Great Military Poetry

chieftiff

War Hero
Moderator
#21
A few more which I'm surprised haven't yet appeared:

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres,
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England's foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.


By Laurence Binyon 1914 Famous for the 4th verse which is normally read in the Remembrance Day parade/ service.

Siegfried Sassoon's 1918 poem,

KNEW a simple soldier boy
Who grinned at life in empty joy,
Slept soundly through the lonesome dark,
And whistled early with the lark.

In winter trenches, cowed and glum,
With crumps and lice and lack of rum,
He put a bullet through his brain.
No one spoke of him again.

You smug-faced crowds with kindling eye
Who cheer when soldier lads march by,
Sneak home and pray you’ll never know
The hell where youth and laughter go.


And of course that classic Kipling

Tommy

I went into a public-'ouse to get a pint o'beer,
The publican 'e up an' sez, "We serve no red-coats here."
The girls be'ind the bar they laughed an' giggled fit to die,
I outs into the street again an' to myself sez I:

O it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, go away";
But it's ``Thank you, Mister Atkins,'' when the band begins to play,
The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,
O it's ``Thank you, Mr. Atkins,'' when the band begins to play.

I went into a theatre as sober as could be,
They gave a drunk civilian room, but 'adn't none for me;
They sent me to the gallery or round the music-'alls,
But when it comes to fightin', Lord! they'll shove me in the stalls!

For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, wait outside";
But it's "Special train for Atkins" when the trooper's on the tide,
The troopship's on the tide, my boys, the troopship's on the tide,
O it's "Special train for Atkins" when the trooper's on the tide.

Yes, makin' mock o' uniforms that guard you while you sleep
Is cheaper than them uniforms, an' they're starvation cheap;
An' hustlin' drunken soldiers when they're goin' large a bit
Is five times better business than paradin' in full kit.

Then it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy how's yer soul?"
But it's "Thin red line of 'eroes" when the drums begin to roll,
The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,
O it's "Thin red line of 'eroes" when the drums begin to roll.

We aren't no thin red 'eroes, nor we aren't no blackguards too,
But single men in barricks, most remarkable like you;
An' if sometimes our conduck isn't all your fancy paints:
Why, single men in barricks don't grow into plaster saints;

While it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, fall be'ind,"
But it's "Please to walk in front, sir," when there's trouble in the wind,
There's trouble in the wind, my boys, there's trouble in the wind,
O it's "Please to walk in front, sir," when there's trouble in the wind.

You talk o' better food for us, an' schools, an' fires an' all:
We'll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational.
Don't mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face
The Widow's Uniform is not the soldier-man's disgrace.

For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Chuck him out, the brute!"
But it's "Saviour of 'is country," when the guns begin to shoot;
An' it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' anything you please;
But Tommy ain't a bloomin' fool - you bet that Tommy sees!
 
#22
Another Kipling
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The Thousandth Man
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

0NE man in a thousand, Solomon says.
Will stick more close than a brother.
And it's worth while seeking him half your days
If you find him before the other.
Nine hundred and ninety-nine depend
On what the world sees in you,
But the Thousandth Man will stand your friend
With the whole round world agin you.

'Tis neither promise nor prayer nor show
Will settle the finding for 'ee.
Nine hundred and ninety-nine of 'em go
By your looks, or your acts, or your glory.

But if he finds you and you find him,
The rest of the world don't matter;
For the Thousandth Man will sink or swim
With you in any water.

You can use his purse with no more talk
Than he uses yours for his spendings,
And laugh and meet in your daily walk
As though there had been no lendings.

Nine hundred and ninety-nine of 'em call
For silver and gold in their dealings;
But the Thousandth Man he's worth 'em all
Because you can show him your feelings.

His wrong's your wrong, and his right's your right,
In season or out of season.
Stand up and back it in all men's sight
With that for your only reason!

