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PostPosted: Tue Aug 25, 2009 11:13 pm 
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Ragnarok

Kenneth Alott


Our Trojan world is polarised to mourn;
To dream and find a black spot on the sun,
And wake to love and find our lover gone.

The destination of any weapon is grief.
In homesteads now where joy must seem naive
Under a splitting sky our women conceive.

The towns of houses, massed security
Out-generalled by a later century,
Are hearse-plumes on an old economy.

The ache of crushed walls when the raid is over.
This is a house, we said, we have built forever:
A two-backed fool, thinking of one day's weather.

Only one monster has to love his error.
Only his wrangling heart cannot recover,
But glories in illusion when half cadaver;

Or likes being ill, or nurses grievances,
Or calls a mountain or a forest 'his',
Or quarrels in five hundred languages.

And man, erect, unvenerable,
A bloodshot eye so simply vulnerable
That half his history is marginal,

Incises stone in the Bastille of hate:
'Give us this day before it is too late
Something to love indeed, enough to eat.'


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 26, 2009 8:59 am 
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Best war poem I've read in some years:

http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/inde ... arry-Patch


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 26, 2009 2:34 pm 
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Strong feeling there, Mat.
I liked the opening lines in particular.


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PostPosted: Sun Aug 30, 2009 11:00 pm 
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A Camp in the Prussian Forest

Randall Jarrell

I walk beside the prisoners to the road.
Load on puffed load,
Their corpses, stacked like sodden wood,
Lie barred or galled with blood

By the charred warehouse. No one comes to-day
In the old way
To knock the fillings from their teeth;
The dark, coned, common wreath

Is plaited for their grave - a kind of grief.
The living leaf
Clings to the planted profitable
Pine if it is able;
The boughs sigh, mile on green, calm, breathing mile,
From this dead file
The planners ruled for them. . One year
They sent a million here:


Here men were drunk like water, burnt like wood.
The fat of good
and evil, the breast's star of hope
were rendered into soap.

I paint the star I sawed from yellow pine -
And plant the sign
In soil that does not yet refuse
Its usual Jews
Their first asylum. But the white, dwarfed star -
This dead white star -
Hides nothing, pays for nothing; smoke
Fouls it, a yellow joke,

The needles of the wreath are chalked with ash,
A filmy trash
Litters the black woods with the death
of men; and one last breath

Curls from the monstrous chimney . . I laugh aloud
Again and again;
The star laughs from its rotting shroud
Of flesh. O star of men!


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 02, 2009 12:39 pm 
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What Were They Like?

Denise Levertov


Did the people of Viet Nam
use lanterns of stone?
Did they hold ceremonies
to reverence the opening of buds?
Were they inclined to quiet laughter?
Did they use bone and ivory,
jade and silver, for ornament?
Had they an epic poem?
Did they distinguish between speech and singing?

Sir, their light hearts turned to stone.
It is not remembered whether in gardens
stone lanterns illumined pleasant ways.
Perhaps they gathered once to delight in blossom,
but after their children were killed
there were no more buds.
Sir, laughter is bitter to the burned mouth.
A dream ago, perhaps. Ornament is for joy.
All the bones were charred.
it is not remembered. Remember,
most were peasants; their life
was in rice and bamboo.
When peaceful clouds were reflected in the paddies
and the water buffalo stepped surely along terraces,
maybe fathers told their sons old tales.
When bombs smashed those mirrors
there was time only to scream.
There is an echo yet
of their speech which was like a song.
It was reported their singing resembled
the flight of moths in moonlight.
Who can say? It is silent now.


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PostPosted: Sun Sep 06, 2009 4:20 pm 
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The Battle

Louis Simpson

Helmet and rifle, pack and overcoat
Marched through a forest. Somewhere up ahead
Guns thudded. Like the circle of a throat
The night on every side was turning red.

The halted and they dug. They sank like moles
into the clammy earth between the trees.
And soon the sentries, standing in their holes,
Felt the first snow. Their feet began to freeze.

At dawn the first shell landed with a crack.
Then shells and bullets swept the icy woods.
This lasted many days. The snow was black.
The corpses stiffened in their scarlet hoods.

Most clearly of that battle I remember
The tiredness in eyes, how hands looked thin
Around a cigarette, and the bright ember
Would pulse with all the life there was within.


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PostPosted: Sun Sep 20, 2009 1:39 pm 
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TERENCE TILLER


The Singers

I heard them singing in the shadow of sand
how years grew brittle as bread between our fingers,
and the immeasurable miles our garland.
They spoke to the lute with their five-tongued hands,
and I believed the singers.

First March ran over the lawns in gold and silver;
and the wheel shook, and it was May; then
every hour danced on a dulcimer
on citadels of air. After summer
came the thunder of wrath of men,

and days were poison into a clear glass,
coiling from the sky; love was power and terror.
And the heart knew them, tightened like a windlass,
dredging the horrible from unseen places
behind cloaks and mirrors.

