A Poem a Day: War Poetry Part II

Here is the second half of the Sorley poem of yesterday, and please consider: to whom is he directing these words?:

And now the fight begins again,
The old war-joy, the old war-pain.
Sons of one school across the sea
We have no fear to fight, for we                                                                                                     Have echo of our deeds in you                                                                                                         We have our ** too.

And soon, O soon, I do not doubt it,
With the body or without it,
We shall all come tumbling down
To our old wrinkled red-capped town.
Perhaps the road up llsley way,
The old ridge-track, will be my way.
High up among the sheep and sky,
Look down on Wantage, passing by,
And see the smoke from Swindon town;
And then full left at Liddington,
Where the four winds of heaven meet
The earth-blest traveller to greet.
And then my face is toward the south,
There is a singing on my mouth
Away to rightward I descry
My Barbury ensconced in sky,
Far underneath the Ogbourne twins,
And at my feet the thyme and whins,
The grasses with their little crowns
Of gold, the lovely Aldbourne downs,
And that old signpost (well I knew
That crazy signpost, arms askew,
Old mother of the four grass ways).
And then my mouth is dumb with praise,
For, past the wood and chalkpit tiny,
A glimpse of Marlborough **!
So I descend beneath the rail
To warmth and welcome and wassail,                                                                                           And you, our minstrel, you our bard,                                                                                           Who makes war’s grievous things and hard,                                                                          Lightsome and glorious and fair                                                                                                    Will be, at least in spirit, there.                                                                                                     We’ll read your rhymes, and we will sing                                                                                     The toun o’ touns till the roofs ring.                                                                                              And if you’ll come among us, then                                                                                                  We shall be most blest of men,                                                                                                        We shall forget the old old pain,                                                                                             Remember Marlborough again                                                                                                      And hearken all the tales you tell                                                                                                   And bless our old **.

Well,                                                                                                                                                       This for the future. Now we stand                                                                                            Stronger through you, to guard our land,                                                                                          I do but give the thanks of each                                                                                                    (Thanks far far greater than my speech)                                                                                         Of those who knew or did not know                                                                                                  (For all knew you) not long ago                                                                                                         In places that we see in sleep                                                                                                          Our eyes are dry but our hearts weep                                                                                        Warm living tears that memory dear                                                                                              Calls up the moment that we hear                                                                                                 (For we do hear it) your kind voice                                                                                                    Who understood us, men and boys.                                                                                                  So now and for the ages through                                                                                                      We are all dead and living too.                                                                                                        Our common life lies on your tongue                                                                                              For as the bards sang, you have sung.

This from the battered trenches – rough,
Jingling and tedious enough.
And so I sign myself to you:
One, who some crooked pathways knew
Round Bedwyn: who could scarcely leave
The Downs on a December eve:
Was at his happiest in shorts,
And got – not many good reports!
Small skill of rhyming in his hand –
But you’ll forgive – you’ll understand.

This entry was posted in Literature, National Poetry Month. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to A Poem a Day: War Poetry Part II

  1. ABP says:

    Fantastic. I was made curious by your question, and now I really wish more lit crit was published online.


    • There is lots of interesting stuff I try to keep tabs on. For casual reading, I’d recommend the New Yorker blog Page-Turner, and The Millions website, as well as the Book category of TIME magazine online and the Slate Book Review. Happy reading!


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