Poetry from the Trenches:
The Wipers Times was a largely satiric British newspaper famously published in the trenches during the First World War on a printing press that had been “liberated” from the ruins of a French town. It was by the infantry and for the infantry, and much of it was marked by a very dark streak of humor indeed.
Nevertheless, there were contributions that were amazingly sad and touching, too. The poem “To My Chum”, written by an infantry private of the Sherwood Foresters who had lost his friend, is impossible to read without at least a twinge of sorrow. I say this charitably — for my own part, at least, I can barely get through it at all without tearing up.
To My Chum
No more we’ll share the same old barn
The same old dug-out, same old yarn,
No more a tin of bully share
Nor split our rum by a star-shell’s glare
So long old lad.
What times we’ve had, both good and bad,
We’ve shared what shelter could be had,
The same crump-hole when the whizz-bangs shrieked,
The same old billet that always leaked,
And now – you’ve “stopped one”.
We’d weathered the storms two winters long
We’d managed to grin when all went wrong,
Because together we fought and fed,
Our hearts were light; but now – you’re dead
And I am mateless.
Well, old lad, here’s peace to you,
And for me, well, there’s my job to do,
For you and the others who are at rest
Assured may be that we’ll do our best
Just one more cross by a strafed roadside,
With its G.R.C., and a name for guide,
But it’s only myself who has lost a friend,
And though I may fight through to the end,
No dug-out or billet will be the same,
All pals can only be pals in name,
But we’ll all carry on till the end of the game
Because you lie there.
The poem ‘The Happy Warrior’ by Sir Herbert Read
His wild heart beats with painful sobs,
His strin’d hands clench an ice-cold rifle,
His aching jaws grip a hot parch’d tongue,
His wide eyes search unconsciously.
He cannot shriek.
Dribbles down his shapeless jacket.
I saw him stab
And stab again
A well-killed Boche.
This is the happy warrior,
This is he…
In 1805, after hearing the news of Lord Nelson’s death at Trafalgar, William Wordsworth began work on a poem that he entitled “Character of the Happy Warrior.”
A century later, the Imagist poet Herbert Read wrote a bitterly ironic reply to Wordsworth that has been deservedly praised. Read’s poem, “The Happy Warrior” contracts the reality of fear directly against the literary myth of Wordsworth’s “Character pf the Happy Warrior.” This prototype of what “every man in arms should wish to be” is governed by reason, and even in “the head of conflict” he controls and subdues those necessary companions of the soldier, pain and fear. “This is the happy warrior” it concludes; “this is he/ Whom every man in arms should wish to be.”
Read shows instead a man driven by fear far beyond the reach of reason: “I saw him stab, and stab again. A well-killed Boche.” To reinforce his point, Read ends his poem with Wordsworth’s own words- “This is the Happy Warrior,/ This is he.”
W.H. Auden, I love you.
This is a sad and brave poem about accepting the suffering of unrequited love—an experience that Auden was apparently familiar with. In this poem, he makes his peace with his experience of “stars” whose beauty inspires such passion and longing, but which care nothing for him in return.
Being treated with indifference is not so bad, Auden says, in the first stanza; there are worse things in life. To love, even if one is not loved back, is more than enough, he suggests in the second stanza. And, in the final two stanzas, Auden tells himself that even if that which one loves were to disappear from one’s life, one would survive the grief and the emptiness—even if, as he poignantly understates it in the last line, being reconciled with that loss may “take a little time.”
Lullaby by W.H. Auden
Lay your sleeping head, my love,
Human on my faithless arm;
Time and fevers burn away
Individual beauty from
Thoughtful children, and the grave
Proves the child ephemeral:
But in my arms till break of day
Let the living creature lie,
Mortal, guilty, but to me
The entirely beautiful.
Soul and body have no bounds:
To lovers as they lie upon
Her tolerant enchanted slope
In their ordinary swoon,
Grave the vision Venus sends
Of supernatural sympathy,
Universal love and hope;
While an abstract insight wakes
Among the glaciers and the rocks
The hermit’s carnal ecstasy.
On the stroke of midnight pass
Like vibrations of a bell,
And fashionable madmen raise
Their pedantic boring cry:
Every farthing of the cost,
All the dreaded cards foretell,
Shall be paid, but from this night
Not a whisper, not a thought,
Not a kiss nor look be lost.
Beauty, midnight, vision dies:
Let the winds of dawn that blow
Softly round your dreaming head
Such a day of welcome show
Eye and knocking heart may bless,
Find the mortal world enough;
Noons of dryness find you fed
By the involuntary powers,
Nights of insult let you pass
Watched by every human love.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.
Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.
Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.
I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.
I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.
–Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.
-E. Bishop = ❤ x 1 million.
and here are the words written to describe the free people girl envisioned in this trend…
“and here are the words written to describe the free people girl envisioned in this trend…”
A wandering Empress exploring new land.
She’s broken free from her lasso to venture into a new frontier.
Sun rays stimulate her thought, while rocks beneath her feet call to her… “move forth”
She exhausts every visual through travel journals so intense the pages come alive.
smells, colors, emotions, textures, personality and old stamps and buttons picked up from dirt tracks along her way.
Her heavy canvas bag hangs on her back, full of family heirlooms, love letters and photographs.
She wanders into antique stores. The smell and history invites her.
She rummages through trunks discovering photo albums reminiscent of her ancestors.
She picks up items of sentimental meaning sticks them into her books.
She becomes nostalgic
But the spirit in the wind tells her to go.