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PostPosted: Fri Sep 14, 2007 6:45 pm 
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A new one on me:

FIELD AMBULANCE IN RETREAT

Via Dolorosa, Via Sacra


I

A straight flagged road, laid on the rough earth,
A causeway of stone from beautiful city to city,
Between the tall trees, the slender, delicate trees,
Through the flat green land, by plots of flowers, by black canals thick with heat.



II

The road-makers made it well
Of fine stone, strong for the feet of the oxen and of the great Flemish horses,
And for the high wagons piled with corn from the harvest.
And the laborers are few;
They and their quiet oxen stand aside and wait
By the long road loud with the passing of the guns, the rush of armored cars and the tramp of an army on the march forward to battle;
And, where the piled corn-wagons went, our dripping Ambulance carries home
Its red and white harvest from the fields.



III

The straight flagged road breaks into dust, into a thin white cloud,
About the feet of a regiment driven back league by league,
Rifles at trail, and standards wrapped in black funeral cloths. Unhasting, proud in retreat,
They smile as the Red Cross Ambulance rushes by.
(You know nothing of beauty and of desolation who have not seen
That smile of an army in retreat.)
They go: and our shining, beckoning danger goes with them,
And our joy in the harvests that we gathered in at nightfall in the fields;
And like an unloved hand laid on a beating heart
Our safety weighs us down.
Safety hard and strange; stranger and yet more hard
As, league after dying league, the beautiful, desolate Land
Falls back from the intolerable speed of an Ambulance in retreat
On the sacred, dolorous Way.


-- May Sinclair.


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 05, 2007 11:28 pm 
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Vernon Scannell on a scene from the Second World War - 'Walking Wounded'

http://www.poetryarchive.org/poetryarch ... poemId=453

and 'The Great War', which I particularly like:

http://www.aftermathww1.com/scannell.asp


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PostPosted: Sun Oct 28, 2007 8:47 pm 
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On the runup up to Remembrance Day:


To Any Dead Officer


Well, how are things in Heaven? I wish you’d say,
Because I’d like to know that you’re all right.
Tell me, have you found everlasting day,
Or been sucked in by everlasting night?
For when I shut my eyes your face shows plain;
I hear you make some cheery old remark—
I can rebuild you in my brain,
Though you’ve gone out patrolling in the dark.

You hated tours of trenches; you were proud
Of nothing more than having good years to spend;
Longed to get home and join the careless crowd
Of chaps who work in peace with Time for friend.
That’s all washed out now. You’re beyond the wire:
No earthly chance can send you crawling back;
You’ve finished with machine-gun fire—
Knocked over in a hopeless dud-attack.

Somehow I always thought you’d get done in,
Because you were so desperate keen to live:
You were all out to try and save your skin,
Well knowing how much the world had got to give.
You joked at shells and talked the usual ‘shop,’
Stuck to your dirty job and did it fine:
With ‘Jesus Christ! when will it stop?
Three years ... It’s hell unless we break their line.’

So when they told me you’d been left for dead
I wouldn’t believe them, feeling it must be true.
Next week the bloody Roll of Honour said
‘Wounded and missing’—(That’s the thing to do
When lads are left in shell-holes dying slow,
With nothing but blank sky and wounds that ache,
Moaning for water till they know
It’s night, and then it’s not worth while to wake!)

. . . .
Good-bye, old lad! Remember me to God,
And tell Him that our Politicians swear
They won’t give in till Prussian Rule’s been trod
Under the Heel of England ... Are you there?...
Yes ... and the War won’t end for at least two years;
But we’ve got stacks of men ... I’m blind with tears,
Staring into the dark. Cheerio!
I wish they’d killed you in a decent show.

Siegfried Sassoon


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PostPosted: Sun Oct 28, 2007 8:55 pm 
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Oh, let's have another:

Remorse


Lost in the swamp and welter of the pit,
He flounders off the duck-boards; only he knows
Each flash and spouting crash,--each instant lit
When gloom reveals the streaming rain. He goes
Heavily, blindly on. And, while he blunders,
"Could anything be worse than this?"--he wonders,
Remembering how he saw those Germans run,
Screaming for mercy among the stumps of trees:
Green-faced, they dodged and darted: there was one
Livid with terror, clutching at his knees. . .
Our chaps were sticking 'em like pigs . . . "O hell!"
He thought--"there's things in war one dare not tell
Poor father sitting safe at home, who reads
Of dying heroes and their deathless deeds."

