War Poetry
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Author:  Marion Arnott [ Sat Jul 04, 2009 11:33 pm ]
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Louis MacNeice being read on Youtube. Subject is the London Blitz

Author:  Marion Arnott [ Sun Jul 05, 2009 7:41 pm ]
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Sylvia Townsend Warner

(At Benicasim, during ther Spanish Civil War, there wa a convalescent home for the wounded of the Spanish People's Army)

Here for a little we pause.
The air is heavy with sun and salt and colour.
On palm and lemon-tree, on cactus and oleander
a dust of dust and salt and pollen lies.
And the bright villas
sit in a row like perched macaws,
and rigid and immediate yonder
the mountains rise.

And it seems to me we have come
into a bright-painted landscape of Acheron.
For along the strand
in bleached cotton pyjamas, on rope-soled tread,
wander the risen-from-the-dead,
the wounded, the maimed, the halt.
Or they lay bare the hazarded flesh to the salt
air, the recaptured sun,
or bathe in the tideless sea, or sit fingering the sand.

But narrow is this place, narrow is this space
of garlanded sun and leisure and colour, of return
to life and release from living. Turn
(Turn not!) sight inland;
there, rigid as death and unforgiving, stand
the mountains - and close at hand.

Author:  Marion Arnott [ Mon Jul 13, 2009 8:15 pm ]
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Where Are The War Poets ?

Cecil Day-Lewis

They who in folly or mere greed
Enslaved religion, markets, laws,
Borrow our language now and bid
Us to speak up in freedom’s cause.

It is the logic of our times,
No subject for immortal verse –
That we who lived by honest dreams
Defend the bad against the worse.

Author:  Marion Arnott [ Sat Jul 25, 2009 4:55 pm ]
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There Will Come Soft Rain

Sarah Teasdale

There will come soft rain and the smell of the ground,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;

And frogs in the pools singing at night,
And wild plum-trees in tremulous white;

Robins will wear their feathery fire
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;

And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done.

Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree
If mankind perished utterly;

And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn,
Would scarcely know that we were gone.

Author:  Marion Arnott [ Sat Jul 25, 2009 5:01 pm ]
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I'm going to repost this poem in memory of Harry Patch who died today aged 111:

The Five Acts of Harry Patch
'The Last Fighting Tommy'
by Andrew Motion


A curve is a straight line caught bending
and this one runs under the kitchen window
where the bright eyes of your mum and dad
might flash any minute and find you down
on all fours, stomach hard to the ground,
slinking along a furrow between the potatoes
and dead set on a prospect of rich pickings,
the good apple trees and plum trees and pears,
anything sweet and juicy you might now be
able to nibble around the back and leave
hanging as though nothing were amiss,
if only it were possible to stand upright
in so much clear light and with those eyes
beady in the window and not catch a packet.


Patch, Harry Patch, that's a good name,
Shakespearean, it might be one of Hal's men
at Agincourt or not far off, although in fact
it starts life and belongs in Combe Down
with your dad's trade in the canary limestone
which turns to grey and hardens when it meets
the light, perfect for Regency Bath and you too
since no one these days thinks about the danger
of playing in quarries when the workmen go,
not even of prodding and pelting with stones
the wasps' nests perched on rough ledges
or dropped from the ceiling on curious stalks
although god knows it means having to shift
tout suite and still get stung on arms and faces.


First the hard facts of not wanting to fight,
and the kindness of deciding to shoot men
in the legs but no higher unless needs must,
and the liking among comrades which is truly
deep and wide as love without that particular name,
then Pilckem Ridge and Langemarck and across
the Steenbeek since none of the above can change
what comes next, which is a lad from A Company
shrapnel has ripped open from shoulder to waist
who tells you "Shoot me", but is good as dead
already, and whose final word is "Mother",
which you hear because you kneel to hold
one finger of his hand, and then remember orders
to keep pressing on, support the infantry ahead.


After the big crowd to unveil the memorial
and no puff left in the lungs to sing O valiant hearts
or say aloud the names of friends and one cousin,
the butcher and chimney sweep, a farmer, a carpenter,
work comes up the Wills Tower in Bristol and there
thunderstorms are a danger, so bad that lightning
one day hammers Great George and knocks down
the foreman who can't use his hand three weeks
later as you recall, along with the way that strike
burned all trace of oxygen from the air, it must have,
given the definite stink of sulphur and a second
or two later the gusty flap of a breeze returning
along with rooftops below, and moss, and rain
fading over the green Mendip Hills and blue Severn.