Bent as a face watched in a water-bubble,
the sick year stood round us wearing ghosts;
the ghosts called our thought in the voice of bell ;
could we remember March and not tremble ?
the singers, undistressed ?

I hear them singing, now in flame's shadow,
singing oh lies, lies : now they say
all is forgotten, was very long ago,
the garland was bright ashes, the bread mildew ;
and all, faded away.


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 25, 2009 2:39 pm 
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TO MY MOTHER
George Barker

Most near, most dear, most loved and most far,
Under the window where I often found her
Sitting as huge as Asia, seismic with laughter,
Gin and chicken helpless in her Irish hand,
Irresistible as Rabelais, but most tender for
The lame dogs and hurt birds that surround her,—
She is a procession no one can follow after
But be like a little dog following a brass band.
She will not glance up at the bomber, or condescend
To drop her gin and scuttle to a cellar,
But lean on the mahogany table like a mountain
Whom only faith can move, and so I send
O all my faith and all my love to tell her
That she will move from mourning into morning.


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 07, 2009 4:28 pm 
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TO DAVID GILL

George Barker


Or, you, new father of a blonde daughter, born
Between a gutted Warsaw and an Oslo sold,
With your knee-riding son, and nose for weather,
Subscriber to liberal papers and The Sailors
The monument of the tremendous normal,
O where are you now, not wandering on the wold
Between Godalming and the sea-blossoming heather,
Or spitting half-crowns in the goldfish pond:
But mad as a mechanic with a broken spanner
Stand pointing an empty rifle at the East;
Or like the Spring embedded in November
Lie hoping for resurrection in Stavanger
Under the stone and snow. Or now you rest,
With oh so many ordinary things to remember.


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 13, 2009 1:48 pm 
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Location: Swansea
The quiet horror of the third verse and the children's naivety gets me in this poem:

The Battle of Blenheim


It was a summer evening;
Old Kaspar’s work was done,
And he before his cottage door
Was sitting in the sun;
And by him sported on the green
His little grandchild Wilhelmine.

She saw her brother Peterkin
Roll something large and round,
Which he beside the rivulet
In playing there had found.
He came to ask what he had found,
That was so large, and smooth, and round.

Old Kaspar took it from the boy,
Who stood expectant by;
And then the old man shook his head,
And with a natural sigh,
“‘Tis some poor fellow’s skull,” said he,
“Who fell in the great victory.

“I find them in the garden,
For there’s many here about;
And often, when I go to plow,
The plowshare turns them out;
For many thousand men,” said he,
“Were slain in that great victory.”

“Now tell us what ‘twas all about,”
Young Peterkin, he cries;
And little Wilhelmine looks up
With wonder-waiting eyes;
“Now tell us all about the war,
And what they fought each other for.”

“It was the English,” Kaspar cried,
“Who put the French to rout;
But what they fought each other for,
I could not well make out;
But everybody said,” quoth he,
“That ‘twas a famous victory.

“My father lived at Blenheim then,
Yon little stream hard by;
They burnt his dwelling to the ground,
And he was forced to fly;
So with his wife and child he fled,
Nor had he where to rest his head.

“With fire and sword the country round
Was wasted far and wide,
And many a childing mother then,
And new-born baby, died;
But things like that, you know, must be
At every famous victory.

“They say it was a shocking sight
After the field was won;
For many thousand bodies here
Lay rotting in the sun;
But things like that, you know, must be
After a famous victory.

“Great praise the Duke of Marlboro’ won,
And our good Prince Eugene.”
“Why, ‘twas a very wicked thing!”
Said little Wilhelmine.
“Nay, nay, my little girl,” quoth he;
“It was a famous victory.

“And everybody praised the Duke
Who this great fight did win.”
“But what good came of it at last?”
Quoth little Peterkin.
“Why, that I cannot tell,” said he;
“But ‘twas a famous victory.”

Robert Southey

_________________
My Blog: http://bob-lock.blogspot.com/

Debut novel site: http://www.flamesofherakleitos.com/


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 20, 2009 10:39 pm 
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THE WAR IN THE AIR

Howard Nemerov

For a saving grace, we didn't see our dead,
Who rarely bothered coming home to die
But simply stayed away out there
In the clean war, the war in the air.

Seldom the ghosts come back bearing their tales
Of hitting the earth, the incompressible sea,
But stayed up there in the relative wind,
Shades fading in the mind,

Who had no graves but only epitaphs
Where never so many spoke for never so few:
Per ardua, said the partisans of Mars,
Ad aspera, to the stars.

That was the good war, the war we won
As if there was no death, for goodness's sake.
With the help of the losers we left out there
In the air, in the empty air.


