War Poetry

Hedgehog

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The Soldier
If I should die, think only this of me:
That there's some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever 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
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learn t of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.

https://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/ww1lit/education/tutorials/intro/brooke/vsoldier.html
 

Sempai

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Der Sturm geht über die Gräber in Polen

by Walter Flex (1917) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walter_Flex

Es weht ein Sturm aus West, aus West,
Heimatwind, Gotteswind,
Der Kreuz und Kranz erbeben läßt,
Wo er ein Grab in Polen find't.
Es klagt und klagt der Sturm aus West:
Weh, deutscher Erde Kind!
Was hält dich Polens Erde fest?
Die deutsche Erde kühlt so lind,
Dich kühlt sie nicht!

Der Sturm aus Westen klingt und klagt
Hätt' ich Kraft, hätt' ich Kraft,
Ich hätte wie eine Kindesmagd
Dich längst in meinen Arm gerafft!
Kann's nicht, kann's nicht, Gott sei's geklagt!
Hätt' ich Kraft, hätt' ich Kraft,
Ich hätte euch auf nächtiger Jagd
Eine Handvoll Heimaterde geschafft
Zu Kranz und Grab!

Es fährt ein Sturm aus Ost, aus Ost,
Gräberwind, Gotteswind:
Du liebe Heimat, sei getrost!
Wir bleiben deiner Erde Kind . . . .
Von allen Gräbern weht's aus Ost:
Erde ist immer lind.
Erde, aus Heimaterde entsproßt,
Wir selbst nur Heimaterde sind,
Fürchtet euch nicht! –


The Storm goes over the Graves at Poland

by Walter Flex (1917) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walter_Flex

It blows the Storm from West, from West,
Homeland´s Wind, God´s Wind,
Who Cross and Wreath let quake,
Wherever he finds a Grave at Poland.
It wails and wails the Storm from West,
Woe betide You, german Soil´s Child!
What holds You on Poland´s Soil?
The german Soil chills so dulcet,
but not You!

The Storm from West sounds and wails:
If I had the strength, the strength,
I had as a maidservant
taken You on my Arm!
But I can´t, I can´t, to God it may complained!
If I had the Strength, the Strength,
I had on nightly Hunt
a Handful of Homeland´s Soil found You,
for Wreath and Grave.

It goes a Storm from East, from East,
Grave´s Wind, God´s Wind:
You dear Homeland be not afraid!
We remain Your Soil´s Child...
From all the Graves it blows from East:
Soil is always dulcet.
Soil, sprouted of Homeland´s Soil,
We ourself only are Homeland´s Soil,
Don´t be afraid! -
 
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Louis

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Rouge Bouquet by Joyce Kilmer

Fighting in France in 1918, American poet Joyce Kilmer wrote this poem upon losing 21 comrades in battle. The poem was read at their burial.-
Five months later, the poem was read at Kilmer's own grave when he was killed in action at the age of 31.

In a wood they call the Rouge Bouquet
There is a new-made grave to-day,
Built by never a spade nor pick
Yet covered with earth ten meters thick.
There lie many fighting men,
Dead in their youthful prime,
Never to laugh nor love again
Nor taste the Summertime.
For Death came flying through the air
And stopped his flight at the dugout stair,
Touched his prey and left them there,
Clay to clay.
He hid their bodies stealthily
In the soil of the land they fought to free
And fled away.
Now over the grave abrupt and clear
Three volleys ring;
And perhaps their brave young spirits hear
The bugle sing:
"Go to sleep!
Go to sleep!
Slumber well where the shell screamed and fell.
Let your rifles rest on the muddy floor,
You will not need them any more.
Danger's past;
Now at last,
Go to sleep!"

There is on earth no worthier grave
To hold the bodies of the brave
Than this place of pain and pride
Where they nobly fought and nobly died.
Never fear but in the skies
Saints and angels stand
Smiling with their holy eyes
On this new-come band.
St. Michael's sword darts through the air
And touches the aureole on his hair
As he sees them stand saluting there,
His stalwart sons;
And Patrick, Brigid, Columkill
Rejoice that in veins of warriors still
The Gael's blood runs.
And up to Heaven's doorway floats,
From the wood called Rouge Bouquet,
A delicate cloud of buglenotes
That softly say:
"Farewell!
Farewell!
Comrades true, born anew, peace to you!
Your souls shall be where the heroes are
And your memory shine like the morning-star.
Brave and dear,
Shield us here.
Farewell!"
 
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Louis

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PEARL HARBOR by Tom Zart

Sunday, December the seventh,
In the year of 1941,
While most of Hawaii still slept,
Came the planes of the Rising Sun.

Waves of bombers and fighters flew,
From the decks of the Japanese ships.
While our planes were still on the ground,
"Banzai" was spoken from their lips.

