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PostPosted: Thu Dec 18, 2008 9:33 pm 
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A Working Party


Three hours ago he blundered up the trench,
Sliding and poising, groping with his boots;
Sometimes he tripped and lurched against the walls
With hands that pawed the sodden bags of chalk.
He couldn't see the man who walked in front;
Only he heard the drum and rattle of feet
Stepping along barred trench boards, often splashing
Wretchedly where the sludge was ankle-deep.

Voices would grunt `Keep to your right -- make way!'
When squeezing past some men from the front-line:
White faces peered, puffing a point of red;
Candles and braziers glinted through the chinks
And curtain-flaps of dug-outs; then the gloom
Swallowed his sense of sight; he stooped and swore
Because a sagging wire had caught his neck.

A flare went up; the shining whiteness spread
And flickered upward, showing nimble rats
And mounds of glimmering sand-bags, bleached with rain;
Then the slow silver moment died in dark.
The wind came posting by with chilly gusts
And buffeting at the corners, piping thin.
And dreary through the crannies; rifle-shots
Would split and crack and sing along the night,
And shells came calmly through the drizzling air
To burst with hollow bang below the hill.

Three hours ago, he stumbled up the trench;
Now he will never walk that road again:
He must be carried back, a jolting lump
Beyond all needs of tenderness and care.

He was a young man with a meagre wife
And two small children in a Midland town,
He showed their photographs to all his mates,
And they considered him a decent chap
Who did his work and hadn't much to say,
And always laughed at other people's jokes
Because he hadn't any of his own.

That night when he was busy at his job
Of piling bags along the parapet,
He thought how slow time went, stamping his feet
And blowing on his fingers, pinched with cold.
He thought of getting back by half-past twelve,
And tot of rum to send him warm to sleep
In draughty dug-out frowsty with the fumes
Of coke, and full of snoring weary men.

He pushed another bag along the top,
Craning his body outward; then a flare
Gave one white glimpse of No Man's Land and wire;
And as he dropped his head the instant split
His startled life with lead, and all went out.

Siegfried Sassoon


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 22, 2008 9:09 pm 
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Location: Swansea
A Christmas Ghost Story. by Thomas Hardy

South of the Line, inland from far Durban,
A mouldering soldier lies--your countryman.
Awry and doubled up are his grey bones,
And on the breeze his puzzled phantom moans
Nightly to clear Canopus: "I would know
By whom and when the All-Earth-gladdening Law
Of Peace, brought in by that Man Crucified,
Was ruled to be inept, and set aside?

And what of logic or of truth appears
In tacking 'Anno Domini' to the years?
Near twenty-hundred livened thus have hied,
But tarries yet the Cause for which He died."

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 22, 2008 10:04 pm 
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Still no change then, Bob.
Good poem - I haven't seen that one before.


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 22, 2008 11:22 pm 
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Yep, don't think we'll ever learn, no matter how many words are written.
This is from an old war poetry book I found today in my local Oxfam shop. I'll post some more in the future.
Have a Happy Christmas Marion and all our fellow posters on the Interaction site.
Best,
Bob

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 23, 2008 12:36 am 
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Merry Christmas to you and all here, Bob.
Marion


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 02, 2009 4:30 pm 
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Gentlemen-Rankers
By Rudyard Kipling


To the legion of the lost ones, to the cohort of the damned,
To my brethren in their sorrow overseas,
Sings a gentleman of England cleanly bred, machinely crammed,
And a trooper of the Empress, if you please.
Yea, a trooper of the forces who has run his own six horses,
And faith he went the pace and went it blind,
And the world was more than kin while he held the ready tin,
But to-day the Sergeant's something less than kind.
We're poor little lambs who've lost our way,
Baa! Baa! Baa!
We're little black sheep who've gone astray,
Baa--aa--aa!
Gentlemen-rankers out on the spree,
Damned from here to Eternity,
God ha' mercy on such as we,
Baa! Yah! Bah!