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 22, 2009 11:54 pm 
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Here War Is Simple

by W H Auden

Here war is simple like a monument:
A telephone is speaking to a man;
Flags on a map assert that troops were sent;
A boy brings milk in bowls. There is a plan

For living men in terror of their lives,
Who thirst at nine who were to thirst at noon,
And can be lost and are, and miss their wives,
And, unlike an idea, can die too soon.

But ideas can be true although men die,
And we can watch a thousand faces
Made active by one lie:

And maps can really point to places
Where life is evil now:
Nanking. Dachau.


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 30, 2009 5:27 pm 
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At the British Way Cemetery, Bayeux

Charles Causely


I walked where in their talking graves
And shirts of earth five thousand lay,
When history with ten feasts of fire
Had eaten the red air away.


‘I am Christ’s boy,’ I cried. ‘I bear
In iron hands the bread, the fishes.
I hang with honey and with rose
This tidy wreck of all your wishes.


‘On your geometry of sleep
The chestnut and the fir-tree fly,
And lavender and marguerite
Forge with their flowers an English sky.


‘Turn now towards the belling town
Your jigsaws of impossible bone,
And rising read your rank of snow
Accurate as death upon the stone.’


About your easy heads my prayers
I said with syllables of clay.
‘What gift,’ I asked, ’shall I bring now
Before I weep and walk away?’


Take, they replied, the oak and laurel.
Take our fortune of tears and live
Like a spendthrift lover. All we ask
Is the one gift you cannot give.


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PostPosted: Wed Nov 04, 2009 9:15 pm 
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On the run up to 11th November:

Armistice Day

Charles Causley

I stood with three comrades in Parliament Square,
November her grey freights of fire unloading,
No sound from the city upon the pale air
Above us the sea- bell eleven exploding.

Down by the bands and the burning memorial
Beats all the brass in a royal array,
But at our end we’re not so sartorial
Out of, as usual, the rig of the day.

Dinger is wearing his split Pusser’s flannel, r
Rubbed as he is by the regular tide;
Oxo the ducks that he ditched in the Channel
In June 1940 (when he was inside).

Kitty recalls his abandon-ship station,
Running below at the Old Man’s salute
And (with a deck watch) going down for duration
Wearing his oppo’s pneumonia suit.

Comrades, for you the black captain of carrachs
Writes in Whitehall his appalling decisions.
But as was often the case in the barracks,
Several ratings are not at divisions.


Into my eyes the stiff seahorses stare,
Over my head sweeps the sun like a swan.
As I stand alone in Parliament Square
A cold bugle blows and the city moves on.


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PostPosted: Fri Nov 06, 2009 11:05 pm 
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MEMORIAL RAIN
For Kenneth MacLeish, 1894-1918

Ambassador Puser the ambassador
Reminds himself in French, felicitous tongue,
What these (young men no longer) like here for
In rows that once, and somewhere else, were young. . .


All night in Brussels the wind had tugged at my door:
I had heard the wind at my door and the trees strung
Taut, and to me who had never been before
In that country it was a strange wind, blowing
Steadily, stiffening the walls, the floor,
The roof of my room. I had not slept for knowing
He too, dead, was a stranger in that land
And felt beneath the earth in the wind's flowing
A tightening of roots and would not understand,
Remembering lake winds in Illinois,
That Strange wind. I had felt his bones in the sand
Listening.

Reflects that these enjoy
Their country's gratitude, that deep repose,
That peace no pain can break, no hurt destroy,
That rest, that sleep. . .


At Ghent the wind rose.
There was a smell of rain and a heavy drag
Of wind in the hedges but not as the wind blows
Over fresh water when the waves lag
Foaming and the willows huddle and it will rain;
I felt him waiting.


. . Indicates the flag
Which (may he say) nestles in Flanders plain
This little field these happy, happy dead
Have made America. . .


In the ripe grain
The wind coiled glistening, darted, fled,
Dragging its heavy body: at Waereghem
The wind coiled in the grass above his head:
Waiting--listening. . .


. . .Dedicates to them
This earth their bones have hallowed, this last gift
A grateful country. . .


Under the dry grass stem
The words are blurred, are thickened, the words sift
Confused by the rasp of the wind, by the thin grating
Of ants under the grass, the minute shift
And tumble of dusty sand separating
From dusty sand. The roots of the grass strain,
Tighten, the earth is rigid, waits -- he is waiting --
And suddenly, and all at once, the rain!
The living scatter, they run into houses, the wind
Is trampled under the rain, shakes free, is again
Trampled. The rain gathers, running in thinned
Spurts of water that ravel in the dry sand,
Seeping in the sand under the grass roots, seeping
Between crack boards of the bones of a clenched hand:
The earth relaxes, loosens; he is sleeping,
He rests, he is quiet, he sleeps in a strange land.

Captain Archibald MacLeish


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