The winds of war had been blowing
Across the oceans of our earth,
Though not till Pearl had been bombed,
Did we realize what freedom's worth.

Wars are fought and won on two fronts,
At home and on the battle line.
Both are equally important,
When war consumes our heart and mind.

The attack brought us World War II,
With death, pain and separation.
All who had served were well aware
Of their sacrifice for nation.
 

Louis

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Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels is name given to the caring native carriers of Papua New Guinea. Many Australian lives were lost during the campaign but without the help of the "Fuzzy Wuzzies" the loss would have been much greater. Not only did they carry the wounded out but they also carried the ammunition, food and other supplies in. With the average load weighing over 40 kgs and often under heavy fire from the Japanese, the Fuzzy Wuzzies battled the terrain and the enemy as they painstakingly carried the wounded over the tough terrain. The great majority of the 18,000 New Guineans who participated in the campaign did so as carriers of supplies for the Allies, though 800 men from the Papuan Infantry Battalion and the Royal Papuan Constabulary fought against the Japanese in 1942.


The poem by Sapper Bert Beros which illustrates the effort shown by the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels:

Many a mother in Australia
when the busy day is done,
Sends a prayer to the Almighty
for the keeping of her son;
Asking that an Angel guide him
and bring him safely back -
Now we see those prayers are answered
on the Owen Stanley track.
For they haven't any haloes
only holes slashed through the ear
And their faces worked by tattoos
with scratch pins in their hair:
Bringing back the badly wounded
just as steady as a horse,
Using leaves to keep the rain off
and as gentle as a nurse
Slow and careful in bad places
on the awful mountain track
The look upon their faces
Would make you think that Christ was black
Not a move to hurt the wounded
as they treat him like a saint
It's a picture worth recording
that an artist's yet to paint
Many a lad will see his mother
and husbands see their wives
Just because the fuzzy wuzzy
carried them to save their lives
From mortar bombs and machine gun fire
or chance surprise attacks
To the safety and the care of doctors
at the bottom of the track
May the mothers of Australia
when they offer up a prayer.
Mention these impromptu angels
with their fuzzy wuzzy hair.
 
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Louis

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In Flanders Fields is the best-known war poem written by Canadian physician and Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae in 1915.

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 amid 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.
 
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Louis

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Christmas Day On The Somme, by Leslie George Rub

’Twas Christmas Day on the Somme
The men stood on parade,
The snow laid six feet on the ground
Twas twenty in the shade.

Up spoke the Captain ‘gallant man’,
"Just hear what I’ve to say,
You may not have remembered that
Today is Christmas Day."

"The General has expressed a wish
This day may be observed,
Today you will only work eight hours,
A rest that’s well deserved.

I hope you’ll keep yourselves quite clean
And smart and spruce and nice,
The stream is frozen hard
But a pick will break the ice."

"All men will get two biscuits each,
I’m sure you’re tired of bread,
I’m sorry there’s no turkey
but there’s Bully Beef instead.

The puddings plum have not arrived
But they are on their way,
I’ll guarantee they’ll be in time
To eat next Christmas Day."

"You’re parcels would have been in time
But I regret to say
The vessel which conveyed them was
Torpedoed on the way.

The Quartermaster’s got your rum
But you may get some yet,
Each man will be presented with
A Woodbine Cigarette."

"The Huns have caught us in the rear
And painted France all red,
Pray do not let that trouble you,
Tomorrow you’ll be dead.

Now ere you go I wish you all
This season of good cheer,
A very happy Christmas and
A prosperous New Year."

Leslie George Rub was 23 when he enlisted at Towoomba, Queensland, Australia on 25th Aug 1915. He sailed for Alexandria on board the H.M.A.T. Wandilla from Brisbane, Queensland. From Alexandria he was transferred from 26th Battalion to 2nd Pioneers because of his carpentry experience, and sent first to France, and then on to Flanders in Belgium.

In autumn 1917, seven weeks after the start of the Third Battle of Ypres, Australian troops finally captured Westhoek Ridge, where German strongholds were manned by machinegunners. Three days later Leslie Rub and other men from his company were in the night making a road between Broodseinde Ridge and Westhoek Ridge when they were shelled. Leslie was hit in the kidneys by shrapnel. He died the next morning, on the 23rd Sept 1917, at the 1st Australian Ambulance. He is buried at Dickebusch War Cemetry, 5 km southwest of Ypres.

from: greatwar.nl
 

Louis

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"SOLDIER" by George L. Skypeck, Vietnam veteran

"I was that which others did not want to be.
I went where others feared to go, and did what others failed to do.
I asked nothing from those who gave nothing, and reluctantly accepted the thought of eternal loneliness ... should I fail.
I have seen the face of terror; 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.
At least someday I will be able to say that I was proud of what I was ... a soldier".
 

steve

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High Flight’
By John Gillespie Magee, Jr

Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of -- Wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there
I've chased the shouting wind along and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long delirious, burning blue
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace,
Where never lark, or even eagle flew;
And, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

High Flight was composed by Pilot Officer John Gillespie Magee, Jr., an American serving with the Royal Canadian Air Force. He was born in Shanghai, China in 1922, the son of missionary parents, Reverend and Mrs. John Gillespie Magee; his father was an American and his mother was originally a British citizen.