Nine hundred and ninety-nine can't bide
The shame or mocking or laughter,
But the Thousandth Man will stand by your side
To the gallows-foot - and after!




--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
#23
Although I'm not the morbid type I find the poems of WW1 both brutal and beautiful in the sense of despair and horror.
Owen,Sassoon and others tell of it and every time I read them I am filled with fury at Gen Haig and the others back at HQ pumping flesh into the wires whilst dining on meals fit for kings.
I rank Haig as much a butcher as I do other despots,how can anyone be so utterly stupid?
I have never read much poetry from the common Tommy though,as brutal as the poetry is a lot was written from officers home on leave recuperating from shell shock as did Sassoon and Owen.
Tommies were shot for shell shock,perhaps someone will uncover a poem re.the despair of an executed man wandering away from the front not knowing what to do.I know! we will execute him to show the men we mean business.
I'm sure they did from a fine chateau 50 miles behind the front.
Feel pretty stongly about the handling of this war by the ruling classes.
I lost a grandfather and two of his brothers in it although one was a cook and I suspect the men may have done that!
 

chieftiff

War Hero
Moderator
#24
seafarer1939 said:
I have never read much poetry from the common Tommy though,as brutal as the poetry is a lot was written from officers home on leave recuperating from shell shock as did Sassoon and Owen.
Sassoon was very angry about the war, and I suspect a little guilty having survived when many others didn't; Brooke and Owen (who was killed just a couple of weeks before its end) but two who come to mind. Interestingly Sassoon refused to return to the front after convalescence Link to Wiki article, the perks of having friend in high places! and substantiating your comment Seafarer1939.

There is some good poetry out there written by the masses but it all seems quite modern, here's something quite topical by Tony McNally a Falkands veteran.

Men Who Sit On Chairs

Men who sit on chairs send us to war
They tell us how to fight
They add up the score
Men who sit on chairs send us back home
Minus one or two or three or four or more
Men who sit on Chairs send letters to the bereaved
They tell of the heroism of what they have achieved
Men who sit on chairs sleep soundly in their beds
Unlike the men in psyche wards being force fed on their meds


Linky thing
 
#25
The Burial of Sir John Moore at Corunna

Not a drum was heard, nor a funeral note,
As his corse to the rampart we hurried;
Not a soldier discharged his farewell shot
O'er the grave where our hero we buried.

We buried him darkly at dead of night,
The sods with our bayonets turning;
By the struggling moonbeam's misty light
And the lanthorn dimly burning.

No useless coffin enclosed his breast,
Nor in sheet nor in shroud we wound him;
But he lay like a warrior taking his rest
With his martial cloak around him.

Few and short were the prayers we said,
And we spoke not a word of sorrow;
But we steadfastly gazed on the face that was dead,
And we bitterly thought of the morrow.

We thought, as we hollowed his narrow bed
And smoothed down his lonely pillow,
That the foe and the stranger would tread o'er his head,
And we far away on the billow!

Lightly they'll talk of the spirit that's gone
And o'er his cold ashes upbraid him,--
But little he'll reck, if they let him sleep on
In the grave where a Briton has laid him.

But half of our heavy task was done
When the clock struck the hour for retiring:
And we heard the distant and random gun
That the foe was sullenly firing.

Slowly and sadly we laid him down,
From the field of his fame fresh and gory;
We carved not a line, and we raised not a stone,
But left him alone with his glory.

-- Charles Wolfe

Heres another great poem
 
#27
sara21 said:
Anything by Housman
Just for you then Sara

The street sounds to the soldiers' tread,
And out we troop to see:
A single redcoat turns his head,
He turns and looks at me.

My man, from sky to sky's so far,
We never crossed before;
Such leagues apart the world's ends are,
We're like to meet no more;

What thoughts at heart have you and I
We cannot stop to tell;
But dead or living, drunk or dry,
Soldier, I wish you well.