Oh, it's sweet to sweat through stables, sweet to empty kitchen slops,
And it's sweet to hear the tales the troopers tell,
To dance with blowzy housemaids at the regimental hops
And thrash the cad who says you waltz too well.
Yes, it makes you cock-a-hoop to be "Rider" to your troop,
And branded with a blasted worsted spur,
When you envy, O how keenly, one poor Tommy being cleanly
Who blacks your boots and sometimes calls you "Sir".

If the home we never write to, and the oaths we never keep,
And all we know most distant and most dear,
Across the snoring barrack-room return to break our sleep,
Can you blame us if we soak ourselves in beer?
When the drunken comrade mutters and the great guard-lantern gutters
And the horror of our fall is written plain,
Every secret, self-revealing on the aching white-washed ceiling,
Do you wonder that we drug ourselves from pain?

We have done with Hope and Honour, we are lost to Love and Truth,
We are dropping down the ladder rung by rung,
And the measure of our torment is the measure of our youth.
God help us, for we knew the worst too young!
Our shame is clean repentance for the crime that brought the sentence,
Our pride it is to know no spur of pride,
And the Curse of Reuben holds us till an alien turf enfolds us
And we die, and none can tell Them where we died.
We're poor little lambs who've lost our way,
Baa! Baa! Baa!
We're little black sheep who've gone astray,
Baa--aa--aa!
Gentlemen-rankers out on the spree,
Damned from here to Eternity,
God ha' mercy on such as we,
Baa! Yah! Bah!


He really does have a turn of phrase, doesn't he?

'We have done with Hope and Honour, we are lost to Love and Truth, '

Love it!


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 05, 2009 11:05 pm 
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Santa brought me the Oxford Book of War Poetry and I am much struck by this

Lament of the Frontier Guard


By the North Gate, the wind blows full of sand,
Lonely from the beginning of time until now!
Trees fall, the grass goes yellow with autumn.
I climb the towers and towers
to watch out the barbarous land:
Desolate castle, the sky, the wide desert.
There is no wall left to this village.
Bones white with a thousand frosts,
High heaps, covered with trees and grass;
Who brought this to pass?
Who has brought the flaming imperial anger?
Who has brought the army with drums and with kettle-drums?
Barbarous kings.
A gracious spring, turned to blood-ravenous autumn,
A turmoil of wars - men, spread over the middle kingdom,
Three hundred and sixty thousand,
And sorrow, sorrow like rain.
Sorrow to go, and sorrow, sorrow returning,
Desolate, desolate fields,
And no children of warfare upon them,
No longer the men for offence and defence.
Ah, how shall you know the dreary sorrow at the North Gate,
With Rihaku's name forgotten,
And we guardsmen fed to the tigers.

By Rihaku. [Li Po?]

(trans. Ezra Pound )


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 08, 2009 5:08 pm 
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Location: Swansea
The Night March
Herman Melville

With banners furled and clarions mute,
An army passes in the night;
And beaming spears and helms salute
The dark with bright.

In silence deep the legions stream,
With open ranks, in order true;
Over boundless plains they stream and gleam—
No chief in view!

Afar, in twinkling distance lost,
(So legends tell) he lonely wends
And back through all that shining host
His mandate sends.

From the old War Poetry book I found before Christmas.

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 08, 2009 9:50 pm 
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Nice one, Bob.
I wonder who the chief is?
It's a bit like the story of Douglas and Bruce's heart in Spain where the Scots followed the dead leader.


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 22, 2009 1:07 pm 
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A riproaring narrative poem for a Sunday afternoon:

Edinburgh after Flodden

William Aytoun
I.

News of battle!—news of battle!
Hark! 'tis ringing down the street:
And the archways and the pavement
Bear the clang of hurrying feet.
News of battle? Who hath brought it?
News of triumph? Who should bring
Tidings from our noble army,
Greetings from our gallant King?
All last night we watched the beacons
Blazing on the hills afar,
Each one bearing, as it kindled,
Message of the opened war.
All night long the northern streamers
Shot across the trembling sky:
Fearful lights, that never beckon
Save when kings or heroes die.

II.

