world war

From My Diary, July 1914

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Leaves
Murmuring by miriads in the shimmering trees.
Lives
Wakening with wonder in the Pyrenees.
Birds
Cheerily chirping in the early day.
Bards
Singing of summer, scything thro’ the hay.
Bees
Shaking the heavy dews from bloom and frond.
Boys
Bursting the surface of the ebony pond.
Flashes
Of swimmers carving thro’ the sparkling cold.
Fleshes
Gleaming with wetness to the morning gold.
A mead
Bordered about with warbling water brooks.
A maid
Laughing the love-laugh with me; proud of looks.
The heat
Throbbing between the upland and the peak.
Her heart
Quivering with passion to my pressed cheek.
Braiding
Of floating flames across the mountain brow.
Brooding
Of stillness; and a sighing of the bough.
Stirs
Of leaflets in the gloom; soft petal-showers;
Stars
Expanding with the starr’d nocturnal flowers.

 

– Wilfred Owen

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1914

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War broke: and now the Winter of the world
With perishing great darkness closes in.
The foul tornado, centred at Berlin,
Is over all the width of Europe whirled,
Rending the sails of progress. Rent or furled
Are all Art’s ensigns. Verse wails. Now begin
Famines of thought and feeling. Love’s wine’s thin.
The grain of human Autumn rots, down-hurled.

For after Spring had bloomed in early Greece,
And Summer blazed her glory out with Rome,
An Autumn softly fell, a harvest home,
A slow grand age, and rich with all increase.
But now, for us, wild Winter, and the need
Of sowings for new Spring, and blood for seed.

 

– Wilfred Owen

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The Next War

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War’s a joke for me and you,
Wile we know such dreams are true.
– Siegfried Sassoon

Out there, we’ve walked quite friendly up to Death,-
Sat down and eaten with him, cool and bland,-
Pardoned his spilling mess-tins in our hand.
We’ve sniffed the green thick odour of his breath,-
Our eyes wept, but our courage didn’t writhe.
He’s spat at us with bullets and he’s coughed
Shrapnel. We chorussed when he sang aloft,
We whistled while he shaved us with his scythe.

Oh, Death was never enemy of ours!
We laughed at him, we leagued with him, old chum.
No soldier’s paid to kick against His powers.
We laughed, -knowing that better men would come,
And greater wars: when each proud fighter brags
He wars on Death, for lives; not men, for flags.

 

– Wilfred Owen

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Soldier’s Dream

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I dreamed kind Jesus fouled the big-gun gears;
And caused a permanent stoppage in all bolts;
And buckled with a smile Mausers and Colts;
And rusted every bayonet with His tears.

And there were no more bombs, of ours or Theirs,
Not even an old flint-lock, not even a pikel.
But God was vexed, and gave all power to Michael;
And when I woke he’d seen to our repairs.

 

– Wilfred Owen

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Spring Offensive

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1 Halted against the shade of a last hill,
2 They fed, and, lying easy, were at ease
3 And, finding comfortable chests and knees
4 Carelessly slept. But many there stood still
5 To face the stark, blank sky beyond the ridge,
6 Knowing their feet had come to the end of the world.

7 Marvelling they stood, and watched the long grass swirled
8 By the May breeze, murmurous with wasp and midge,
9 For though the summer oozed into their veins
10 Like the injected drug for their bones’ pains,
11 Sharp on their souls hung the imminent line of grass,
12 Fearfully flashed the sky’s mysterious glass.

13 Hour after hour they ponder the warm field–
14 And the far valley behind, where the buttercups
15 Had blessed with gold their slow boots coming up,
16 Where even the little brambles would not yield,
17 But clutched and clung to them like sorrowing hands;
18 They breathe like trees unstirred.

19 Till like a cold gust thrilled the little word
20 At which each body and its soul begird
21 And tighten them for battle. No alarms
22 Of bugles, no high flags, no clamorous haste–
23 Only a lift and flare of eyes that faced
24 The sun, like a friend with whom their love is done.
25 O larger shone that smile against the sun,–
26 Mightier than his whose bounty these have spurned.

27 So, soon they topped the hill, and raced together
28 Over an open stretch of herb and heather
29 Exposed. And instantly the whole sky burned
30 With fury against them; and soft sudden cups
31 Opened in thousands for their blood; and the green slopes
32 Chasmed and steepened sheer to infinite space.

33 Of them who running on that last high place
34 Leapt to swift unseen bullets, or went up
35 On the hot blast and fury of hell’s upsurge,
36 Or plunged and fell away past this world’s verge,
37 Some say God caught them even before they fell.

38 But what say such as from existence’ brink
39 Ventured but drave too swift to sink.
40 The few who rushed in the body to enter hell,
41 And there out-fiending all its fiends and flames
42 With superhuman inhumanities,
43 Long-famous glories, immemorial shames–
44 And crawling slowly back, have by degrees
45 Regained cool peaceful air in wonder–
46 Why speak they not of comrades that went under?

 

– Wilfred Owen

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The Young Soldier

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It is not death
Without hereafter
To one in dearth
Of life and its laughter,

Nor the sweet murder
Dealt slow and even
Unto the martyr
Smiling at heaven:

It is the smile
Faint as a (waning) myth,
Faint, and exceeding small
On a boy’s murdered mouth.

 

– Wilfred Owen

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Anthem For Doomed

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What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells;
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs,
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.
What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of good-byes.
The pallor of girls’ brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.

 

– Wilfred Owen

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