XXIII
 
#28
seafarer1939 said:
Although I'm not the morbid type I find the poems of WW1 both brutal and beautiful in the sense of despair and horror.
Owen,Sassoon and others tell of it and every time I read them I am filled with fury at Gen Haig and the others back at HQ pumping flesh into the wires whilst dining on meals fit for kings.
I rank Haig as much a butcher as I do other despots,how can anyone be so utterly stupid?
I have never read much poetry from the common Tommy though,as brutal as the poetry is a lot was written from officers home on leave recuperating from shell shock as did Sassoon and Owen.
Tommies were shot for shell shock,perhaps someone will uncover a poem re.the despair of an executed man wandering away from the front not knowing what to do.I know! we will execute him to show the men we mean business.
I'm sure they did from a fine chateau 50 miles behind the front.
Feel pretty stongly about the handling of this war by the ruling classes.
I lost a grandfather and two of his brothers in it although one was a cook and I suspect the men may have done that!
Totally agree . Have a book called 'British Butchers and Bunglers WW1'

Its sickening -- Haig and his staff never visited the real trenches. The offensives were usual frontal attacks with troops in four ranks advancing over ground with no cover . German machine gunners didn't even have to aim .
Casualties and losses 1914-18 118,941 Officers 2,571,113 ranks and that was just the Western front.

Poetry------------Bloody Balls up [Robert Graves, Goodbye to all that]


:nemo: :nemo:
 

Seaweed

War Hero
Book Reviewer
#29
The criticism of Haig is simplistic unless the critic can describe some alternative tactics which would have pinned the Germans before they broke the French at Verdun, particularly considering the very limited military skills of both the ranks and the regimental officers, many of whom had been very rapidly promoted (for obvious reasons). The army's problems were vastly increased by the shortage of artillery ammunition which meant that attacks often had to go in with insufficient preparation. The one uncontrovertible fact is that, for a multitude of causes but not least the dogged determination of the British soldier, it was the Germans that broke and ran in the end.

I also believe that the handling of those who couldn't take any more, while unspeakably cruel by our present-day standards and psychological knowledge, was unavoidable if discipline was to bhe maintained and our army was not to go the way of the French, just as Harris' treatment of LMF was necessary to keep the bombers flying in 1942-3. Sadly, wars are sometimes won by the side that can endure the most - and lost, vice versa.
 
#30
I have various books re. the Somme and other battles.What is clear is that Gen.Rawlinson forbade the men to run at the enemy,he forbade them to ditch their heavy packs[thereby getting wire entangled] and he ordered them to walk.
Haig was doubtful but was afraid of overuling Rawlinson who insisted that the guns had destroyed the wires,maybe he should have wandered up and had a look!
Inept and cowardly were both of them,to make things worse Haigs son who lives in the Borders recently appeared on TV stating his father was a fine General who won the war!
It's true he received a massive cash settlement and honours after the war.
but it was on the backs of the dead.I also blame Loyd George for not having the courage to sack him even though he wanted too.
Gough was a fine General[the only one to know what,and more importantly,what not to do,]he was ignored as he was no friend of Haig.
We lost engineers,poets,fine minds,inventors in fact the cream of the country.
It's history but what a country we could have[as well as Germany and France] if our cream had not been needlessly dispatched by the idiots of all sides.
We all make mistakes but to lose 60 thousand men on one days battle then continue in the same mode for others battles is beyond belief..
then again I don't live in a mansion and drink fine port.
 

chieftiff

War Hero
Moderator
#31
The thread is drifting, but it's all interesting stuff and serves to put the poetry in context, am happy to leave it so long as it doesn't turn into an argument. If it does I don't want to delete any of it so I will create another thread and (attempt) to transfer all appropriate posts into it.

I'm not trying to stifle the discussion (far from it) just wanted to point out that there is risk of major thread drift. and I wouldn't like this to descend into a row within the thread.

Cheers Guys.
 
