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PostPosted: Thu May 29, 2008 9:18 pm 
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Location: Sheffield, UK
The Soldiers at Lauro

Young are our dead
Like babies they lie
The wombs they blest once
Not healed dry
And yet - too soon
Into each space
A cold earth falls
On colder face.
Quite still they lie
These fresh-cut reeds
Clutched in earth
Like winter seeds
But they will not bloom
When called by spring
To burst with leaf
And blossoming
They sleep on
In silent dust
As crosses rot
And helmets rust.

Probably the only thing notable about this poem is its author... Spike Milligan.

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PostPosted: Thu May 29, 2008 9:28 pm 
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Salvage Song - Elsie Cawser

My saucepans have all been surrendered,
The teapot is gone from the hob,
The colander's leaving the cabbage
For a very much different job.
So now, when I hear on the wireless
Of Hurricanes showing their mettle,
I see, in a vision before me,
A Dornier chased by my kettle.

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PostPosted: Thu May 29, 2008 9:52 pm 
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:lol: to Elsie!

And it was all a con. The metals from domestic and garden salvage was useless in aicraft manufacture. The scheme of copllecting it up, appaently, was to make everyone feel included.
The wall outside my house has holes where iron railings used to be - gathered up in the war.


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PostPosted: Fri May 30, 2008 6:07 am 
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I've picked out a couple of good ones from The Voice of War, but they're quite long so I'll post them this weekend. I'll also have another look through the Fowles collection, the Durrell collection, and the Oasis book.

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PostPosted: Fri May 30, 2008 8:37 pm 
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You are good to us, Ian! :D Looking forward to your selections!


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PostPosted: Sun Jun 01, 2008 10:15 am 
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I promised two new ones. Here's the first, which manages a biting sarcastic view of war, and then finishes on hopelessness:

Poem XI - RH Ellis

Splendours and miseries: these are the lot of all martial endeavour
(So we are told by the leading authorities.) Shall we recount them,
Therefore, as they appear to a private's or subaltern's eye-view,
Taking the miseries first? Already they slip through our fingers -
Bark of the corporal, bite of the north wind, drill in a snow-storm,
Greasy stew in a greasier bowl, the convict's hair-cut,
Webbing and brass, the machine-gun's stony inanimate malice,
Tea from a bucket, the arm to be swung from the shoulder, and so on -
(Odd too how from a private's life all privacy's lacking.)
Later you learn that even a subaltern's life has its drawbacks:
Orderly officer's chores, old red rude sergeant majors,
Knowledge that other men's lives lie in your untrained,unfit hands,
And that the store of a mind, the gain of a lifetime's learning,
Treasures of feeling and sense, so carefully, consciously chosen,
Objects of art and virtù, on the mind's shelves neatly assembled,
All must be instantly tumbled and broken and ruthlessly swept out,
Out to make room for the graceless terms of the art of destruction:
Mines and mortars and beaten zones and fire and manoeuvre,
Brens and Stens and maps and morale and chemical warfare.
Slaughter of course is the aim, but never, never say so.
Learn your stuff, and muffle your mind, and we'll have a good party.

Here then are the miseries, sampled.How trivial in recollection! -
Told in twenty-one lines, worth hardly the trouble of telling,
Bruising our self-conceit, and undermining our comfort,
Giving us horrible frights, and doing no permanent damage,
Futile, laughable, almost enjoyable once you've survived them.
Once you've survived. There is now no certainty that we shall do so,
Only the thought that in mean little trials and dismal amusements
All that is left of our lives will run out like the suds from a wash-bowl.

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PostPosted: Sun Jun 01, 2008 10:16 am 
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And here's the second, which uses black humour to make its point:


A Man of Few Words - Melville Hardiment

Black eyed Corporal Farrell
Was a man of few words other
than the usual anglo-saxons
sprinkled around barrackrooms
and camps. He had no words
for the ragged shrapnel slicing
through his knee-caps but
used his morphia and that was that.

We sat side by side in the sun,
for "lightning never strikes twice
in the same place" I had said.
Side by side wishing the frank
sharp crack and slap of shrapnel
would cease and leave us be.

He might have dreamt of England
and some soft hospital bed. I don't
know, and we just waited. And then
a sniper's bullet holed his head.
He looked at me reproachfully and barked
"Fuck!"

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PostPosted: Sun Jun 01, 2008 3:29 pm 
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Marion Arnott wrote:
:lol: to Elsie!

