war

Isandlwana

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Scarlet coats, and crash o’ the band,
The grey of a pauper’s gown,
A soldier’s grave in Zululand,
And a woman in Brecon Town.

My little lad for a soldier boy,
(Mothers o’ Brecon Town!)
My eyes for tears and his for joy
When he went from Brecon Town,
His for the flags and the gallant sights
His for the medals and his for the fights,
And mine for the dreary, rainy nights
At home in Brecon Town.

They say he’s laid beneath a tree,
(Come back to Brecon Town!)
Shouldn’t I know? — I was there to see:
(It’s far to Brecon Town!)
It’s me that keeps it trim and drest
With a briar there and a rose by his breast —
The English flowers he likes the best
That I bring from Brecon Town.

And I sit beside him — him and me,
(We’re back to Brecon Town.)
To talk of the things that used to be
(Grey ghosts of Brecon Town);
I know the look o’ the land and sky,
And the bird that builds in the tree near by,
And times I hear the jackals cry,
And me in Brecon Town.

Golden grey on miles of sand
The dawn comes creeping down;
It’s day in far off Zululand
And night in Brecon Town.

 

– John McCrae

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A Song Of Comfort

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“Sleep, weary ones, while ye may —
Sleep, oh, sleep!”
Eugene Field.

Thro’ May time blossoms, with whisper low,
The soft wind sang to the dead below:
“Think not with regret on the Springtime’s song
And the task ye left while your hands were strong.
The song would have ceased when the Spring was past,
And the task that was joyous be weary at last.”

To the winter sky when the nights were long
The tree-tops tossed with a ceaseless song:
“Do ye think with regret on the sunny days
And the path ye left, with its untrod ways?
The sun might sink in a storm cloud’s frown
And the path grow rough when the night came down.”

In the grey twilight of the autumn eves,
It sighed as it sang through the dying leaves:
“Ye think with regret that the world was bright,
That your path was short and your task was light;
The path, though short, was perhaps the best
And the toil was sweet, that it led to rest.”

 

– John McCrae

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Anarchy

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I saw a city filled with lust and shame,
Where men, like wolves, slunk through the grim half-light;
And sudden, in the midst of it, there came
One who spoke boldly for the cause of Right.

And speaking, fell before that brutish race
Like some poor wren that shrieking eagles tear,
While brute Dishonour, with her bloodless face
Stood by and smote his lips that moved in prayer.

“Speak not of God! In centuries that word
Hath not been uttered! Our own king are we.”
And God stretched forth his finger as He heard
And o’er it cast a thousand leagues of sea.

 

– John McCrae

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In Flanders Fields

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In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

 

– John McCrae

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The Anxious Dead

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O guns, fall silent till the dead men hear
Above their heads the legions pressing on:
(These fought their fight in time of bitter fear,
And died not knowing how the day had gone.)

O flashing muzzles, pause, and let them see
The coming dawn that streaks the sky afar;
Then let your mighty chorus witness be
To them, and Caesar, that we still make war.

Tell them, O guns, that we have heard their call,
That we have sworn, and will not turn aside,
That we will onward till we win or fall,
That we will keep the faith for which they died.

Bid them be patient, and some day, anon,
They shall feel earth enwrapt in silence deep;
Shall greet, in wonderment, the quiet dawn,
And in content may turn them to their sleep.

 

John MccRae

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The Unconquered Dead

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“. . . defeated, with great loss.”

Not we the conquered! Not to us the blame
Of them that flee, of them that basely yield;
Nor ours the shout of victory, the fame
Of them that vanquish in a stricken field.

That day of battle in the dusty heat
We lay and heard the bullets swish and sing
Like scythes amid the over-ripened wheat,
And we the harvest of their garnering.

Some yielded, No, not we! Not we, we swear
By these our wounds; this trench upon the hill
Where all the shell-strewn earth is seamed and bare,
Was ours to keep; and lo! we have it still.

We might have yielded, even we, but death
Came for our helper; like a sudden flood
The crashing darkness fell; our painful breath
We drew with gasps amid the choking blood.

The roar fell faint and farther off, and soon
Sank to a foolish humming in our ears,
Like crickets in the long, hot afternoon
Among the wheat fields of the olden years.

Before our eyes a boundless wall of red
Shot through by sudden streaks of jagged pain!
Then a slow-gathering darkness overhead
And rest came on us like a quiet rain.

Not we the conquered! Not to us the shame,
Who hold our earthen ramparts, nor shall cease
To hold them ever; victors we, who came
In that fierce moment to our honoured peace.

 

– John McCrae

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24th July – On This Day In History

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Born:

1802 Alexander Dumas (author – The Three Musketeers)

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Died:

1980 Peter Sellers (actor & comedian – The Pink Panther)

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On This Day:

1927 The Menin Gate is unveiled in Ypres (memorial to those who are missing in the battlefields of Flanders in World War 1)

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Have a good Tuesday, 24th July