#32
When all the laughter dies in sorrow
and the tears have risen to a flood
When all the wars have found a cause
in human wisdom and in blood
Do you think they'll cry in sadness ?
do you think the eye will blink ?
Do you think they'll curse the madness ?
do you even think they'll think ?

When all the great galactic systems
sigh to a frozen halt in space
Do you think there'll be a remnant
of beauty of the human race
Do you think there'll be a vestige
or a sniffle, or a cosmic tear
Do you think a greater thinking thing
will give a damn..that man..was here



. Kendrew Laschelles
 

chieftiff

War Hero
Moderator
#33
stirling said:
When all the laughter dies in sorrow
Cheers for that Stirling, I remember reading that earlier this year but didn't have a clue who wrote it!

Here is another by the same poet, very good too.

The Box
Kendrew Lascelles

Once upon a time, in the land of hushabye,
they came across a sort of box,
bound up with chains, and locked with locks,
and labelled

"KINDLY DO NOT TOUCH - IT'S WAR"


A decree was issued all about,
all with a flourish and a shout,
and a gaily coloured mascot,
tripping lightly on before.

"Don't fiddle with this deadly box,
or break the chains,
or pick the locks,

and please -
don't ever mess around
with WAR".

Well, the children understood -
children happen to be good,
and they were just as good
around the wond'rous days of yore.
They didn't try to pick the locks,
or break into the deadly box,
THEY never tried to play about
with WAR.

Mommies didn't either,
Sisters, Aunts, Grannies neither,
'cause they were quiet, and sweet, and pretty
in those wond'rous days of yore.

Well, much the same as now,
and not the ones to blame somehow
for opening up that deadly box
of WAR.

But someone did.
Someone battered in the lid,
and spilled the insides out across the floor.
A sort of bouncy, bumpy, ball
Made up of guns and flags and all
the tears and horror and the death
that goes along
with WAR.

Well, it bounced right out -
and went bashing all about
and bumping everything in store;
and what was sad, and most unfair,
is that it didn't really seem to care
much who it bumped
or why

or what

or for.


It bumped the children mainly -
and I'll tell you this quite plainly
It bumps them every day
and what is more
It leaves them dead, and burned and dying
THOUSANDS of them, sick and crying
'cause when it bumps -
it's really, very sore.

But there's a way to stop the ball,
it isn't difficult at all
All it takes is wisdom, and I'm absolutely sure,
We could get it back into the box
and bind the chains
and lock the locks..............

But no-one seems to want
to save the children anymore.

Well, that's the way it all appears,
'cause it's been bouncin' round for years and years -
in spite of all the wisdom wizzed,
since those wond'rous days of yore....

And the time they came across that box,
bound up with chains,
and locked with locks
And labelled


"KINDLY DO NOT TOUCH - IT'S WAR"
 

Seaweed

War Hero
Book Reviewer
#35
Temporarily separated from my Kipling so only a brief quote ..

"When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains .. '

.. may be a bit near the knuckle so will understand if the MOD removes this ref. The Indian Army has published Intelligence summaries on all the frontier wars giving the order of battle & many intriguing details dealing with such things as the deployment of guns in elephant draft.

Lots more Kipling - the 'Song of the Draught Animals', 'There's a Regiment A-coming up the Grand Trunk Road', 'Boots', one about the time-expired man trying not to let on that he knows all the drill when he re-enlists under a false name, 'The Troopship's on The Tide','The Wreck of the Birkenhead' ('To stand and be still ..') etc etc etc.
 

chieftiff

War Hero
Moderator
#36
Seaweed said:
.. may be a bit near the knuckle so will understand if the MOD removes this ref. The Indian Army has published Intelligence summaries on all the frontier wars giving the order of battle & many intriguing details dealing with such things as the deployment of guns in elephant draft.
I'm not about censor poetry Seaweed, The young British Soldier is a reflection of Afghanistan as seen by Kipling, in context it's an interesting piece, written so as to be sung as a ballad (one of The Barrack Room Ballads). I have added another of Kiplings' more "earthy" poems below it. The Deever character was found guilty of murder and his hanging was carried out publicly in front of his regiment to "maintain discipline" I think it was set in India but my memory isn't what it could be.