News of battle! Who hath brought it?
All are thronging to the gate;
"Warder—warder! open quickly!
Man—is this a time to wait?"
And the heavy gates are opened:
Then a murmur long and loud,
And a cry of fear and wonder
Bursts from out the bending crowd.
For they see in battered harness
Only one hard-stricken man,
And his weary steed is wounded,
And his cheek is pale and wan.
Spearless hangs a bloody banner
In his weak and drooping hand—
God! can that be Randolph Murray,
Captain of the city band?

III.

Round him crush the people, crying,
"Tell us all—oh, tell us true!
Where are they who went to battle,
Randolph Murray, sworn to you?
Where are they, our brothers—children?
Have they met the English foe?
Why art thou alone, unfollowed?
Is it weal, or is it woe?"
Like a corpse the grisly warrior
Looks from out his helm of steel;
But no word he speaks in answer,
Only with his armèd heel
Chides his weary steed, and onward
Up the city streets they ride;
Fathers, sisters, mothers, children,
Shrieking, praying by his side.
"By the God that made thee, Randolph!
Tell us what mischance hath come!"
Then he lifts his riven banner,
And the asker's voice is dumb.

IV.

The elders of the city
Have met within their hall—
The men whom good King James had charged
To watch the tower and wall.
"Your hands are weak with age," he said,
"Your hearts are stout and true;
So bide ye in the Maiden Town,
While others fight for you.
My trumpet from the Border-side
Shall send a blast so clear,
That all who wait within the gate
That stirring sound may hear.
Or, if it be the will of heaven
That back I never come,
And if, instead of Scottish shouts,
Ye hear the English drum,—
Then let the warning bells ring out,
Then gird you to the fray,
Then man the walls like burghers stout,
And fight while fight you may.
'T were better that in fiery flame
The roofs should thunder down,
Than that the foot of foreign foe
Should trample in the town!"

V.

Then in came Randolph Murray,—
His step was slow and weak,
And, as he doffed his dinted helm,
The tears ran down his cheek:
They fell upon his corslet,
And on his mailèd hand,
As he gazed around him wistfully,
Leaning sorely on his brand.
And none who then beheld him
But straight were smote with fear,
For a bolder and a sterner man
Had never couched a spear.
They knew so sad a messenger
Some ghastly news must bring:
And all of them were fathers,
And their sons were with the King.

VI.

And up then rose the Provost—
A brave old man was he,
Of ancient name and knightly fame,
And chivalrous degree.
He ruled our city like a Lord
Who brooked no equal here,
And ever for the townsmen's rights
Stood up 'gainst prince and peer.
And he had seen the Scottish host
March from the Borough-muir,
With music-storm and clamorous shout
And all the din that thunders out,
When youth's of victory sure.
But yet a dearer thought had he,
For, with a father's pride,
He saw his last remaining son
Go forth by Randolph's side,
With casque on head and spur on heel,
All keen to do and dare;
And proudly did that gallant boy
Dunedin's banner bear.
Oh, woeful now was the old man's look,
And he spake right heavily—
"Now, Randolph, tell thy tidings,
However sharp they be!
Woe is written on thy visage,
Death is looking from thy face:
Speak, though it be of overthrow—-
It cannot be disgrace!"

VII.

Right bitter was the agony
That wrung the soldier proud:
Thrice did he strive to answer,
And thrice he groaned aloud.
Then he gave the riven banner
To the old man's shaking hand,
Saying—"That is all I bring ye
From the bravest of the land!
Ay! ye may look upon it—
It was guarded well and long,
By your brothers and your children,
By the valiant and the strong.
One by one they fell around it,
As the archers laid them low,
Grimly dying, still unconquered,
With their faces to the foe.
Ay! ye well may look upon it—
There is more than honour there,
Else, be sure, I had not brought it
From the field of dark despair.
Never yet was royal banner
Steeped in such a costly dye;
It hath lain upon a bosom
Where no other shroud shall lie.
Sirs! I charge you keep it holy,
Keep it as a sacred thing,
For the stain you see upon it
Was the life-blood of your King!"

VIII.