Siegfried Sassoon


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 29, 2007 7:21 am 
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At a War Grave - John Jarmain

No grave is rich, the dust that herein lies
Beneath this white cross mixing with the sand
Was vital once, with skill of eye and hand
And speed of brain. These will not re-arise
These riches, nor will they be replaced;
They are lost and nothing now, and here is left
Only a worthless corpse of sense bereft,
Symbol of death, and sacrifice and waste.

Very Owensian, this one. Apparently written at El Alamein, 30 October 1942.

(from Return to Oasis: War Poems & Recollections from the Middle East 1940 - 1946)

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 29, 2007 7:24 am 
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Here's another from the same collection:

Danse Grotesque - John Rimmington

The Devil played the drums when Peter died
An overture of bombs and crashing sound
A whirling slip of splinter caught his side
And deftly set his body spinning round.

Alas! He missed his final curtain calls
A khaki Harlequin in 'Danse Grotesque'
With just a single vulture in the stalls
To witness so superb and arabesque.

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 29, 2007 5:19 pm 
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Thanks for those, Ian - I've never heard of them and they really are very good.
I liked the repsonse to Brooke's 'in that rich earth a richer dust concealed' in the Jairman - a wonderful play on 'riches'.
And Rimmington's 'khaki harlequin' - very moving.
Both poets new to me - you're a star!


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 29, 2007 6:02 pm 
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To tell you the truth, I bid for Return to Oasis on eBay because I misread the description and thought it contained war poetry by Lawrence Durrell. It was only after I'd won the auction that I realised Durrell had only provided an introduction. Ah well, the book only cost me about a fiver. And some of the poetry in it is really very good. I particularly like John Jarmain's. Here's the first verse of another of his:

Sand
We have seen sand frothing like the sea
About our wheels and in our wake,
Clouds rolling yellow and opaque,
Thick-smoking from the ground;
Wrapped in the dust from sun and sky
Without a mark to guide them by
Men drove along unseeing in the cloud,
Peering to find a track, to find a way,
With eyes stung red, clown-faces coated grey.
Then with sore lips we cursed the sand,
Cursed this sullen gritty land
- Cursed and dragged on our blind and clogging way.

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 29, 2007 6:03 pm 
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Now that one is very Owenesque!
Any chance of posting the rest of it? It was meant to be that you shoi;d find those poems...meant to be that you should share with us! :lol:


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 29, 2007 6:08 pm 
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Here's a Jairman I found on Google. he really is excellent:

Prisoners of War
John Jarmain
Like shabby ghosts down dried-up river beds
The tired procession slowly leaves the field;
Dazed and abandoned, just a count of heads,
They file away, these who have done their last,
To that grey safety where the days are sealed,
Where no word enters, and the urgent past
Is relieved day by day against the clock
Whose hours are meaningless, whose measured rate
Brings nearer nothing, only serves to mock.It is ended now. There's no more need to choose,
To fend and think and act; no need to hate.
Now all their will is worthless, none will lose
And none will suffer though their courage fail.
The tension in the brain is loosened now,
Its taut decisions slack: no more alone
-- How I and each of us has been alone
Like lone trees which the lightnings all assail --
They are herded now and have no more to give.
Even fear is past. And death, so long so near,
Has suddenly receded to its station
In the misty end of life. For these will live,
They are quit of killing and sudden mutilation;
They no longer cower at the sound of a shell in the air,
They are safe. And in the glimmer at time's end
They will return -- old, worn maybe, but sure --
And gather their bits of broken lives to mend.

Sicily. August - October, 1943


Last edited by Marion Arnott on Mon Oct 29, 2007 6:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 29, 2007 6:08 pm 
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And here's one I couldn't resist sharing...

Incident at Suez (on seeing a German P.O.W.) - Brendan O'Byrne
I saw a superman today
Who once walked deep in Europe's blood
With arrant pride and slavish heed
Of tenets dimly understood
Who once with whip and knout and hose
Cowed lesser breeds with brutal joy
I saw that superman today
Salute the Captain's cabin-boy.

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 29, 2007 6:17 pm 
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Marion, here's the full poem:

Sand
We have seen sand frothing like the sea
About our wheels and in our wake,
Clouds rolling yellow and opaque,
Thick-smoking from the ground;
Wrapped in the dust from sun and sky
Without a mark to guide them by
Men drove along unseeing in the cloud,
Peering to find a track, to find a way,
With eyes stung red, clown-faces coated grey.
Then with sore lips we cursed the sand,
Cursed this sullen gritty land
- Cursed and dragged on our blind and clogging way.