The Young British Soldier.

When the 'arf-made recruity goes out to the East
'E acts like a babe an' 'e drinks like a beast,
An' 'e wonders because 'e is frequent deceased
Ere 'e's fit for to serve as a soldier.
Serve, serve, serve as a soldier,
Serve, serve, serve as a soldier,
Serve, serve, serve as a soldier,
So-oldier _of_ the Queen!

Now all you recruities what's drafted to-day,
You shut up your rag-box an' 'ark to my lay,
An' I'll sing you a soldier as far as I may:
A soldier what's fit for a soldier.
Fit, fit, fit for a soldier . . .

First mind you steer clear o' the grog-sellers' huts,
For they sell you Fixed Bay'nets that rots out your guts --
Ay, drink that 'ud eat the live steel from your butts --
An' it's bad for the young British soldier.
Bad, bad, bad for the soldier . . .

When the cholera comes -- as it will past a doubt --
Keep out of the wet and don't go on the shout,
For the sickness gets in as the liquor dies out,
A' it crumples the young British soldier.
Crum-, crum-, crumples the soldier . . .

But the worst o' your foes is the sun over'ead:
You must wear your 'elmet for all that is said:
If 'e finds you uncovered 'e'll knock you down dead,
An' you'll die like a fool of a soldier.
Fool, fool, fool of a soldier . . .

If you're cast for fatigue by a sergeant unkind,
Don't grouse like a woman nor crack on nor blind;
Be handy and civil, and then you will find
That it's beer for the young British soldier.
Beer, beer, beer for the soldier . . .

Now, if you must marry, take care she is old --
A troop-sergeant's widow's the nicest I'm told,
For beauty won't help if your rations is cold,
Nor love ain't enough for a soldier.
'Nough, 'nough, 'nough for a soldier . . .

If the wife should go wrong with a comrade, be loath
To shoot when you catch 'em -- you'll swing, on my oath! --
Make 'im take 'er and keep 'er: that's Hell for them both,
An' you're shut o' the curse of a soldier.
Curse, curse, curse of a soldier . . .

When first under fire an' you're wishful to duck,
Don't look nor take 'eed at the man that is struck,
Be thankful you're livin', and trust to your luck
And march to your front like a soldier.
Front, front, front like a soldier . . .

When 'arf of your bullets fly wide in the ditch,
Don't call your Martini a cross-eyed old bitch;
She's human as you are -- you treat her as sich,
An' she'll fight for the young British soldier.
Fight, fight, fight for the soldier . . .

When shakin' their bustles like ladies so fine,
The guns o' the enemy wheel into line,
Shoot low at the limbers an' don't mind the shine,
For noise never startles the soldier.
Start-, start-, startles the soldier . . .

If your officer's dead and the sergeants look white,
Remember it's ruin to run from a fight:
So take open order, lie down, and sit tight,
And wait for supports like a soldier.
Wait, wait, wait like a soldier . . .

When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains,
And the women come out to cut up what remains,
Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
An' go to your Gawd like a soldier.
Go, go, go like a soldier,
Go, go, go like a soldier,
Go, go, go like a soldier,
So-oldier _of_ the Queen!


