Poetry with a Military theme, wots your favourite?

Discussion in 'Poetry Corner' started by Henry_Tombs, Jan 26, 2005.

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  1. Without a shadow of doubt Rudyard Kipling is my favourite poet and "The Grave of the Hundred Head" is I believe one of his finest (and most gruesome).
    Wots you favourite?

    "The Grave of the Hundred Head"

    There's a widow in sleepy Chester
    Who weeps for her only son;
    There's a grave on the Pabeng River,
    A grave that the Burmans shun;
    And there's Subadar Prag Tewarri
    Who tells how the work was done.

    A Snider squibbed in the jungle,
    Somebody laughed and fled,
    And the men of the First Shikaris
    Picked up their Subaltern dead,
    With a big blue mark in his forehead
    And the back blown out of his head.

    Subadar Prag Tewarri,
    Jemadar Hira Lal,
    Took command of the party,
    Twenty rifles in all,
    Marched them down to the river
    As the day was beginning to fall.

    They buried the boy by the river,
    A blanket over his face --
    They wept for their dead Lieutenant,
    The men of an alien race --
    They made a samadh in his honor,
    A mark for his resting-place.

    For they swore by the Holy Water,
    They swore by the salt they ate,
    That the soul of Lieutenant Eshmitt Sahib
    Should go to his God in state,
    With fifty file of Burmans
    To open him Heaven's gate.

    The men of the First Shikaris
    Marched till the break of day,
    Till they came to the rebel village,
    The village of Pabengmay --
    A jingal covered the clearing,
    Calthrops hampered the way.

    Subadar Prag Tewarri,
    Bidding them load with ball,
    Halted a dozen rifles
    Under the village wall;
    Sent out a flanking-party
    With Jemadar Hira Lal.

    The men of the First Shikaris
    Shouted and smote and slew,
    Turning the grinning jingal
    On to the howling crew.
    The Jemadar's flanking-party
    Butchered the folk who flew.

    Long was the morn of slaughter,
    Long was the list of slain,
    Five score heads were taken,
    Five score heads and twain;
    And the men of the First Shickaris
    Went back to their grave again,

    Each man bearing a basket
    Red as his palms that day,
    Red as the blazing village --
    The village of Pabengmay,
    And the "drip-drip-drip" from the baskets
    Reddened the grass by the way.

    They made a pile of their trophies
    High as a tall man's chin,
    Head upon head distorted,
    Set in a sightless grin,
    Anger and pain and terror
    Stamped on the smoke-scorched skin.

    Subadar Prag Tewarri
    Put the head of the Boh
    On the top of the mound of triumph,
    The head of his son below --
    With the sword and the peacock-banner
    That the world might behold and know.

    Thus the samadh was perfect,
    Thus was the lesson plain
    Of the wrath of the First Shikaris --
    The price of a white man slain;
    And the men of the First Shikaris
    Went back into camp again.

    Then a silence came to the river,
    A hush fell over the shore,
    And Bohs that were brave departed,
    And Sniders squibbed no more;
    For the Burmans said
    That a white man's head
    Must be paid for with heads five-score.

    There's a widow in sleepy Chester
    Who weeps for her only son;
    There's a grave on the Pabeng River,
    A grave that the Burmans shun;
    And there's Subadar Prag Tewarri
    Who tells how the work was done.
  2. Because Mr (Rudyard) Kipling writes exceedingly good poems.


    When the Waters were dried an' the Earth did appear,
    ("It's all one," says the Sapper),
    The Lord He created the Engineer,
    Her Majesty's Royal Engineer,
    With the rank and pay of a Sapper!

    When the Flood come along for an extra monsoon,
    'Twas Noah constructed the first pontoon
    To the plans of Her Majesty's, etc.

    But after fatigue in the wet an' the sun,
    Old Noah got drunk, which he wouldn't ha' done
    If he'd trained with, etc.

    When the Tower o' Babel had mixed up men's ~bat~,
    Some clever civilian was managing that,
    An' none of, etc.

    When the Jews had a fight at the foot of a hill,
    Young Joshua ordered the sun to stand still,
    For he was a Captain of Engineers, etc.

    When the Children of Israel made bricks without straw,
    They were learnin' the regular work of our Corps,
    The work of, etc.

    For ever since then, if a war they would wage,
    Behold us a-shinin' on history's page --
    First page for, etc.

    We lay down their sidings an' help 'em entrain,
    An' we sweep up their mess through the bloomin' campaign,
    In the style of, etc.

    They send us in front with a fuse an' a mine
    To blow up the gates that are rushed by the Line,
    But bent by, etc.

    They send us behind with a pick an' a spade,
    To dig for the guns of a bullock-brigade
    Which has asked for, etc.

    We work under escort in trousers and shirt,
    An' the heathen they plug us tail-up in the dirt,
    Annoying, etc.

    We blast out the rock an' we shovel the mud,
    We make 'em good roads an' -- they roll down the ~khud~,
    Reporting, etc.

