War Poetry

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#1
Poem : Soldier's Farewell

Soldier's Farewell

I've saddled up, and dropped me hooch,
I'm going to take the gap,
my Tour of Duty's over mates,
and I won't be coming back.

I'm done with diggin' shell scrapes
and laying out barbed wire,
I'm sick of setting Claymore Mines,
and coming under fire.

So no more Fire Support Base,
and no more foot patrols,
and no more eating ration packs,
and sleepin' in muddy holes.

I've fired my last machine gun,
and ambushed my last track,
I'm sick of all the Army brass,
and I sure ain't coming back.

I'll hand my bayonet to the clerk,
he ain't seen one before,
and clean my rifle one more time,
and return it to the store.

So no more spit and polish,
and make sure I get paid,
and sign me from the Regiment,
today's my last parade.

- Mike Subritzky, 161 Bty RNZA
 

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#2
Poem : The Sentry

The Sentry

The wind is crisp, it blows from the West and the moon slips behind a cloud.

It is 4.45 as I rise half alive, feet numb, fingers numb, and the barrel of my rifle a dark silhouette against the grey dawn sky...Duty.

Tussock cold and wet about my legs, webbing tight about my waist, boots stumbling blindly towards the machine gun post.

Test the phone, check the gun, turn up the collar on my combat jacket, back resting against the wet clay walls of the pit...One hour till dawn.

Eyes blur, mind wanders, thoughts of home, wife and kids; water bottle presses against my back, knees drawn up, helmet and head resting between them for warmth.

Time drags, mind plays tricks on my vision, heaven would be a warm bed or a hot cup of coffee...Half hour till dawn, test the phone.

Dawn nears, hills take shape, trees take shape, to my front is the black menacing shadow of a field gun; lethal against the sky line.

The tannoy clicks, the phone rings, "Stand To!" is quietly passed by word of mouth, human shapes move quietly, each in the direction of its own slit trench...silence.

Experience shows this to be the most likely time for an attack. Time lapses, nothing moves, save only the chill wind blowing gently through the tussock...silence.

Birds break into song, the first rays of the new dawn sun burst forth spreading warmth and life into everything it reaches out and touches; and for the Gunners another day begins..."Stand Down!"
- Mike Subritzky
161 Battery
 

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#3
Poem : The Thunder of the Guns

The Thunder of the Guns

Like the storm that's in the making
When the rumbling thunder runs
And the hills and valleys tremble:
That's THE THUNDER OF THE GUNS.

When the aiming posts are planted
And the firing order comes,
Then the layers work their magic
With their sight and bubble runs.

Then the check is on the charges
And the range that's on the drum,
Then the muzzle flashes lightning:
That's THE THUNDER OF THE GUNS.

It's in the fury of the battle
When the understanding comes
That the gunner is forever,
A partner with the guns.

The gunner's pride is legend
And the battles he has won,
Bring Regimental Honours:
Through THE THUNDER OF HIS GUNS.

With the smoking breaches empty
And the dust and cordite gone,
There's a rumble in the distance:
That's THE THUNDER OF THE GUNS.

The Gods of War have finished
And the Sands of Time have run,
But always there's the memory of
THE THUNDER OF THE GUNS.

And as today becomes the future
Our sons will tell their sons,
That the men whose blood they carry:
Knew THE THUNDER OF THE GUNS.

In the valley of the shadows
When his comrades are as one,
Their hearts will surely gladden
For they're the only ones
That understand the music:
In THE THUNDER OF THE GUNS.
- Gnr W.S.T. Stacy
 

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#4
Poem : Alone and far removed.

ALONE AND FAR REMOVED

Alone and far removed from earthly care

The noble ruins of men lie buried here.

You were strong men, good men

Endowed with youth and much the will to live.

I hear no protest from the mute lips of the dead.

They rest; there is no more to give.

So long, my comrades,

Sleep ye where you fell upon the field.

But tread softly please

March o'er my heart with ease

March on and on,

But to God alone we kneeled.

By: Audie Murphy
 

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#5
Poem : Freedom flies in your heart like an eagle.