-- Rudyard Kipling


Danny Deever

"WHAT are the bugles blowin' for? " said Files-on-Parade.
"To turn you out, to turn you out," the Colour-Sergeant said.
"What makes you look so white, so white? " said Files-on-Parade.
"I'm dreadin' what I've got to watch," the Colour-Sergeant said.
For they're hangin' Danny Deever, you can hear the Dead March play
The regiment's in 'ollow square - they're hangin' him to-day;
They've taken of his buttons off an' cut his stripes away,
An' they're hangin' Danny Deever in the mornin'.
"What makes the rear-rank breathe so 'ard? " said Files-on-Parade.
"It's bitter cold, it's bitter cold," the Colour-Sergeant said.
"What makes that front-rank man fall down? " said Files-on-Parade.
"A touch o' sun, a touch o' sun," the Colour-Sergeant said.
They are hangin' Danny Deever, they are marchin' of 'im round,
They 'ave 'alted Danny Deever by 'is coffin on the ground;
An' e'll swing in 'arf a minute for a sneakin' shootin' hound
0 they're hangin' Danny Deever in the mornin'!

" 'Is cot was right-'and cot to mine," said Files-on-Parade.
" 'E's sleepin' out an' far to-night," the Colour-Sergeant said.
"I've drunk 'is beer a score o' times," said Files-on-Parade.
" 'E's drinkin' bitter beer alone," the Colour-Sergeant said.
They are hangin' Danny Deever, you must mark 'im to 'is place,
For 'e shot a comrade sleepin' - you must look 'im in the face;
Nine 'undred of 'is county an' the Regiment's disgrace,
While they're hangin' Danny Deever in the mornin'.

"What's that so black agin the sun? " said Files-on-Parade.
"It's Danny fightin' 'ard for life," the Colour-Sergeant said.
"What's that that whimpers over'ead? " said Files-on-Parade.
"It's Danny's soul that's passin' now," the Colour-Sergeant said.
For they're done with Danny Deever, you can 'ear the quickstep play
The regiment's in column, an' they're marchin' us away;
Ho! the young recruits are shakin', an' they'll want their beer to-day,
After hangin' Danny Deever in the mornin'.
 
#37
he great William McGonagall. So bad he's brilliant!

Lines in praise of Tommy Atkins

Success to Tommy Atkins, he's a very brave man,
And to deny it there's few people can;
And to face his foreign foes he's never afraid,
Therefore he's not a beggar, as Rudyard Kipling has said.

No, he's paid by our Government, and is worthy of his hire;
Aud from our shores in time of war he makes our foes retire,
He doesn't need to beg; no, nothing so low;
No, he considers it more honourable to face a foreign foe.

No, he's not a beggar, he's a more useful man,
And, as Shakespeare has said, his life's but a span;
And at the cannon's mouth he seeks for reputation,
He doesn't go from door to door seeking a donation.

Oh, think of Tommy Atkins when from home far away,
Lying on the battlefield, earth's cold clay;
And a stone or his knapsack pillowing his head,
And his comrades lying near by him wounded and dead.

And while lying there, poor fellow, he thinks of his wife at home,
And his heart bleeds at the thought, and he does moan;
And down his cheek flows many a silent tear,
When he thinks of his friends and children dear.

Kind Christians, think of him when far, far away,
Fighting for his Queen and Country without dismay;
May God protect him wherever he goes,
And give him strength to conquer his foes.

To call a soldier a beggar is a very degrading item,
And in my opinion it's a very great shame;
And the man that calls him a beggar is not the soldier's friend,
And no sensible soldier should on him depend.

A soldier is a man that ought to be respected,
And by his country shouldn't be neglected;
For he fights our foreign foes, and in danger of his life,
Leaving behind him his relatives and his dear wife.

Then hurrah for Tommy Atkins, he's the people's friend,
Because when foreign foes assail us he does us defend;
He is not a beggar, as Rudyard Kipling has said,
No, he doesn't need to beg, he lives by his trade.

And in conclusion I will say,
Don't forget his wife and children when he's far away;
But try and help them all you can,
For remember Tommy Atkins is a very useful man.
 

chieftiff

War Hero
Moderator
#40
Shags, There's another thread for your bizarre taste in pop music, we will try to reserve this sticky for GREAT MILITARY POETRY, feel free to contribute.
 

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