    We make 'em their bridges, their wells, an' their huts,
    An' the telegraph-wire the enemy cuts,
    An' it's blamed on, etc.

    An' when we return, an' from war we would cease,
    They grudge us adornin' the billets of peace,
    Which are kept for, etc.

    We build 'em nice barracks -- they swear they are bad,
    That our Colonels are Methodist, married or mad,
    Insultin', etc.

    They haven't no manners nor gratitude too,
    For the more that we help 'em, the less will they do,
    But mock at, etc.

    Now the Line's but a man with a gun in his hand,
    An' Cavalry's only what horses can stand,
    When helped by, etc.

    Artillery moves by the leave o' the ground,
    But ~we~ are the men that do something all round,
    For ~we~ are, etc.

    I have stated it plain, an' my argument's thus
    ("It's all one," says the Sapper),
    There's only one Corps which is perfect -- that's us;
    An' they call us Her Majesty's Engineers,
    Her Majesty's Royal Engineers,
    With the rank and pay of a Sapper!
  3. You can keep Kipling, he has been Kippled.

    Spike Milligan

    Hello jolly Guardsman
    In your scarlet coat
    It reaches from below your tum
    To half way up your throat

    Tell me jolly Guardsman
    When you are not on parade
    What kind of clothes do you wear?

    ‘Civvies I am afraid’
  4. BuggerAll

    BuggerAll LE Reviewer Book Reviewer

    I'm a greedy git I've got two - both Kipling 'The Ladies' and 'The Eathen':

    The Ladies

    I’VE taken my fun where I’ve found it;
    I’ve rogued an’ I’ve ranged in my time;
    I’ve ’ad my pickin’ o’ sweet’earts,
    An’ four o’ the lot was prime.
    One was an ’arf-caste widow,
    One was a woman at Prome,
    One was the wife of a jemadar-sais,
    An’ one is a girl at ’ome.
    Now I aren’t no ’and with the ladies,
    For, takin’ ’em all along,
    You never can say till you’ve tried ’em,
    An’ then you are like to be wrong.
    There’s times when you’ll think that you mightn’t,
    There’s times when you’ll know that you might;
    But the things you will learn from the Yellow an’ Brown,
    They’ll ’elp you a lot with the White!

    I was a young un at ’Oogli,
    Shy as a girl to begin;
    Aggie de Castrer she made me,
    An’ Aggie was clever as sin;
    Older than me, but my first un—
    More like a mother she were—
    Showed me the way to promotion an’ pay,
    An’ I learned about women from ’er!

    Then I was ordered to Burma,
    Actin’ in charge o’ Bazar,
    An’ I got me a tiddy live ’eathen
    Through buyin’ supplies off ’er pa.
    Funny an’ yellow an’ faithful—
    Doll in a teacup she were,
    But we lived on the square, like a true-married pair,
    An’ I learned about women from ’er!

    Then we was shifted to Neemuch
    (Or I might ha’ been keepin’ ’er now),
    An’ I took with a shiny she-devil,
    The wife of a nigger at Mhow;
    ’Taught me the gipsy-folks’ bolee;
    Kind o’ volcano she were,
    For she knifed me one night ’cause I wished she was white,
    And I learned about women from ’er!

    Then I come ’ome in the trooper,
    ’Long of a kid o’ sixteen—
    Girl from a convent at Meerut,
    The straightest I ever ’ave seen.
    Love at first sight was ’er trouble,
    She didn’t know what it were;
    An’ I wouldn’t do such, ’cause I liked ’er too much,
    But—I learned about women from ’er!

    I’ve taken my fun where I’ve found it,
    An’ now I must pay for my fun,
    For the more you ’ave known o’ the others
    The less will you settle to one;
    An’ the end of it’s sittin’ and thinkin’,
    An’ dreamin’ Hell-fires to see;
    So be warned by my lot (which I know you will not),
    An’ learn about women from me!

    What did the Colonel’s Lady think?
    Nobody never knew.
    Somebody asked the Sergeant’s wife,
    An’ she told ’em true!
    When you get to a man in the case,
    They’re like as a row of pins—
    For the Colonel’s Lady an’ Judy O’Grady
    Are sisters under their skins!

    The Eathen

    THE ’EATHEN in ’is blindness bows down to wood an’ stone;
    ’E don’t obey no orders unless they is ’is own;
    ’E keeps ’is side-arms awful: ’e leaves ’em all about,
    An’ then comes up the regiment an’ pokes the ’eathen out.

    All along o’ dirtiness, all along o’ mess,
    All along o’ doin’ things rather-more-or-less,
    All along of abby-nay, kul, an’ hazar-ho,
    Mind you keep your rifle an’ yourself jus’ so!
    The young recruit is ’aughty—’e draf’s from Gawd knows where;
    They bid ’im show ’is stockin’s an’ lay ’is mattress square;
    ’E calls it bloomin’ nonsense—’e doesn’t know no more—
    An’ then up comes ’is Company an’ kicks ’im round the floor!

