At some disputed barricade,
When Spring comes back with rustling shade
And apple-blossoms fill the air—
I have a rendezvous with Death
When Spring brings back blue days and fair.

It may be he shall take my hand
And lead me into his dark land
And close my eyes and quench my breath—
It may be I shall pass him still.
I have a rendezvous with Death
On some scarred slope of battered hill,
When Spring comes round again this year
And the first meadow-flowers appear.

God knows 'twere better to be deep
Pillowed in silk and scented down,
Where love throbs out in blissful sleep,
Pulse nigh to pulse, and breath to breath,
Where hushed awakenings are dear...
But I've a rendezvous with Death
At midnight in some flaming town,
When Spring trips north again this year,
And I to my pledged word am true,
I shall not fail that rendezvous.
DozyBint said:
Have you seen here? I'd be surprised if you didn't find something appropriate - people have submitted some wonderful poems.
Dozy, thanks for bumping that one back up again - one of ARRSE's finest and justifiably a NTWICA entry. Just re-read it begining to end and enjoyed it all again.
I went to see the soldiers, row on row on row,
And wondered about each so still, their badges all on show.
What brought them here, what life before
Was like for each of them?
What made them angry, laugh, or cry,
These soldiers, boys and men.
Some so young, some older still, a bond more close than brothers
These men have earned and shared a love, that's not like any others
They trained as one, they fought as one
They shared their last together
That bond endures, that love is true
And will be, now and ever.

I could not know, how could I guess, what choices each had made,
Of how they came to soldiering, what part each one had played?
But here they are and here they'll stay,
Each one silent and in place,
Their headstones line up row on row
They guard this hallowed place.

Kenny Martin
[align=center]When I am Dead[/align]
When I am dead my dearest
Sing no sad songs for me
Plant thou no roses at my head
Or shady cypress tree

Be the green grass above me
With showers and dewdrops wet
And if thou wilt remember
And if thou wilt forget

I shall not see the shadows
I shall not feel the rain
I shall not hear the nightingale
Sing on, as if in pain

And dreaming through the twilight
That doth not rise or set
Happily I may remember
And Happily I may forget

Author Unknown[/align]

This one is quite harrowing, but quite fitting for something Tri-Service:

[align=center]Despair of War[/align]

[align=center]Five O’clock and the sun is dying
Into the sea stained with blood
The air is filled with a red haze
Which fills the eyes with fiery tears

And the wind whispers brutal battle
The smell of salty blood burns the nose
And the trees sigh for what they have seen
Hands are heavy, cold and stiff

The earth groans for the bodies are many
And the grass is laid with a blanket of crimson dew
And yet there fly’s the flag
Of red, white and blue

Author Unknown[/align]

Hope they are of some help.

Ice :)
Or perhaps the first couple of verses of this...

Eric Bogle said:
Well, how do you do, young Willy 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 great fallen in 1916,
Well, I hope you died quick and I hope you died clean
Or, Willy McBride, was it slow and obscene?

Did they beat the drum slowly, did they play the pipes lowly?
Did they sound the death march as they lowered you down?
Did the band play The Last Post in chorus?
Did the pipes play the Flowers of the Forest?

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

Did they beat the drum slowly, did they play the pipes lowly?
Did they sound the death march as they lowered you down?
Did the band play The Last Post in chorus?
Did the pipes play the Flowers of the Forest?

Well, the sun now it shines on the green fields of France;
The warm summer breeze makes the red poppies dance.
And look how the light shines from under the cloud;
There's no gas, no barbed wire, there's no gun firing now.
But here in this graveyard it's still No Man's Land
The countless white crosses in mute in the sand,
To man's blind indifference to his fellow man,
And a whole generation who were butchered and damned.

Did they beat the drum slowly, did they play the pipes lowly?
Did they sound the death march as they lowered you down?
Did the band play The Last Post in chorus?
Did the pipes play the Flowers of the Forest?

And I can't help wondering why, young Willy McBride,
Do those who lie here know? why they did die?
Did you really believe when you answered the call,
Did you really believe that this war would end wars?
Well the suffering, the sorrow, the gore and the pain,
The killing, the dying, it was all done in vain,
For young Willy McBride, it all happened again,
And again, and again, and again, and again...

I walked where in their talking graves
And shirts of earth five thousand lay,
When history with ten feasts of fire
Had eaten the red air away.

