Great Military Poetry

Discussion in 'Films, Music, TV & All Things Artsy' started by chieftiff, Oct 24, 2007.

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  1. chieftiff

    chieftiff War Hero Moderator

    I have seen some brilliant poetry on here some stirring, some sad and some uplifting it often appears in remembrance threads but not always. In an attempt to keep it all accessible and in one place for reference I will add this as a sticky to the top of the forum, even if you have posted it before please post it here and try to credit the author and a date if possible:

    I will start, and given the time of year it is inevitably Rupert Brooke's The Soldier:

    If I should die, think only this of me:
    That there's some corner of a foreign field
    That is for ever England. There shall be
    In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
    A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
    Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
    A body of England's, breathing English air,
    Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.

    And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
    A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
    Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
    Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
    And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
    In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.

    Rupert Brooke 1914
  2. If you can keep your head when all about you
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
    If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
    But make allowance for their doubting too,
    If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
    Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
    And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

    If you can dream--and not make dreams your master,
    If you can think--and not make thoughts your aim;
    If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same;
    If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
    Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
    And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

    If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
    And lose, and start again at your beginnings
    And never breath a word about your loss;
    If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,
    And so hold on when there is nothing in you
    Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

    If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
    Or walk with kings--nor lose the common touch,
    If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
    If all men count with you, but none too much,
    If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
    Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
    And--which is more--you'll be a Man, my son!

    --Rudyard Kipling
  3. Firstly, this one. It has one of the most famous endings of all the War poems.

    Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
    Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
    Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
    And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
    Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
    But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
    Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
    Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.

    Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,
    Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
    But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
    And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime . . .
    Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
    As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
    In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
    He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

    If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
    Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
    And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
    His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
    If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
    Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
    Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
    Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
    My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
    To children ardent for some desperate glory,
    The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
    Pro patria mori.

    Wilfred Owen 8 October 1917 - March, 1918
  4. And this one, which has some of the most famous imagery of the Great War. It also contains one of the most oft quoted first lines of any War poem.


    What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
    Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
    Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle
    Can patter out their hasty orisons.
    No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells;
    Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs, –
    The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
    And bugles calling for them from sad shires.
    What candles may be held to speed them all?
    Not in the hands of boys but in their eyes
    Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes.
    The pallor of girls' brows shall be their pall;
    Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
    And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.

    Wilfre Owen, September - October, 1917
  5. I look in your eyes, the tears form,
    How can words convey the feelings that lie deep in my heart.
    Memories of when we first loved and laughed,
    How your eyes smiled when I watched you from the dock.
    How I held on to you and them.
    He is mine now for 2 days.
    How we spent the time making love.
    How we walked the Thames.
    How you made me feel like a Princess.
    Then again at the dock.
    Watching you become theirs.
    Tears in my eyes as I watched you walk on the ship.
    Damn I hated to see you go.
    But I always waited for you.
    Then one day you did not come home.
    You had told me that you shall always be their property.
    And that I would have to share you with her.
    But now as I stand at the site and cry.
    Realise in her arms you now rest.
    For you gave her your all. I love you please take care of her....
    And may HMS SHEFFIELD protect you.

    To a member of HMS SHEFFIELD's crew from Elaine, 1982...........
    If this doesn't bring a tear to your eye...............
  6. An Irish Airman Foresees His Death

    I know that I shall meet my fate
    Somewhere among the clouds above:
    Those that I fight I do not hate,
    Those that I guard I do not love:
    My country is Kiltartan Cross,
    My countrymen Kiltartan's poor,
    No likely end could bring them loss
    Or leave them happier than before.
    Nor law, nor duty bade me fight,
    Nor public men, nor cheering crowds,
    A lonely impulse of delight
    Drove to this tumult in the clouds;
    I balanced all, brought all to mind,
    The years to come seemed waste of breath,
    A waste of breath the years behind
    In balance with this life, this death.

    William Butler Yeats (June 13, 1865 – January 28, 1939) was an Irish poet, dramatist, mystic and civil servant. Yeats was one of the driving forces behind the Irish Literary Revival and was co-founder of the Abbey Theatre. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1923.
  7. Do not stand at my grave and weep
    I am not there; I do not sleep.
    I am a thousand winds that blow,
    I am the diamond glints on snow,
    I am the sun on ripened grain,
    I am the gentle autumn rain.
    When you awaken in the morning's hush
    I am the swift uplifting rush
    Of quiet birds in circling flight.
    I am the soft starlight at night.
    Do not stand at my grave and cry,
    I am not there; I did not die.

    Apologies as I have posted this before. It wasn't written - as far as I know - with war in mind - but seems particularly appropriate.
  8. A Sailor's Dream
    by William Bonilla
    Friday, September 07, 2007


    With close eyes
    I clear my mind
    I sit by the seashore
    The fragrant salt in the wind
    I inhale
    As it gently blows ashore.