You grow a moustache, check the mirror, notice
you're forty years old, then next day shave it off,
check the mirror again - and see you're seventy,
but life is like that now, suddenly and gradually
everyone you know dies and still comes to visit
or you head back to them, it's not clear which
only where it happens: a safe bedroom upstairs
by the look of things, although when you sit late
whispering with the other boys in the Lewis team,
smoking your pipe upside-down to hide the fire,
and the nurses on night duty bring folded sheets
to store in the linen cupboard opposite, all it takes
is someone switching on the light - there is that flash,
or was until you said, and the staff blacked the window.

Author:  Marion Arnott [ Sun Jul 26, 2009 10:40 pm ]
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A special treat today. Carol Anne Duffy has commissioned several poets to write some war poetry. Here they all are: ... -ann-duffy

Author:  Mike A [ Mon Jul 27, 2009 11:49 am ]
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Marion Arnott wrote:
There Will Come Soft Rains

I have loved this poem ever since first coming across it in Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles.

Bradbury also provided my first introduction to Walt Whitman. So much to thank him for, on top of his brilliant stories!

Author:  Marion Arnott [ Tue Jul 28, 2009 4:20 pm ]
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Author:  Marion Arnott [ Thu Jul 30, 2009 12:20 pm ]
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Carol Ann Duffy reads her new poem, 'Last Post', written to commemorate the deaths of Henry Allingham and Harry Patch: ... 175790.stm

The words:


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

If poetry could tell it backwards, true, begin
that moment shrapnel scythed you to the stinking mud…
but you get up, amazed, watch bled bad blood
run upwards from the slime into its wounds;
see lines and lines of British boys rewind
back to their trenches, kiss the photographs from home-
mothers, sweethearts, sisters, younger brothers
not entering the story now
to die and die and die.
Dulce- No- Decorum- No- Pro patria mori.
You walk away.

You walk away; drop your gun (fixed bayonet)
like all your mates do too-
Harry, Tommy, Wilfred, Edward, Bert-
and light a cigarette.
There's coffee in the square,
warm French bread
and all those thousands dead
are shaking dried mud from their hair
and queuing up for home. Freshly alive,
a lad plays Tipperary to the crowd, released
from History; the glistening, healthy horses fit for heroes, kings.

You lean against a wall,
your several million lives still possible
and crammed with love, work, children, talent, English beer, good food.
You see the poet tuck away his pocket-book and smile.
If poetry could truly tell it backwards,
then it would.

Author:  Marion Arnott [ Thu Jul 30, 2009 12:50 pm ]
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Harry Patch

Author:  Bob Lock [ Thu Jul 30, 2009 4:58 pm ]
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The Last Post is certainly a heart-wrenching poem, if only poets had that power, eh?

Author:  Marion Arnott [ Thu Jul 30, 2009 6:05 pm ]
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Yes, it's a haunting idea. The 'shaking the dried mud from their hair' got to me.

Author:  Marion Arnott [ Mon Aug 03, 2009 10:01 am ]
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Look what I found - poems of the month inspired by paintings at the Tate Gallery. This is from John Burnside: ... rnside.htm

You can hear him reading it too!

Author:  Marion Arnott [ Wed Aug 19, 2009 7:39 pm ]
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Death is a Matter of Mathematics

Barry Conrad Amiel

Death is a matter of mathematics.
It screeches down at you from dirty white nothingness
And your life is a question of velocity and altitude,
With allowances for wind and the quick, relentless pull
Of gravity

Or else it lies concealed
In that fleecy, peaceful puff of cloud ahead.
A streamlined, muttering vulture, waiting
To swoop upon you with a rush of steel.
And then your chances vary as the curves
Of your parabolas, your banks, your dives,
The scientific soundness of your choice
Of what to push or pull, and how, and when.

Author:  Marion Arnott [ Thu Aug 20, 2009 6:35 pm ]
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Unseen Fire

R.N. Currey

This is a damned inhuman sort of war.
I have been fighting in a dressing-gown
Most of the night; I cannot see the guns,
The sweating gun-detachments or the planes;
I sweat down here before a symbol thrown
Upon a screen, sift facts, initiate
Swift calculations and swift orders; wait
For the precise split-second to order fire.
We chant our ritual words; beyond the phones
A ghost repeats the orders to the guns:
One Fire ... Two Fire ... ghosts answer: the guns roar
Abruptly; and an aircraft waging war
Inhumanly from nearly five miles height.
Meets our bouquet of death – and turns sharp right.

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