06 November 2014

Poetry Thursday - two short war poems

Two short poems about a long war, one by Siegfried Sassoon and the other by Edward Thomas, two well-known British "war poets".

In Memoriam (Easter, 1915)

The flowers left thick at nightfall in the wood
This Eastertide call into mind the men,
Now far from home, who, with their sweethearts, should
Have gathered them and will do never again.

Edward Thomas (1878-1917) was one of six sons born to Welsh parents in London. He wrote his first poems in 1914, at the urging of Robert Frost; Six Poems was published in 1916.  While Poems was being prepared for press in 1917, Thomas was killed at the battle of Arras.

The General

“Good-morning, good-morning!” the General said
When we met him last week on our way to the line.
Now the soldiers he smiled at are most of 'em dead,
And we're cursing his staff for incompetent swine.
“He's a cheery old card,” grunted Harry to Jack
As they slogged up to Arras with rifle and pack.
. . . .
But he did for them both by his plan of attack.

Siegfried Sassoon (1886-1967) served in the Royal Fusiliers 1914-17, receiving a Military Cross in 1916. He was wounded in action in 1917, after which he refused to fight any more. "I believe that this War is being deliberately prolonged by those who have the power to end it," he wrote in his letter which, at the urging of Bertrand Russell, was read in the House of Commons. The poet Robert Graves intervened on his behalf, arguing that Sassoon was suffering from shell-shock and needed medical treatment. In 1917, Sassoon was hospitalized - rather than being court martialed.

War Poems on the Underground have been in place since 20 October on Tube and Overground trains and at special station sites - over 3000 posters in all. They are the works of six British, Italian, Austrian and French poets: Edward Thomas, Ivor Gurney, Siegfried Sassoon, Giuseppe Ungaretti, Georg Trakl and Guillaume Apollinaire. They concentrate on the ways we "said goodbye to a whole epoch" and on themes of brotherhood and reconciliation.

1 comment:

The Idaho Beauty said...

Oh Margaret, how poignant that poem by Thomas. It was sending chills even before I read of his demise, the irony of ending up like those men in his poem.

Thanks for sharing these poems.