Tag Archives: My War Poetry
A Pardon Stands A pardon! Say again, a pardon stands, For those that died at their own country’s hands, For those who fell at dawn in distant lands, For those forgotten few, a pardon stands. # Here Lies A Soldier There used to be no writing on this slate, It was a marble ghost, Devoid of all but name, and date, It held no comfort for its host. A pardon comes, thank God, But half a hundred years too late, For all who cared, For all who grieved alone. They did not live to see the world awake, They did not watch the mountains shake, They did not hear the trumpets sound, They did not feel the earth resound. Theirs was a lifetime spent in public scorn, Too oft’ afraid their loss to mourn, Lest others, thinking not, their grief upset, Cowards chanting ‘coward.’ How sad they never read the writing on the slate, An honour now, to add to name, and date, A proof of what they’d known before, Etched out in stone for ever more, Just seven words and nothing more, ‘Here lies a soldier of the War.’
You left, as I recall, to sounds of pomp and circumstance, To fight the noble fight, you said, one must set sail for France, I waved to you goodbye but as a boy I could not see, What all the foreign fighting had to do with you and me. We lit for you a candle, which burned bright through night and day, And kept you always in our hearts though you were far away, But when the letter told us you were never coming back, We didn’t visit church again, your candle paled to black. Now after that, the day of days, in hope I was alone, Unbowed, I lit a flame myself that I might bring you home, This flame was not a candle but a fire that pierced the night, Beside the pyre I sat in vain awaiting any sight. I did not understand why you would not come back to play, And though our mother tried to try no words that she could say, Would stop the sense of certainty from forming in my mind, That some day you’d come back to me, so leaving France behind. An old man now I’ve seen at last just why you kept away, But still I come to build my fire to set the sky ablaze, I wish that I’d been by your side to face the horror too, Because you and I were brothers and that’s what brothers do.
Pale winter’s sun with her sweet dwindling light, To bed crept she and hid her weary face, Whilst fell around her darkness bleak as space. What madness might have met that fateful sight, But for one faint and gentle spec of white? A single flake of snow with God’s good grace, Untouched as yet by death or human waste, Did fair remind the world of wrong from right. Now to this ghost both friend and foe gave chase, With haste across the lines that had been set, And in each other’s hearts they found a place, To rest, amidst a merry Christmas fete, So true the violent times could not erase, The mem’ries of when warring brothers met.
First light and is the night swift sent from sky to back of mind, Forgotten timeless hours spent, awake, though eyes were blind, Behind the clouds the sun peaks out an arm to turn the ruse, First light’s a poet’s marvel; it’s a budding wordsmith’s muse. The waking wind is whisp’ring ’bout a half remembered dream, That matters not the slightest to the slightly bubbling stream, Or to the trees that bend to touch the lazy morning’s breeze, First light’s a simmering silence; a restless reverie. The little mouse fears not the owl who’s sated by the night, Nor does the owl have mind to kill, his bed consumes his sight, It’s morning, let the world be so, let Nature keep Her way, First light’s a careless harmony; a carefree time of day. But there’s the creak and cranking, from the forest over head, A crimson dawn, and through the haze, the water runs as red, The sense of shame, of shattered calm, an air that’s thick with hate, First light’s a cruel ecstasy; a bitter twist of fate. If not from owl or mouse from where, this stain upon the land? A stranger to the playful scene, be it the claws of man? First light’s a fickle mistress; it’s an awful game of chance, Wake up, you might be anywhere, thank God you’re not in France.
A piece of mud! A piece of mud! One hundred yards across that flood, ‘Boys that’s our goal, our end’, they say, ‘Our flag will fly from there today’. A piece of mud! A piece of mud! A gentle hill, worth nothing much, A tomb where several thousand sleep, A place where dreadful secrets keep. A piece of mud! A piece of mud! Is that the cause of all the blood? The fighting, man on man, in vain? To take the hill, we try again. A piece of mud! A piece of mud! One hundred yards across that flood, ‘Boys that’s our goal, our end’, they say, ‘Our flag will fly from there today’.
In no man’s land the sky was bright, The night alight with blood, Lost in a shallow grave lay I, Alone amongst the mud. Where was the wind that blew the tears, So gently from my face? Where was the God who’d promised, Not to leave me in this place? Abandoned by my fortune, And forgotten too by chance, In earnest I began to cry, Alone somewhere in France. Then through my grief I heard a noise, The sound of boots on ground, A stranger’s face looked down upon, The lost boy he had found. “Your crying cease,” the stranger said, “It will be fine, you’ll see,” He bending down to pick me up, To safety carried me. When back behind the lines I asked, The man who saved the dead, Why had he risked his life for me, And this is what he said: “Though not for freedom do I fight, Nor do I war for fame, I will most gladly give my life, To spare my brothers pain.” “I do not place my faith in war, Or think that it is right, I only trust a brother’s love, And this is why I fight.” I spent the day a-wondering, About the stranger’s words, The truth becoming clear to me, But that was when I heard. The stranger was estranged no more, From death, who masters all, A sniper’s shot had found him out, At night; none saw him fall. I could not find the stranger, Though I looked for where he lay, But ‘till my death I’ll thank him, At the start of every day. So in each morning’s sun I see, The bravest man I’ve known, Whose fate was not to answer, All the loving calls from home. And with each ageing breath I breathe, I weep with coward’s shame, For he who risked his life for me, And did not ask my name. An old man now, as luck would be, I’ve seen it in the end: ‘Greater love hath none than he, who give his life for his friend.’
In time’s careful, steady stretching, where long hours slowly pass, The privates line their little trenches, dreaming of the past, How close it feels, the taste of home, that lingers in their breast, Harder each time to bring to mind, when tired eyes close to rest. How now the cold, the smell of fear, the sound of someone’s scream, Shattering silent soldiers’ sleep, and piercing peaceful dreams, From all the things that terrify, ‘gainst which they cannot defend, As one the huddling heroes hide, and wait for waiting’s end. And in time’s fast, frightful fretting, where short hours quickly pass, The generals line with wine their hearts, to death their men they cast, Their orders false and fleeting, all obeyed as works of law, Theirs to make known a plan and stand, with backs to danger’s jaw. Glory is won in vict-ory, and to that noble end, The boys whose lives are theirs to guard, to find their fate they send, The dogs of war unleash do they, let they the whistles roar, And sacrifice a nation’s youth, to the flaw that war ends war.