AN ANTHOLOGY OF WAR POETRY

‘The Send-Off’
 
 

INTRODUCTION

Rupert Brooke, in our first poem, ironically entitled 'Peace', welcomes war, as many did, as an outlet from everyday life and an opportunity for glory: he sees peacetime life as empty and meaningless. In stark contrast Wilfred Owen, probably the greatest of war poets, watches men entraining for France, and does so in a much more thoughtful and sombre way. The soldiers seem half aware of their fate, and those of them who return will be laden with guilt and in need of cleansing.
 
 

Peace
 

Now, God be thanked Who has matched us with His hour,
And caught our youth, and wakened us from sleeping,
With hand made sure, clear eye, and sharpened power,
To turn, as swimmers into cleanness leaping,
Glad from a world grown old and cold and weary,
Leaving the sick hearts that honour could not move,
And half-men, and their dreary songs and dreary,
And all the little emptiness of love!

Oh! we, who have known shame, we have found release there,
Where there’s no ill, no grief, but sleep has mending,
Naught broken save this body, lost but breath;
Nothing to shake the laughing heart’s long peace there
But only agony, and that has ending;
And the worst friend and enemy is but Death.

Rupert Brooke
 
 
 

The Send-Off
 

Down the close, darkening lanes they sang their way
To the siding-shed,
And lined the train with faces grimly gay.
Their breasts were stuck all white with wreath and spray
As men’s are, dead.

Dull porters watched them, and a casual tramp
Stood staring hard,
Sorry to miss them from the upland camp.
Then, unmoved, signals nodded, and a lamp
Winked to the guard.

So secretly, like wrongs hushed up, they went.
They were not ours.
We never heard to which front they were sent,
Nor there if they yet mock what women meant
Who gave them flowers.

Shall they return to beatings of great bells
In wild train-loads?
A few, a few, too few for drums and yells,
May creep back, silent, to still village wells
Up half-known roads.
 

Wilfred Owen
 

Go back to the introduction

The second section ('When Can Their Glory Fade?')

The third section ('Interlude')

The fourth section ('The Old Lie')

The final section ('Aftermath and Remembrance')

Chris Price's poem 'Remembrance'

The Poetry Index page

 

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