FREEDOM FLIES IN YOUR HEART LIKE AN EAGLE

Dusty old helmet, rusty old gun,
They sit in the corner and wait -
Two souvenirs of the Second World War
That have withstood the time, and the hate.
Mute witness to a time of much trouble.
Where kill or be killed was the law -
Were these implements used with high honor?
What was the glory they saw?
Many times I've wanted to ask them -
And now that we're here all alone,
Relics all three of a long ago war -
Where has freedom gone?
Freedom flies in your heart like an eagle.
Let it soar with the winds high above,
Among the spirits of soldiers now sleeping,
Guard it with care and with love.
I salute my old friends in the corner,
I agree with all they have said -
And if the moment of truth comes tomorrow,
I'll be free, or By God, I'll be dead!

By: Audie Murphy
 

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#6
Poem : The crosses grow on Anzio.

THE CROSSES GROW ON ANZIO


Oh, gather 'round me, comrades
And listen while I weep;
Of a war, a war, a war...
where hell is six feet deep.
Along the shore, the cannons roar.
Oh how can a soldier sleep?
The going's slow on Anzio
And hell is six feet deep.
Praise be to God for this captured sod
That's rich where blood does seep;
With yours and mine, like butchered swine;
And hell is six feet deep.
That death does wait
There's no debate;
No triumph will we reap
The crosses grow on Anzio,
Where hell is six feet deep.

BY: Audie Murphy, 1948
 

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#7
Poem : Do not stand at my grave and weep

Do not stand at my grave and weep

Do not stand at my grave and weep;

I am not there. I do not sleep.

I am a thousand winds that blow.

I am the diamond glints on snow.

I am the sunlight on ripened grain.

I am the gentle autumn rain.




When you awaken in the morning's hush

I am the swift uplifting rush

Of quiet birds in circled flight.

I am the soft stars that shine at night.

Do not stand at my grave and cry;

I am not there. I did not die.




(Anonymous)
 
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#8
Poem : The General

The General

"Good-morning; good-morning!" the General said
When we met him last week on our way to the line.
Now the soldiers he smiled at are most of ’em dead,
And we’re cursing his staff for incompetent swine.





"He’s a cheery old card," grunted Harry to Jack
As they slogged up to Arras with rifle and pack.



But he did for them both by his plan of attack.

By Siegrfried Sassoon
 
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#9
Poem : by Lord Balfour Of Inchrye.

On weald of Kent I watched once more
Again I heard that grumbling roar
Of fighter planes; yet none were near
And all around the sky was clear

Borne on the wind a whisper came
'Though men grow old, they stay the same'
And then I knew, unseen to eye
The ageless Few were sweeping by

Lord Balfour Of Inchrye.
 

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#10
Poem : I have a rendezvous with death!



American poet Alan Seeger 1888-1916, killed in action WW1


I have a rendezvous with Death by Alan Seeger

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.
 

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#11
"How to Die"

Dark clouds are smouldering into red
While down the craters morning burns.
The dying soldier shifts his head
To watch the glory that returns;
He lifts his fingers toward the skies
Where holy brightness breaks in flame;
Radiance reflected in his eyes,
And on his lips a whispered name.

You'd think, to hear some people talk,
That lads go West with sobs and curses,
And sullen faces white as chalk,
Hankering for wreaths and tombs and hearses.
But they've been taught the way to do it
Like Christian soldiers; not with haste
And shuddering groans; but passing through it
With due regard for decent taste.

Siegfried Sassoon
 

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#12
"Anthem for a 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 for them from prayers or 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 silent minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.

Wilfred Owen

The title of the poem 'Dulce et decorum est' (pro patria mori) translates as-

"it is sweet and right to die for your country",
 

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#13
"Dulce et Decorum Est "

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.

Gas! GAS! Quick, boys! -- An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime . . .
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under I green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues, --
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

Wilfred Owen
 

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#14
"The Happy Warrior"

His wild heart beats with painful sobs,
His strin'd hands clench an ice-cold rifle,
His aching jaws grip a hot parch'd tongue,
His wide eyes search unconsciously.

He cannot shriek.

Bloody saliva
Dribbles down his shapeless jacket.

I saw him stab
And stab again
A well-killed Boche.

This is the happy warrior,
This is he...

