Near Martinpuich that night of hell
Two men were struck by the same shell,
Together tumbling in one heap
Senseless and limp like slaughtered sheep.
One was a pale eighteen-year-old,
Blue-eyed and thin and not too bold,
Pressed for the war ten years too soon,
The shame and pity of his platoon.
The other came from far-off lands
With bristling chin and whiskered hands,
He had known death and hell before
In Mexico and Ecuador.
Yet in his death this cut-throat wild
Groaned ‘Mother! Mother!’ like a child,
While that poor innocent in man’s clothes
Died cursing God with brutal oaths.
Old Sergeant Smith, kindest of men,
Wrote out two copies there and then
Of his accustomed funeral speech
To cheer the womenfolk of each:
'He died a hero's death: and we
His comrades of “A” Company
Deeply regret his death: we shall
All deeply miss so true a pal.’
- Robert Graves
A Tumblr on reading, writing and watching World War I, curated someone who likes history, costume dramas and Australia. Those are her great grandparents on the left.
A round-up of recommended reading and watching.
Highlights: • Reviews of pop culture about WWI
• War poetry
• Photos from then
• Aussies at War
Have a question or comment? Ask me anything!
Troop trains troop trains
Passing on their way.
A sudden gust of cheering cuts
The crisp cold winter’s day.
Above, a sky swept clear of cloud,
A blue infinity;
Below, the dun-brown carriages
Steaming towards the quay.
All along the railway line,
Where the people dwell,
Flecks of eager handkerchiefs
Fluttering in farewell.
Troop trains, troops trains,
Hear the bugle’s note,
Flags, and cheers, and music, and…..
A touch that grips the throat.
—Alice Gore-Jones, 1917
Tired with dull grief, grown old before my day,
I sit in solitude and only hear
Long silent laughters, murmurings of dismay,
The lost intensities of hope and fear;
In those old marshes yet the rifles lie,
On the thin breastwork flutter the grey rags,
The very books I read are there—and I
Dead as the men I loved, wait while life drags
Its wounded length from those sad streets of war
Into green places here, that were my own;
But now what once was mine is mine no more,
I seek such neighbours here and I find none.
With such strong gentleness and tireless will
Those ruined houses seared themselves in me,
Passionate I look for their dumb story still,
And the charred stub outspeaks the living tree.
I rise up at the singing of a bird
And scarcely knowing slink along the lane,
I dare not give a soul a look or word
Where all have homes and none’s at home in vain:
Deep red the rose burned in the grim redoubt,
The self-sown wheat around was like a flood,
In the hot path the lizard lolled time out,
The saints in broken shrines were bright as blood.
Sweet Mary’s shrine between the sycamores!
There we would go, my friend of friends and I,
And snatch long moments from the grudging wars,
Whose dark made light intense to see them by.
Shrewd bit the morning fog, the whining shots
Spun from the wrangling wire: then in warm swoon
The sun hushed all but the cool orchard plots,
We crept in the tall grass and slept till noon.
"1916 seen from 1921" - Edmund Blunden
War’s a joke for me and you,
While we know such dreams are true.
- Siegfried Sassoon
Out there, we’ve walked quite friendly up to Death,-
Sat down and eaten with him, cool and bland,-
Pardoned his spilling mess-tins in our hand.
We’ve sniffed the green thick odour of his breath,-
Our eyes wept, but our courage didn’t writhe.
He’s spat at us with bullets and he’s coughed
Shrapnel. We chorussed when he sang aloft,
We whistled while he shaved us with his scythe.
Oh, Death was never enemy of ours!
We laughed at him, we leagued with him, old chum.
No soldier’s paid to kick against His powers.
We laughed, -knowing that better men would come,
And greater wars: when each proud fighter brags
He wars on Death, for lives; not men, for flags.
Wilfred Owen - The Next War (via taco-man-andre)
Let the boy try along this bayonet-blade
How cold steel is, and keen with hunger of blood;
Blue with all malice, like a madman’s flash;
And thinly drawn with famishing for flesh.
Lend him to stroke these blind, blunt bullet-heads
Which long to muzzle in the hearts of lads.
Or give him cartridges of fine zinc teeth,
Sharp with the sharpness of grief and death.
For his teeth seem for laughing round an apple.
There lurk no claws behind his fingers supple;
And God will grow no talons at his heels,
Nor antlers through the thickness of his curls.
Happy and young and gallant,
They saw their first-born go,
But not the string limbs broken
And the beautiful men brought low,
The piteous writhing bodies,
That screamed ‘Don’t leave me, sir,’
For they were only your fathers
But I was your officer
This is the song of the mud,
The pale yellow glistening mud that covers the naked hills like satin,
The grey gleaming silvery mud that is spread like enamel over the valleys,
The frothing, squirting, spurting liquid mud that gurgles along the road-beds,
The thick elastic mud that is kneaded and pounded and squeezed under the hoofs of horses.
The invincible, inexhaustible mud of the War Zone.
This is the song of the mud, the uniform of the poilu.
His coat is of mud, his poor great flapping coat that is too big for him and too heavy.
His coat that once was blue, and now is grey and stiff with the mud that cakes it.
This is the mud that clothes him —
His trousers and boots are of mud —
And his skin is of mud —
And there is mud in his beard.
His head is crowned with a helmet of mud,
And he wears it — oh, he wears it well!
He wears it as a King wears the ermine that bores him —
He has set a new style in clothing,
He has introduced the chic of mud.
This is the song of the mud that wriggles its way into battle,
The impertinent, the intrusive, the ubiquitous, the un-welcome.
The slimy, inveterate nuisance.
That fills the trenches,
That mixes in with the food of the soldiers.
That spoils the working. of motors and crawls into their secret parts.
That spreads itself over the guns,
That sucks the guns down and holds them fast in its slimy, voluminous lips,
That has no respect for destruction and muzzles the bursting of shells,
And slowly, softly, easily,
Soaks up the fire, the noise, soaks up the energy and the courage.
Soaks up the power of armies,
Soaks up the battle —
Just soaks it up and thus stops it.
This is the song of the mud, the obscene, the filthy, the putrid.
The vast liquid grave of our Armies —
It has drowned our men —
Its monstrous distended belly reeks with the undigested dead —
Our men have gone down into it, sinking slowly, and struggling and slowly disappearing.
Our fine men, our brave, strong young men,
Our glowing, red, shouting, brawny men,
Slowly, inch by inch, they have gone down into it.
Into its darkness, its thickness, its silence,
Relentlessly it drew them down, sucking them down,
They have been drowned there in thick, bitter, heaving mud —
It hides them— oh, so many of them!
Under its smooth glistening surface it is hiding them blandly,
There is not a trade of them —
There is no mark where they went down.
The mute, enormous mouth of the mud has closed over them.
This is the song of the mud,
The beautiful, glistening, golden mud that covers the hills like satin;
The mysterious, gleaming, silvery mud that is spread like enamel over the valleys.
Mud, the fantastic disguise of the War Zone;
Mud, the extinguishing mantle of battles;
Mud, the smooth, fluid grave of our soldiers.
This is the song of the mud.