He came to the U.S. in 1939 and earned a scholarship to Yale, but in September 1940 he enlisted in the RCAF and was graduated as a pilot. He was sent to England for combat duty in July 1941.

In August or September 1941, Pilot Officer Magee composed High Flight and sent a copy to his parents. Several months later, on December 11, 1941 his Spitfire collided with another plane over England and Magee, only 19 years of age, crashed to his death.

His remains are buried in the churchyard cemetery at Scopwick, Lincolnshire.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Gillespie_Magee,_Jr.


Steve
 

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For the Fallen by Laurence Binyon, published in The times, September 21st 1914.

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres,
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years contemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England's foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.

Steve
 

Louis

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The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner is a five-line poem by Randall Jarrell published in 1945. It is about the death of a gunner in a Sperry ball turret on a WW2 American bomber aircraft.


Jarrell, who served in the Army Air Forces, provided the following explanatory note:

A ball turret was a Plexiglas sphere set into the belly of a B-17 or B-24, and inhabited by two .50 caliber machine guns and one man, a short small man. When this gunner tracked with his machine guns a fighter attacking his bomber from below, he revolved with the turret; hunched upside-down in his little sphere, he looked like the fetus in the womb. The fighters which attacked him were armed with cannon firing explosive shells. The hose was a steam hose.
 

Louis

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A Different Christmas Story

The embers glowed softly, and in their dim light,
I gazed round the room and I cherished the sight.
My wife was asleep, her head on my chest,
My daughter beside me, angelic in rest.


Outside the snow fell, a blanket of white,
Transforming the yard to a winter delight.
The sparkling lights in the tree I believe,
Completed the magic that was Christmas Eve.


My eyelids were heavy, my breathing was deep,
Secure and surrounded by love I would sleep.
In perfect contentment, or so it would seem,
So I slumbered, perhaps I started to dream.


The sound wasn’t loud, and it wasn’t too near,
But I opened my eyes when it tickled my ear.

Perhaps just a cough, I didn’t quite know,
Then the sure sound of footsteps outside in the snow.


My soul gave a tremble, I struggled to hear,
And I crept to the door just to see who was near.

Standing out in the cold and the dark of the night,
A lone figure stood, his face weary and tight.


A soldier, I puzzled, some twenty years old,
Perhaps a paratrooper, huddled here in the cold.
Alone in the dark, he looked up and smiled,
Standing watch over me, and my wife and my child.


“What are you doing?” I asked without fear,
“Come in this moment, it’s freezing out here!
Put down your pack, brush the snow from your sleeve,
You should be at home on a cold Christmas Eve!”


For barely a moment I saw his eyes shift,
Away from the cold and the snow blown in drifts…
To the window that danced with a warm fire’s light
Then he sighed and he said “It’s really all right.


I’m out here by choice. I’m here every night. ”
“It’s my duty to stand at the front of the line,
That separates you from the darkest of times.
No one had to ask or beg or implore me,

I’m proud to stand here like my fathers before me.


My Gramps died at ‘ Pearl on a day in December,”
Then he sighed, “That’s a Christmas ‘Gram always remembers. ”
My dad stood his watch in the jungles of ‘ Nam ‘,
And now it is my turn and so, here I am.


I’ve not seen my own son in more than a while,
But my wife sends me pictures, he’s sure got her smile.
Then he bent and he carefully pulled from his bag,
The red, white, and blue… an American flag.


I can live through the cold and the being alone,
Away from my family, my house and my home.
I can stand at my post through the rain and the sleet,
I can sleep in a foxhole with little to eat.


I can carry the weight of killing another,
Or lay down my life with my sister and brother.
Who stand at the front against any and all,
To ensure for all time that this flag will not fall.”


” So go back inside,” he said, “harbor no fright,
Your family is waiting and I’ll be all right. ”
“But isn’t there something I can do, at the least,
“Give you money,” I asked, “or prepare you a feast?

It seems all too little for all that you’ve done,
For being away from your wife and your son. “


Then his eye welled a tear that held no regret,
“Just tell us you love us, and never forget.
To fight for our rights back at home while we’re gone,
To stand your own watch, no matter how long.


For when we come home, either standing or dead,
To know you remember we fought and we bled.
Is payment enough, and with that we will trust,
That we mattered to you as you mattered to us. “

From: 425th Regimental Association
 
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