And it was all a con. The metals from domestic and garden salvage was useless in aicraft manufacture. The scheme of copllecting it up, appaently, was to make everyone feel included.
The wall outside my house has holes where iron railings used to be - gathered up in the war.


I've a feeling that this is an urban myth, Marion. It may not have been used in aircraft manufacture, but the iron would certainly have been used elsewhere. Thousands of tons of shipping were being sunk every month, and more than a few tanks were being built as well. The iron is easier to extract from railings and suchlike than it is from raw ore. Not to mention the valuable man-hours and fuel needed to collect it.


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PostPosted: Sun Jun 01, 2008 3:48 pm 
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Hi, Jim - how are you?

The MOD did eventually admit that a lot of the metal garnered (it wasn't just railings) was dumped, although you may well be right about the iron from them. Whatever, it didn't go to make my fave Spitfires! BTW, since you've popped in, o closet reader, what is your favourite poem? Care to post one?

Ian
I really liked the Hardiment poem - 'lightning never strikes twice' = sure to draw fire. No wonder the corporal was reproachful.
and '
'frank sharp crack and slap of shrapnel' - I can almost feel it flying. Threatening. Also something very touching about the two men helpless to do anything but sit and hope not to get hit.


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PostPosted: Sun Jun 01, 2008 9:37 pm 
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War poetry? I've got a soft spot for Sir David Lindsay's Squyer Meldrum, but I'm not going to put all 1600 lines down here, thank you very much. It deals with the adventures of the eponymous Squire Meldrum as he takes part in a Scottish expeditionary force that went to France's aid around the time of Flodden.

"The Scottis agane, with all thair micht
Of gunnis, than they leit fle ane flicht,
That they micht weill see quhair they wair.
Heidis and armes flew in the air!"

And so on, in sixteenth century Scots. If you're Scottish, you can follow it by listening to it in your head, but lord knows what others will make of it. It also happens to give a combat history of the Michael, James IV's giant battleship. And it's funny and moving. A Scottish [/i]Aeneid.


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PostPosted: Sun Jun 01, 2008 11:53 pm 
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It's online here at Questia, Jim:

http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=1198712


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 02, 2008 12:22 am 
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Why, so it is. Now I'm really glad I didn't type the whole thing in. :roll:

It seems to have different line breaks and slightly altered puncuation from my copy, but otherwise they seem to be taken from the same source.


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 11, 2008 10:32 pm 
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A little gem of poignancy which took my fancy:

The Cherry Trees
The cherry trees bend over and are shedding,
On the old road where all that passed are dead,
Their petals, strewing the grass as for a wedding
This early May morn when there is none to wed

Edward Thomas


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 20, 2008 4:47 pm 
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Such, Such Is Death


Such, such is Death: no triumph: no defeat:
Only an empty pail, a slate rubbed clean,
A merciful putting away of what has been.

And this we know: Death is not Life, effete,
Life crushed, the broken pail. We who have seen
So marvellous things know well the end not yet.

Victor and vanquished are a-one in death:
Coward and brave: friend, foe. Ghosts do not say,
"Come, what was your record when you drew breath?"
But a big blot has hid each yesterday
So poor, so manifestly incomplete.
And your bright Promise, withered long and sped,
Is touched, stirs, rises, opens and grows sweet
And blossoms and is you, when you are dead.

Charles Hamilton Sorley


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PostPosted: Sun Jun 22, 2008 9:04 am 
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Location: Swansea
TO COUNT THE DEAD

Will no-one count the dead?
In blood and bile scrawl numbers?
In shrieking wails anoint each bloodied head?
Chase broken limbs, to return them from whence they fled?
And still no-one counts the dead?

Day ends with gasp and unbelieving cry
For fields where seeds and fruit grew now yield a bloody crop
And clouds shield a sorrowful moon in a bewildered sky
As only Man finds reason, cause, or flag, by which to die
Whilst the dead remain uncounted, where they lie

Stars volunteer a bejewelled abacus
For those who wish to reckon the fallen host
In darkness the deed is done with little fuss
From scornful view the counting is hidden thus
But nature watches Man with baleful eye and silent cuss

Wonders why in a human soul this practice is inbred?
What brings a mind to war or a heart to kill?
To cut the fragile strand of life like a piece of thread?
And from Earth's sweet bosom take all; leave nothing in its stead?

Only those who have the nerve...

...to count the dead

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