Woe, woe, and lamentation!
What a piteous cry was there!
Widows, maidens, mothers, children,
Shrieking, sobbing in despair!
Through the streets the death-word rushes,
Spreading terror, sweeping on—
"Jesu Christ! our King has fallen—
O great God, King James is gone!
Holy Mother Mary, shield us,
Thou who erst did lose thy Son!
O the blackest day for Scotland
That she ever knew before!
O our King—the good, the noble,
Shall we see him never more?
Woe to us and woe to Scotland,
O our sons, our sons and men!
Surely some have 'scaped the Southron,
Surely some will come again!"
Till the oak that fell last winter
Shall uprear its shattered stem—
Wives and mothers of Dunedin—
Ye may look in vain for them!

IX.

But within the Council Chamber
All was silent as the grave,
Whilst the tempest of their sorrow
Shook the bosoms of the brave.
Well indeed might they be shaken
With the weight of such a blow:
He was gone—their prince, their idol,
Whom they loved and worshipped so!
Like a knell of death and judgment
Rung from heaven by angel hand,
Fell the words of desolation
On the elders of the land.
Hoary heads were bowed and trembling,
Withered hands were clasped and wrung:
God had left the old and feeble,
He had ta'en away the young.

X.

Then the Provost he uprose,
And his lip was ashen white,
But a flush was on his brow,
And his eye was full of light.
"Thou hast spoken, Randolph Murray,
Like a soldier stout and true;
Thou hast done a deed of daring
Had been perilled but by few.
For thou hast not shamed to face us,
Nor to speak thy ghastly tale,
Standing—thou, a knight and captain—
Here, alive within thy mail!
Now, as my God shall judge me,
I hold it braver done,
Than hadst thou tarried in thy place,
And died above my son!
Thou needst not tell it: he is dead.
God help us all this day!
But speak—how fought the citizens
Within the furious fray?
For, by the might of Mary,
'T were something still to tell
That no Scottish foot went backward
When the Royal Lion fell!"

XI.

"No one failed him! He is keeping
Royal state and semblance still;
Knight and noble lie around him,
Cold on Flodden's fatal hill.
Of the brave and gallant-hearted,
Whom ye sent with prayers away,
Not a single man departed
From his monarch yesterday.
Had you seen them, O my masters!
When the night began to fall,
And the English spearmen gathered
Round a grim and ghastly wall!
As the wolves in winter circle
Round the leaguer on the heath,
So the greedy foe glared upward,
Panting still for blood and death.
But a rampart rose before them,
Which the boldest dared not scale;
Every stone a Scottish body,
Every step a corpse in mail!
And behind it lay our monarch
Clenching still his shivered sword:
By his side Montrose and Athole,
At his feet a southern lord.
All so thick they lay together,
When the stars lit up the sky,
That I knew not who were stricken,
Or who yet remained to die,
Few there were when Surrey halted,
And his wearied host withdrew;
None but dying men around me,
When the English trumpet blew.
Then I stooped, and took the banner,
As ye see it, from his breast,
And I closed our hero's eyelids,
And I left him to his rest.
In the mountains growled the thunder,
As I leaped the woeful wall,
And the heavy clouds were settling
Over Flodden, like a pall."

XII.

So he ended. And the others
Cared not any answer then;
Sitting silent, dumb with sorrow,
Sitting anguish-struck, like men
Who have seen the roaring torrent
Sweep their happy homes away,
And yet linger by the margin,
Staring idly on the spray.
But, without, the maddening tumult
Waxes ever more and more,
And the crowd of wailing women
Gather round the Council door.
Every dusky spire is ringing
With a dull and hollow knell,
And the Miserere's singing
To the tolling of the bell.
Through the streets the burghers hurry,
Spreading terror as they go;
And the rampart's thronged with watchers
For the coming of the foe.
From each mountain-top a pillar
Streams into the torpid air,
Bearing token from the Border
That the English host is there.
All without is flight and terror,
All within is woe and fear—
God protect thee, Maiden City,
For thy latest hour is near!

XIII.

