Poem for the Day

Posted: 9 November 2014

Moved by the start of the Great War and the high number of casualties of the British Expeditionary Force on the developing Western Front , 1914 Laurence Binyon wrote his most poem in August 1914. The piece was published by The Times newspaper in September of that year, when public feeling was affected by the recent Battle of Marne.
In 1915, despite being too old to enlist in the First World War, Binyon volunteered to serve at Hopital Temporaire d', Haute-Marne, France, a British hospital for French soldiers, and worked there as a hospital orderly. He returned in the summer of 1916 and took care of soldiers taken in from the Verdun battlefield.
“For the Fallen” is often recited at Remembrance Sunday services in the UK and Canada and is an integral part of Anzac Day services in Australia and New Zealand. The third and fourth verses of the poem, although often just the fourth, have so been claimed as a tribute to all casualties of war, regardless of nation.

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.

For The Fallen
Robert Laurence Binyon

Poem for the Day

Posted: 8 November 2014

When war was declared in August 1914, Robert Graves enlisted almost immediately, ostensibly to avoid going to Oxford which he apparently dreaded, and he was given a commission in the Royal Welsh Fusillers. He published his first volume of poems, Over the Brazier, in 1916 and developed an early reputation as a war poet and was one of the first to write realistic poems about experience of front-line conflict. He saw action at the Battle of Loos and at the Battl...e of the Somme he was so badly wounded that he was expected to die and was, in fact, officially reported as having died of wounds. He gradually recovered and given home service for the rest of the war. However, like many of his fellow soldiers who were disabled by war, he could not get over the guilt he had leaving the other soldiers to fight without him and he insisted he be posted back to the front lines.

To you who’d read my songs of War
And only hear of blood and fame,
I’ll say (you’ve heard it said before)
”War’s Hell!” and if you doubt the same,
Today I found in Mametz Wood
A certain cure for lust of blood:

Where, propped against a shattered trunk,
In a great mess of things unclean,
Sat a dead Boche; he scowled and stunk
With clothes and face a sodden green,
Big-bellied, spectacled, crop-haired,
Dribbling black blood from nose and beard.

A Dead Boche
Robert Graves

Poem for the Day

Posted: 7 November 2014

Nobel Prize winner Rudyard Kipling was one of the most popular writers in England, in both prose and verse, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He was asked to be Poet Laureate and on several occassions was offered a knighthood all of which he declined.
My Boy Jack is a poem written by Kipling after his son John, an 18 year old Lieutenant in the 2nd Battalion, Irish Guards went missing in September 1915 during the Battle of Loos. The poem was later pu...blished as a prelude to a story in his book Sea Warfare written about the Battle of Jutland in 1916.

“Have you news of my boy Jack?”
Not this tide.
“When d’you think that he’ll come back?”
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.

“Has any one else had word of him?”
Not this tide.
For what is sunk will hardly swim,
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.

“Oh, dear, what comfort can I find?”
None this tide,
Nor any tide,
Except he did not shame his kind —
Not even with that wind blowing, and that tide.

Then hold your head up all the more,
This tide,
And every tide;
Because he was the son you bore,
And gave to that wind blowing and that tide!

My Boy Jack
Rudyard Kipling

Poem for the Day

Posted: 6 November 2014

The nephew of Pete Seeger and a classmate of T. S. Elliot at Harvard, Alan Seeger, who was already living in Paris, enlisted in the French Foreign Legion at the outbreak of the First World War so that he could fight for the Allies.
He was killed in action at Belloy-en-Santerre on July 4, 1916, famously cheering on his fellow soldiers in a successful charge after being hit several times by machine gun fire. “I Have A Rendezvous With Death” was published post...humously and highlighted a recurrent theme in both his poetic works and his personal writings his desire for his life to end gloriously at an early age.
A statue to his memory and to the memory of his comrades, Americans who had volunteered to fight for France, was erected in the Place des États-Unis, Paris.

I have a rendezvous with Death
At some disputed barricade,
When Spring comes back with rustling shade
And apple-blossoms fill the air —
I have a rendezvous with Death
When Spring brings back blue days and fair.

It may be he shall take my hand
And lead me into his dark land
And close my eyes and quench my breath —
It may be I shall pass him still.
I have a rendezvous with Death
On some scarred slope of battered hill,
When Spring comes round again this year
And the first meadow-flowers appear.

God knows 'twere better to be deep
Pillowed in silk and scented down,
Where love throbs out in blissful sleep,
Pulse nigh to pulse, and breath to breath,
Where hushed awakenings are dear . . .
But I've a rendezvous with Death
At midnight in some flaming town,
When Spring trips north again this year,
And I to my pledged word am true,
I shall not fail that rendezvous.

I Have a Rendezvous with Death
Alan Seeger

Poem for the day

Posted: 5 November 2014

Siegfried Sassoon has been described as the most innocent of the war poets whose early work consisted mainly of romantic verse. Possibly because of this innocence his reaction to the realities of the war were all the more bitter and violent. In the same month that he was posted to the Western Front his younger brother was killed in the Gallipoli Campaign. His reaction to war, through his poetry and through his action on the battlefield earned the nickname " Jack" for his near-suicidal, often alone, exploits against the German lines. Sassoon claimed that these heroic expeditions were partly to give poets a good name. He denied that some of his work had was sado-masochistic in tone.
In 1916 he was awarded the Military Cross for “conspicuous gallantry during a raid on the enemy's trenches”. He was also recommended for the Victoria Cross.

To these I turn, in these I trust;
Brother Lead and Sister Steel.
To his blind power I make appeal;
I guard her beauty clean from rust.

He spins and burns and loves the air,
And splits a skull to win my praise;
But up the nobly marching days
She glitters naked, cold and fair.

Sweet Sister, grant your soldier this;
That in good fury he may feel
The body where he sets his heel
Quail from your downward darting kiss.

The Kiss
Siegfried Sassoon

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