We have felt the fevered Khamsin blow
Which whips the desert into sting and spite
Of dry-sand driving rain (the only rain
The parched and dusty sand-lands know,
The hot dry driven sand), the desert floor
Whipped by the wind drives needles in the air
Which pricked our eyelids blind; and in the night,
Sifting the drifted sandhills grain by grain,
Covers our shallow tracks, our laboured road,
Makes false the maps we made with such slow care.

And we have seen wonders, spinning towers of sand
- Moving pillars of cloud by day -
Which passed and twitched our tents away;
Lakes where no water was, and in the sky
Grey shimmering palms. We have learned the sun and stars
And new simplicities, living by our cars
In wastes without one tree or living thing,
Where the flat horizon's lvel ring
Is equal everywhere without a change.

Yet sand has been kind for us to lie at ease,
Its soft dug walls have sheltered and made a shield
From fear and danger, and the chilly night.
And as we quit this bare unlovely land,
Strangely again see houses, hills and trees,
We will remember older things than these,
Indigo skies pricked out with brilliant light,
The smooth unshadowed candour of the sand.
(Buerat-el-Hsun, January 1943)

More to follow...

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 29, 2007 6:24 pm 
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El Alamein - John Jarmain
There are flowers now, they say, at El Alamein;
Yes, flowers in the minefields now.
So those that come to view that vacant scene,
Where death remains and agony has been
Will find the lilies grow -
Flowers, and nothing that we know.

So they rang the bells for us and Alamein,
Bells which we could not hear.
And to those that heard the bells what could it mean,
The name of loss and pride, El Alamein?
- Not the murk and harm of war,
But their hope, their own warm prayer.

It will become a staid historic name,
That crazy sea of sand!
Like Troy or Agincourt its single fame
Will be the garland for our brow, our claim,
On us a fleck of glory to the end;
And there our dead will keep their holy ground.

But this is not the place that we recall,
The crowded desert crossed with foaming tracks,
The one blotched building, lacking half a wall,
The grey-faced men, sand-powdered over all;
The tanks, the guns, the trucks,
The black, dark-smoking wrecks.

So be it; none but us has known that land;
El Alamein will still be only ours
And those ten days of chaos in the sand.
Other s will come who cannot understand,
Will halt beside the rusty minefield wires
And find there, flowers.

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 29, 2007 6:31 pm 
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Bivouac - John Jarmain
In my bivouac at evening lying close
Beneath the tent's low roof,
I steal this moment, quiet on my bed,
To let the dust and wind of the day die down
And make still my soul as an evening pool.
Night draws about my head
Her breath of darkness cool,
And at my feet the moon comes palely in;
Like a wan cold field outspread
Is the pale and vacant sand,
Which was so hot and turbid all day long;
And the sky more mapped with light than any land
Is filled with all its stars;
The crooked scorpion low across the south
Lies in the tent's small mouth
Like a curled and jewelled snake
The wind and sand and sound of day are still,
Now is the desert by the moon washed cleaned
and pale in beauty shines.
This is the cool hour I wish to keep,
So I lean towards the moon to write these lines
Before I sleep.

Not sure about the scorpion -> snake imagery. And the "pale in beauty shines" is perhaps a little too Shelleyesque.

That's all of Jarmain's from Return to Oasis. I'll have to see if I can hunt down some more of his stuff...

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 29, 2007 6:33 pm 
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Ah. Found a short bio:

William John Fletcher Jarmain [or John Jarmain] was born on February 4th, 1910, in Hertfordshire. He was educated at Shrewsbury School in Shropshire, then gained a degree in mathematics at Queens’ College, Cambridge. Before the war he taught English, math and sometimes French and Italian at Millfield School in Street, Somerset. Here he found time to write his novel Priddy Barrows (Collins 1944) which is set in Somerset with a Brontë-like atmosphere and a cast of vivid characters.

His 1934 marriage to Evelyn gave him a son, Mark, and a daughter, Joanna. The marriage ended in divorce and John then married Beryl with whom he had two daughters and a son.

A copy of Alice in Wonderland, Robert Browning’s poems, and Shakespeare’s works accompanied John into war for he was a great reader, also a bird-watcher with a deep love for the English countryside. He wrote a number of poems, some of them published in small war-time magazines. He died on June 26, 1944.

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