No! not yet, thou high Dunedin!
Shalt thou totter to thy fall;
Though thy bravest and thy strongest
Are not there to man the wall.
No, not yet! the ancient spirit
Of our fathers hath not gone;
Take it to thee as a buckler
Better far than steel or stone.
Oh, remember those who perished
For thy birthright at the time
When to be a Scot was treason,
And to side with Wallace, crime!
Have they not a voice among us,
Whilst their hallowed dust is here?
Hear ye not a summons sounding
From each buried warrior's bier?
"Up!"—they say—"and keep the freedom
Which we won you long ago:
Up! and keep our graves unsullied
From the insults of the foe!
Up! and if ye cannot save them,
Come to us in blood and fire:
Midst the crash of falling turrets,
Let the last of Scots expire!"

XIV.

Still the bells are tolling fiercely,
And the cry comes louder in;
Mothers wailing for their children,
Sisters for their slaughtered kin.
All is terror and disorder,
Till the Provost rises up,
Calm, as though he had not tasted
Of the fell and bitter cup.
All so stately from his sorrow,
Rose the old undaunted Chief,
That you had not deemed, to see him,
His was more than common grief.
"Rouse ye, Sirs!" he said; "we may not
Longer mourn for what is done:
If our King be taken from us,
We are left to guard his son.
We have sworn to keep the city
From the foe, whate'er they be,
And the oath that we have taken
Never shall be broke by me.
Death is nearer to us, brethren,
Than it seemed to those who died,
Fighting yesterday at Flodden,
By their lord and master's side.
Let us meet it then in patience,
Not in terror or in fear;
Though our hearts are bleeding yonder,
Let our souls be steadfast here.
Up, and rouse ye! Time is fleeting,
And we yet have much to do;
Up! and haste ye through the city,
Stir the burghers stout and true!
Gather all our scattered people,
Fling the banner out once more,—
Randolph Murray! do thou bear it,
As it erst was borne before:
Never Scottish heart will leave it,
When they see their monarch's gore!"

XV.

"Let them cease that dismal knelling!
It is time enough to ring,
When the fortress-strength of Scotland
Stoops to ruin like its King.
Let the bells be kept for warning,
Not for terror or alarm;
When they next are heard to thunder,
Let each man and stripling arm.
Bid the women leave their wailing,—
Do they think that woeful strain,
From the bloody heaps of Flodden
Can redeem their dearest slain?
Bid them cease,—or rather hasten
To the churches, every one;
There to pray to Mary Mother,
And to her anointed Son,
That the thunderbolt above us
May not fall in ruin yet;
That in fire, and blood, and rapine,
Scotland's glory may not set.
Let them pray,—for never women
Stood in need of such a prayer!
England's yeomen shall not find them
Clinging to the altars there.
No! if we are doomed to perish,
Man and maiden, let us fall;
And a common gulf of ruin
Open wide to whelm us all!
Never shall the ruthless spoiler
Lay his hot insulting hand
On the sisters of our heroes,
Whilst we bear a torch or brand!
Up! and rouse ye, then, my brothers,
But when next ye hear the bell
Sounding forth the sullen summons
That may be our funeral knell,
Once more let us meet together,
Once more see each other's face;
Then, like men that need not tremble,
Go to our appointed place.
God, our Father, will not fail us
In that last tremendous hour,—
If all other bulwarks crumble,
HE will be our strength and tower:
Though the ramparts rock beneath us,
And the walls go crashing down,
Though the roar of conflagration
Bellow o'er the sinking town;
There is yet one place of shelter,
Where the foeman cannot come,
Where the summons never sounded
Of the trumpet or the drum.
There again we'll meet our children,
Who, on Flodden's trampled sod,
For their king and for their country
Rendered up their souls to God.
There shall we find rest and refuge,
With our dear departed brave;
And the ashes of the city
Be our universal grave!"


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 24, 2009 11:38 am 
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That must have taken you all weekend to type in.

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 24, 2009 6:05 pm 
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:lol: Lifted it from the web!


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 25, 2009 10:01 am 
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That'll explain why there are no typos in it, then :-)

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 25, 2009 10:10 pm 
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:lol: You know you'd miss my typos!


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 30, 2009 12:54 pm 
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Dead Sea Plage
Robert Liddell

Where once Lot's wife looked back in horror
To see God's judgment blast Gomorrah
To-day the Sodom sunshine blisters
Queen Alexandra's Nursing Sisters.

(From Personal Landscape: An Anthology of Exile, 1945)

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