    The young recruit is ’ammered—’e takes it very ’ard;
    ’E ’angs ’is ’ead an’ mutters—’e sulks about the yard;
    ’E talks o’ “cruel tyrants” ’e’ll swing for by-an’-by,
    An’ the others ’ears an’ mocks ’im, an’ the boy goes orf to cry.

    The young recruit is silly—’e thinks o’ suicide;
    ’E’s lost ’is gutter-devil; ’e ’asn’t got ’is pride;
    But day by day they kicks ’im, which ’elps ’im on a bit,
    Till ’e finds ’isself one mornin’ with a full an’ proper kit.

    Gettin’ clear o’ dirtiness, gettin’ done with mess,
    Gettin’ shut o’ doin’ things rather-more-or-less;
    Not so fond of abby-nay, kul, nor hazar-ho,
    Learns to keep ’is rifle an’ ’isself jus’ so!
    The young recruit is ’appy—’e throws a chest to suit;
    You see ’im grow mustaches; you ’ear ’im slap ’is boot;
    ’E learns to drop the “bloodies” from every word ’e slings,
    An’ ’e shows an ’ealthy brisket when ’e strips for bars an’ rings.

    The cruel-tyrant-sergeants they watch ’im ’arf a year;
    They watch ’im with ’is comrades, they watch ’im with ’is beer;
    They watch ’im with the women at the regimental dance,
    And the cruel-tyrant-sergeants send ’is name along for “Lance”.

    An’ now ’e’s ’arf o’ nothin’, an’ all a private yet,
    ’Is room they up an’ rags ’im to see what they will get;
    They rags ’im low an’ cunnin’, each dirty trick they can,
    But ’e learns to sweat ’is temper an’ ’e learns to sweat ’is man.

    An’, last, a Colour-Sergeant, as such to be obeyed,
    ’E schools ’is men at cricket, ’e tells ’em on parade;
    They sees ’em quick an’ ’andy, uncommon set an’ smart,
    An’ so ’e talks to orficers which ’ave the Core at ’eart.

    ’E learns to do ’is watchin’ without it showin’ plain;
    ’E learns to save a dummy, an’ shove ’im straight again;
    ’E learns to check a ranker that’s buyin’ leave to shirk;
    An’ ’e learns to make men like ’im so they’ll learn to like their work.

    An’ when it comes to marchin’ he’ll see their socks are right,
    An’ when it comes to action ’e shows ’em ’ow to sight;
    ’E knows their ways of thinkin’ and just what’s in their mind;
    ’E knows when they are takin’ on an’ when they’ve fell be’ind.

    ’E knows each talkin’ corpril that leads a squad astray;
    ’E feels ’is innards ’eavin’, ’is bowels givin’ way;
    ’E sees the blue-white faces all tryin’ ’ard to grin,
    An’ ’e stands an’ waits an’ suffers till it’s time to cap ’em in.

    An’ now the hugly bullets come peckin’ through the dust,
    An’ no one wants to face ’em, but every beggar must;
    So, like a man in irons which isn’t glad to go,
    They moves ’em off by companies uncommon stiff an’ slow.

    Of all ’is five years’ schoolin’ they don’t remember much
    Excep’ the not retreatin’, the step an’ keepin’ touch.
    It looks like teachin’ wasted when they duck an’ spread an’ ’op,
    But if ’e ’adn’t learned ’em they’d be all about the shop!

    An’ now it’s “’Oo goes backward?” an’ now it’s “’Oo comes on?”
    And now it’s “Get the doolies,” an’ now the captain’s gone;
    An’ now it’s bloody murder, but all the while they ’ear
    ’Is voice, the same as barrick drill, a-shepherdin’ the rear.

    ’E’s just as sick as they are, ’is ’eart is like to split,
    But ’e works ’em, works ’em, works ’em till he feels ’em take the bit;
    The rest is ’oldin’ steady till the watchful bugles play,
    An’ ’e lifts ’em, lifts ’em, lifts ’em through the charge that wins the day!

    The ’eathen in ’is blindness bows down to wood an’ stone;
    ’E don’t obey no orders unless they is ’is own;
    The ’eathen in ’is blindness must end where ’e began,
    But the backbone of the Army is the non-commissioned man!
    Keep away from dirtiness—keep away from mess.
    Don’t get into doin’ things rather-more-or-less!
    Let’s ha’ done with abby-nay, kul, an’ hazar-ho;
    Mind you keep your rifle an’ yourself jus’ so!
  5. ..and of course not forgetting the rather large "Military Poetry" thread in 'Best of Arrse' Vol.1 ?
  6. Suicide in the trenches.

    I knew a simple soldier boy
    Who grinned at life in empty joy,
    Slept soundly through the lonesome dark,
    And whistled early with the lark.

    In winter trenches, cowed and glum,
    With crumps, and lice and lack of rum,
    He put a bullet through his brain.
    No one spoke of him again.

    You-smug faced crowds with kindling eye
    Who cheer when soldier lads march by,
    Sneak home and pray you'll never know
    The hell where youth and laughter go.

    Siegfried Sassoon
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