    Seagull silently soar above
    Riding thermals
    In the heat of a clear day
    They gracefully dive nearby
    Into the beautiful harbor
    I have in view.

    Ships slowing sail by
    I want to cry
    Heading a sea
    Gliding on mirrored
    Glass waters
    Horizon bound
    Where a twilight mist awaits

    Mysterious is her
    Who swallows my dreams
    Of old Sailor’s tale
    Within huge storms brewing
    Ships are battling to sail.

    My eyes open
    My heart is broken
    They disappear before me
    Within the sea
    I see them no more.

    Passions fade within
    My heart
    From her I am kept apart
    No longer will she spray
    Her mist upon my face.

    In silence they stand
    Honoring me
    Whose bones lays upon
    A slab of timber
    Crudely wrapped
    In sack cloth
    Covered by a Jolly Roger.

    A slant towards the horizon
    Sends me eternally
    Into the bosom of her embrace
    There I shall remain
    Till judgment day
    When she, the sea
    Will give up all her dead.

    By: William Bonilla
  9. Noon and hazy heat,
    A single silver sliver and a dull drone.
    A gloved finger,poised,pressed
    A seconds silence,then oblivion.

    Hiroshima by Anon
  10. A bubble watchkeeper's lament

    I wandered lonely as a cloud,
    in front of A2 boiler
    the water level went over the top
    so I opened the rapid shut off
  11. She offered her honour,
    I honoured her offer
    And all night I was on her and off her
  12. Well, if we are going slightly off thread....

    'O Lord above
    Send down a dove
    Wiv wings as sharp as razors
    To cut the throats
    Of them there blokes
    Wot sells bad beer to sailors'

    Seen in a book somewhere many moons ago.

  13. (gavin sutherland, 1972)

    I am sailing, I am sailing,
    Home again cross the sea.
    I am sailing, stormy waters,
    To be near you, to be free.

    I am flying, I am flying,
    Like a bird cross the sky.
    I am flying, passing high clouds,
    To be with you, to be free.

    Can you hear me, can you hear me
    Thro the dark night, far away,
    I am dying, forever trying,
    To be with you, who can say.

    Can you hear me, can you hear me,
    Thro the dark night far away.
    I am dying, forever trying,
    To be with you, who can say.

    We are sailing, we are sailing,
    Home again cross the sea.
    We are sailing stormy waters,
    To be near you, to be free.

    Oh lord, to be near you, to be free.
    Oh lord, to be near you, to be free,
    Oh lord.

    :toilet: :toilet: :toilet: :toilet: :toilet: :toilet: :toilet: :toilet: :toilet: :tp: :tp: :tp: :tp: :tp: :tp: :tp: :tp: :tp: :tp:
  14. Levers_Aligned

    Levers_Aligned War Hero Moderator


    At Viscount Nelson's lavish funeral,
    While the mob milled and yelled about St Paul's,
    A General chatted with an Admiral:

    'One of your Colleagues, Sir, remarked today
    That Nelson's exit, though to be lamented,
    Falls not inopportunely, in its way.'

    'He was a thorn in our flesh,' came the reply---
    'The most bird-witted, unaccountable,
    Odd little runt that ever I did spy.

    'One arm, one peeper, vain as Pretty Poll,
    A meddler, too, in foreign politics
    And gave his heart in pawn to a plain moll.

    'He would dare lecture us Sea Lords, and then
    Would treat his ratings as though men of honour
    And play at leap-frog with his midshipmen!

    'We tried to box him down, but up he popped,
    And when he'd banged Napoleon at the Nile
    Became too much the hero to be dropped.

    'You've heard that Copenhagen "blind eye" story?
    We'd tied him to Nurse Parker's apron-strings---
    By G---d, he snipped them through and snatched the glory!'

    'Yet,' cried the General, 'six-and-twenty sail
    Captured or sunk by him off Tráfalgár---
    That writes a handsome finis to the tale.'

    'Handsome enough. The seas are England's now.
    That fellow's foibles need no longer plague us.
    He died most creditably, I'll allow.'

    'And, Sir, the secret of his victories?'
    'By his unServicelike, familiar ways, Sir,
    He made the whole Fleet love him, damn his eyes!'

    Robert Graves

  15. chieftiff

    chieftiff War Hero Moderator

    The Quarter-Gunner’s Yarn
    Henry Newbolt

    We lay at St. Helen’s, and easy she rode
    With one anchor catted and fresh-water stowed;
    When the barge came alongside like bullocks we roared,
    For we knew what we carried with Nelson aboard.

    Our Captain was Hardy, the pride of us all,
    I’ll ask for none better when danger shall call;
    He was hardy by nature and Hardy by name,
    And soon by his conduct to honour he came.

    The third day the Lizard was under our lee,
    Where the Ajax and Thunderer joined us at sea,
    But what with foul weather and tacking about,
    When we sighted the Fleet we were thirteen days out.

