Henry Lawson |
From Woolwich and Brentford and Stamford Hill, from Richmond into the Strand,
Oh, the Cockney soul is a silent soul – as it is in every land!
But out on the sand with a broken band it's sarcasm spurs them through;
And, with never a laugh, in a gale and a half, 'tis the Cockney cheers the crew.
Oh, send them a tune from the music-halls with a chorus to shake the sky!
Oh, give them a deep-sea chanty now – and a star to steer them by!
Now this is a song of the great untrained, a song of the Unprepared,
Who had never the brains to plead unfit, or think of the things they dared;
Of the grocer-souled and the draper-souled, and the clerks of the four o'clock,
Who stood for London and died for home in the nineteen-fourteen shock.
Oh, this is a pork-shop warrior's chant – come back from it, maimed and blind,
To a little old counter in Grey's Inn-road and a tiny parlour behind;
And the bedroom above, where the wife and he go silently mourning yet
For a son-in-law who shall never come back and a dead son's room "To Let".
(But they have a boy "in the fried-fish line" in a shop across the "wye",
Who will take them "aht" and "abaht" to-night and cheer their old eyes dry.
And this is a song of the draper's clerk (what have you all to say?) –
He'd a tall top-hat and a walking-coat in the city every day –
He wears no flesh on his broken bones that lie in the shell-churned loam;
For he went over the top and struck with his cheating yard-wand – home.
(Oh, touch your hat to the tailor-made before you are aware,
And lilt us a lay of Bank-holiday and the lights of Leicester-square!)
Hats off to the dowager lady at home in her house in Russell-square!
Like the pork-shop back and the Brixton flat, they are silently mourning there;
For one lay out ahead of the rest in the slush 'neath a darkening sky,
With the blood of a hundred earls congealed and his eye-glass to his eye.
(He gave me a cheque in an envelope on a distant gloomy day;
He gave me his hand at the mansion door and he said: "Good-luck! Good-bai!")
Siegfried Sassoon |
AT dawn the ridge emerges massed and dun
In the wild purple of the glow'ring sun,
Smouldering through spouts of drifting smoke that shroud
The menacing scarred slope; and, one by one,
Tanks creep and topple forward to the wire.
The barrage roars and lifts.
Then, clumsily bowed
With bombs and guns and shovels and battle-gear,
Men jostle and climb to meet the bristling fire.
Lines of grey, muttering faces, masked with fear,
They leave their trenches, going over the top,
While time ticks blank and busy on their wrists,
And hope, with furtive eyes and grappling fists,
Flounders in mud.
O Jesus, make it stop!
Walt Whitman |
SUDDENLY, out of its stale and drowsy lair, the lair of slaves,
Like lightning it le’pt forth, half startled at itself,
Its feet upon the ashes and the rags—its hands tight to the throats of kings.
O hope and faith!
O aching close of exiled patriots’ lives!
O many a sicken’d heart!
Turn back unto this day, and make yourselves afresh.
And you, paid to defile the People! you liars, mark!
Not for numberless agonies, murders, lusts,
For court thieving in its manifold mean forms, worming from his simplicity the poor
For many a promise sworn by royal lips, and broken, and laugh’d at in the breaking,
Then in their power, not for all these, did the blows strike revenge, or the heads of the
The People scorn’d the ferocity of kings.
But the sweetness of mercy brew’d bitter destruction, and the frighten’d
Each comes in state, with his train—hangman, priest, tax-gatherer,
Soldier, lawyer, lord, jailer, and sycophant.
Yet behind all, lowering, stealing—lo, a Shape,
Vague as the night, draped interminably, head, front and form, in scarlet folds,
Whose face and eyes none may see,
Out of its robes only this—the red robes, lifted by the arm,
One finger, crook’d, pointed high over the top, like the head of a snake appears.
Meanwhile, corpses lie in new-made graves—bloody corpses of young men;
The rope of the gibbet hangs heavily, the bullets of princes are flying, the creatures of
And all these things bear fruits—and they are good.
Those corpses of young men,
Those martyrs that hang from the gibbets—those hearts pierc’d by the gray lead,
Cold and motionless as they seem, live elsewhere with unslaughter’d vitality.
They live in other young men, O kings!
They live in brothers, again ready to defy you!
They were purified by death—they were taught and exalted.
Not a grave of the murder’d for freedom, but grows seed for freedom, in its turn to
Which the winds carry afar and re-sow, and the rains and the snows nourish.
Not a disembodied spirit can the weapons of tyrants let loose,
But it stalks invisibly over the earth, whispering, counseling, cautioning.
Liberty! let others despair of you! I never despair of you.
Is the house shut? Is the master away?
Nevertheless, be ready—be not weary of watching;
He will soon return—his messengers come anon.
Wilfred Owen |
I mind as 'ow the night afore that show
Us five got talking, -- we was in the know,
"Over the top to-morrer; boys, we're for it,
First wave we are, first ruddy wave; that's tore it.
"Ah well," says Jimmy, -- an' 'e's seen some scrappin' --
"There ain't more nor five things as can 'appen;
Ye get knocked out; else wounded -- bad or cushy;
Scuppered; or nowt except yer feeling mushy.
One of us got the knock-out, blown to chops.
T'other was hurt, like, losin' both 'is props.
An' one, to use the word of 'ypocrites,
'Ad the misfortoon to be took by Fritz.
Now me, I wasn't scratched, praise God Almighty
(Though next time please I'll thank 'im for a blighty),
But poor young Jim, 'e's livin' an' 'e's not;
'E reckoned 'e'd five chances, an' 'e's 'ad;
'E's wounded, killed, and pris'ner, all the lot --
The ruddy lot all rolled in one.
Ella Wheeler Wilcox |
Here in my office I sit and write
Hour on hour, and day on day,
With no one to speak to from morn till night,
Though I have a neighbour just over the way.
Across the alley that yawns between
A maiden sits sewing the whole day long;
A face more lovely is seldom seen
In hall or castle or country throng.
Her curling tresses are golden brown;
Her eyes, I think, are violet blue,
Though her long, thick lashes are always down,
Jealously hiding the orbs from view;
Her neck is slender, and round, and white,
And this way and that way her soft hair blows,
As there in the window from morn till night,
She sits in her beauty, and sings and sews.
And I in my office chair, lounge and dream,
In an idle way, of a sweet 'might be, '
While the maid at her window sews her seam,
With never a glance or a thought for me.
Perhaps she is angry because I look
So long and so often across the way,
Over the top of my ledger-book;
But those stolen glances brighten the day.
And I am blameless of any wrong; -
She is the transgressor, by sitting there
And making my eyes turn oft and long
To a face so delicate, pure and fair.
Work is forgotten; the page lies clean,
Untouched by the pen, while hours go by.
Oh, maid of the pensive air and mien!
Give me one glance of your violet eye.
Drop your thimble or spool of thread
Down in the alley, I pray, my sweet,
Or the comb or ribbon from that fair head,
That I may follow with nimble feet;
For how can I tell you my heart has gone
Across the alley, and lingers there,
Till I know your name, my beautiful one?
How could I venture, and how could I dare?
Just one day longer I'll wait and dream,
And then, if you grant me no other way,
I shall write you a letter: 'Maid of the seam,
You have stolen my property; now give pay,
Beautiful robber and charming thief!
Give me one glance for the deed you've done.
Thus shall I tell you my loss and grief,
Over the alley, my beautiful one.