Herbert Read
 

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#15
"Before Action"

By all the glories of the day
And the cool evening's benison,
By that last sunset touch that lay
Upon the hills where day was done,
By beauty lavisghly outpoured
And blessings carelessly received,
By all the days that I have lived
Make me a solider, Lord.
By all of man's hopes and fears,
And all the wonders poets sing,
The laughter of unclouded years,
And every sad and lovely thing;
By the romantic ages stored
With high endeavor that was his,
By all his mad catastrophes
Make me a man, O Lord.
I, that on my familiar hill
Saw with uncomprehending eyes
A hundred of Thy sunsets spill
Their fresh and sanguine sacrifice,
Ere the sun swings his noonday sword
Must say goodbye to all of this;--
By all delights that I shall miss,
Help me to die, O Lord.

W. Hodgson
 

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#16
"Back"

They ask me where I've been,
And what I've done and seen.
But what can I reply
Who know it wasn't I,
But someone just like me,
Who went across the sea
And with my head and hands
Killed men in foreign lands...
Though I must bear the blame,
Because he bore my name.

Wilfred Gibson
 

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#17
"MCMXIV"

Those long uneven lines
Standing as patiently
As if they were stretched outside
The Oval or Villa Park,
The crowns of hats, the sun
On moustached archaic faces
Grinning as if it were all
An August Bank Holiday lark;

And the shut shops, the bleached
Established names on the sunblinds,
The farthings and sovereigns,
And dark-clothed children at play
Called after kings and queens,
The tin advertisements
For cocoa and twist, and the pubs
Wide open all day;

And the countryside not caring
The place-names all hazed over
With flowering grasses, and fields
Shadowing Domesday lines
Under wheats' restless silence;
The differently-dressed servants
With tiny rooms in huge houses,
The dust behind limousines;

Never such innocence,
Never before or since,
As changed itself to past
Without a word--the men
Leaving the gardens tidy,
The thousands of marriages
Lasting a little while longer:
Never such innocence again.

Philip Larkin
 

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#18
Peace

Now, God be thanked Who has matched us with His hour,
And caught our youth, and wakened us from sleeping,
With hand made sure, clear eye, and sharpened power,
To turn, as swimmers into cleanness leaping,
Glad from a world grown old and cold and weary,
Leave the sick hearts that honour could not move,
And half-men, and their dirty songs and dreary,
And all the little emptiness of love!

Oh! we, who have known shame, we have found release there,
Where there's no ill, no grief, but sleep has mending,
Naught broken save this body, lost but breath;
Nothing to shake the laughing heart's long peace there
But only agony, and that has ending;
And the worst friend and enemy is but Death.

Rupert Brooke
 

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#19
A Dead Boche


To you who’d read my songs of War
And only hear of blood and fame,
I’ll say (you’ve heard it said before)
”War’s Hell!” and if you doubt the same,
Today I found in Mametz Wood
A certain cure for lust of blood:

Where, propped against a shattered trunk,
In a great mess of things unclean,
Sat a dead Boche; he scowled and stunk
With clothes and face a sodden green,
Big-bellied, spectacled, crop-haired,
Dribbling black blood from nose and beard.

Robert Graves
 

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#20
Corporal Stare


Back from the line one night in June,
I gave a dinner at Bethune—
Seven courses, the most gorgeous meal
Money could buy or batman steal.
Five hungry lads welcomed the fish
With shouts that nearly cracked the dish;
Asparagus came with tender tops,
Strawberries in cream, and mutton chops.
Said Jenkins, as my hand he shook,
“They’ll put this in the history book.”
We bawled Church anthems in choro
Of Bethlehem and Hermon snow,
With drinking songs, a jolly sound
To help the good red Pommard round.
Stories and laughter interspersed,
We drowned a long La Bassée thirst—
Trenches in June make throats damned dry.
Then through the window suddenly,
Badge, stripes and medals all complete,
We saw him swagger up the street,
Just like a live man—Corporal Stare!
Stare! Killed last May at Festubert.
Caught on patrol near the Boche wire,
Torn horribly by machine-gun fire!
He paused, saluted smartly, grinned,
Then passed away like a puff of wind,
Leaving us blank astonishment.
The song broke, up we started, leant
Out of the window—nothing there,
Not the least shadow of Corporal Stare,
Only a quiver of smoke that showed
A fag-end dropped on the silent road.

Robert Graves