I am Christ's boy, I cried, I bear
In iron hands the bread, the fishes,
I hang with honey and the rose
This tidy wreck of all your wishes.

On your geometry of sleep
The chestnut and the fir-tree fly,
And lavender and marguerite
Forge with their flowers an English sky.

Turn now towards the belling town
Your jigsaws of impossible bone,
And rising read your rank of snow
Accurate as death upon the stone.

About your easy heads my prayers
I said with syllables of clay,
What gift I asked, shall I bring now
Before I weep and walk away?

Take, they replied, the oak and laurel.
Take our fortune of tears and live
Like a spendthrift lover. All we ask
Is the one gift you cannot give.

-- Charles Causley
Once did I ask that I be laid to rest
On some wild hillside where the grasses sway -
Ah, now, meseems, my resting place will be
Where rifles fire, and red blood runs all day.

I cannot ask for winds to mourn my dirge
Or wailing whaups to wheel above my grave -
I shall be buried with the others there
When I have given what the others gave.

And I shall sleep beneath that foreign sod
As peacefully as e'en 'neath heather flower,
Knowing I am but one 'mongst all those men
Who breathed their last sigh in Britain's Hour.
Wilfrid Owen's poem called 'Spring Offensive' has always evoked the sadness of the war. Interestingly it considers the suffering of those who physically survive as well as those killed.
Spring Offensive

by Wilfred Owen

Halted against the shade of a last hill,
They fed, and, lying easy, were at ease
And, finding comfortable chests and knees
Carelessly slept. But many there stood still
To face the stark, blank sky beyond the ridge,
Knowing their feet had come to the end of the world.

Marvelling they stood, and watched the long grass swirled
By the May breeze, murmurous with wasp and midge,
For though the summer oozed into their veins
Like the injected drug for their bones' pains,
Sharp on their souls hung the imminent line of grass,
Fearfully flashed the sky's mysterious glass.

Hour after hour they ponder the warm field --
And the far valley behind, where the buttercups
Had blessed with gold their slow boots coming up,
Where even the little brambles would not yield,
But clutched and clung to them like sorrowing hands;
They breathe like trees unstirred.

Till like a cold gust thrilled the little word
At which each body and its soul begird
And tighten them for battle. No alarms
Of bugles, no high flags, no clamorous haste --
Only a lift and flare of eyes that faced
The sun, like a friend with whom their love is done.
O larger shone that smile against the sun, --
Mightier than his whose bounty these have spurned.

So, soon they topped the hill, and raced together
Over an open stretch of herb and heather
Exposed. And instantly the whole sky burned
With fury against them; and soft sudden cups
Opened in thousands for their blood; and the green slopes
Chasmed and steepened sheer to infinite space.

Of them who running on that last high place
Leapt to swift unseen bullets, or went up
On the hot blast and fury of hell's upsurge,
Or plunged and fell away past this world's verge,
Some say God caught them even before they fell.

But what say such as from existence' brink
Ventured but drave too swift to sink.
The few who rushed in the body to enter hell,
And there out-fiending all its fiends and flames
With superhuman inhumanities,
Long-famous glories, immemorial shames --
And crawling slowly back, have by degrees
Regained cool peaceful air in wonder --
Why speak they not of comrades that went under?
© Bernard de Silva 17.4.2005

Why do few heed rows of whitened crosses,
A country’s tribute, to suffering and to cost.
Nor contemplate the resting place of others,
an unmarked sanctuary of legions ever lost.

Long they rest without any grave or marker,
some in hidden depths, many fathoms deep.
Or lie beneath sands, or shrouding jungle,
Let none disturb, let warrior legions sleep.

Missing legions, each man’s fate forgotten,
time erases memory, those living one by one.
Soon none remain, gone cherished visions,
remembrance fades, lost each mother’s son.

Gone those comrades who long remembered,
all the ranks of remembrance, thinning fast.
The bugles muted, all the cannons silenced,
soon the realm of history, scenes of the past.

It’s too few read history, so too few reflect,
the path of human folly, ways destiny is set.
Too few note the price, the price of freedom,
a debt to returned, lost or fallen…lest we forget.
This one has always seemed to touch a nerve.

when the last post is blown,
and the last volley fired,
when the last sod is thrown,
and the last foe retired,
and the last bivouac is made underground,
soldier sleep sound."

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