    The Captains they all came aboard quick enough,
    But the news that they brought was as heavy as duff;
    So backward an enemy never was seen,
    They were harder to come at than Cheeks the Marine.

    The lubbers had hare’s lugs where seamen have ears,
    So we stowed all saluting and smothered our cheers,
    And to humour their stomachs and tempt them to dine,
    In the offing we showed them but six of the line.

    One morning the topmen reported below
    The old Agamemnon escaped from the foe.
    Says Nelson: “My lads, there’ll be honour for some,
    For we’re sure of a battle now Berry has come.â€

    “Up hammocks!†at last cried the bo’sun at dawn;
    The guns were cast loose and the tompions drawn;
    The gunner was bustling the shot racks to fill,
    And “All hands to quarters!†was piped with a will.

    We now saw the enemy bearing ahead,
    And to East of them Cape Traflagar it was said,
    ’Tis a name we remember from father to son,
    That the days of old England may never be done.

    The Victory led, to her flag it was due,
    Tho’ the Temeraires thought themselves Admirals too;
    But Lord Nelson he hailed them with masterful grace:
    “Cap’n Harvey, I’ll thank you to keep in your place.â€

    To begin with we closed the Bucentaure alone,
    An eighty-gun ship and their Admiral’s own;
    We raked her but once, and the rest of the day
    Like a hospital hulk on the water she lay.

    To our battering next the Redoutable struck,
    But her sharpshooters gave us the worst of the luck:
    Lord Nelson was wounded, most cruel to tell.
    “They’ve done for me; Hardy!†he cried as he fell.

    To the cockpit in silence they carried him past,
    And sad were the looks that were after him cast;
    His face with a kerchief he tried to conceal,
    But we knew him too well from the truck to the keel.

    When the Captain reported a victory won,
    “Thank God!†he kept saying, “my duty I’ve done.â€
    At last came the moment to kiss him good-bye,
    And the Captain for once had the salt in his eye.

    “Now anchor, dear Hardy,†the Admiral cried;
    But before we could make it he fainted and died.
    All night in the trough of the sea we were tossed,
    And for want of ground-tackle good prizes were lost.

    Then we hauled down the flag, at the fore it was red,
    And blue at the mizzen was hoisted instead
    By Nelson’s famed Captain, the pride of each tar,
    Who fought in the Victory off Cape Traflagar.
  16. Thomas Higgins, a Corporal in the 1/5 North Staffordshire Regiment in the Great War,

    God and Soldiers men adore
    In times of war,but not before
    When War is over and things are righted
    God is forgotton and Soldiers are slighted

    Quite pertinent in this day and age i think
  17. Once I looked from Tamar Bridge at the warships down below
    Ships of the modern navy with names I did not know
    And, as I stood and gazed at them on the water far below
    I saw a fleet of phantom ships and men of long ago

    The Rodney and the Nelson, the Valiant and Ramilies
    Repulse, Renown and Malaya, coming home from foreign seas
    I saw Revenge and Warspite, ill-fated Royal Oak
    So many ships, their names made faint by shell and fire and smoke

    And some I see to harbour come as thro glasses dark
    The Barham and the Glorious, the Eagle and the Ark
    And then, there comes the greatest, the mighty warship Hood
    Dark and grey and wraithlike, from the spot on which I stood

    From the cruel North Atlantic, from the Med and Java sea
    The big ships and the little ships returned for me to see
    There’s the Dorsetshire, Edinburgh, Cambeltown and Kent
    The Cossack and Courageous, the Charybdis and Ardent

    Now I can’t see very clearly, must be smoke that’s in my eyes
    But mercifully hidden are the men and stifled are their cries
    You don’t know Shorty Hasset, he won the DSM
    He fought on when Exeter was burning stern to stem

    Where now…! Dodger Long and Lofty, where now the boys and men?
    They are lost and gone forever- shall we see their likes again
    I thought I saw them mustering on deck for daily prayer
    And heard “For those in Peril†rise on the evening air

    Then darker grew the picture as he lowering night came on
    I looked down from that lofty bridge, but all the ships were gone
    Those mighty ships had vanished, gone those simple men
    We’ll surely never ever, see the likes of them again

    Author unknown
  18. Seaweed

    Seaweed War Hero Book Reviewer

    John Pudney, 'Missing':

    Less said the better,
    The bill unpaid, the dead letter,
    No roses at the end
    For Smith, my friend.

    Last words don't matter,
    And there are none to flatter.
    Words will not fill the post
    Of Smith, the ghost.

    For Smith, our brother,
    Only son of loving mother,
    The ocean lifted, stirred,
    Leaving no word.
  19. Was it an Aussie a Kiwi or Kipper--
    That damned elusive Phantom Flipper?
  20. From the book 'Send Down a Dove' by Charles Machardy Fontana Books.
    Sadly now out of print.

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