Discussion in 'General' started by Susan Smethurst, May 19, 2010.
Kenneth Slessor (1901-1971) was born in Orange, New South Wales. He published his first poetry in the Bulletin magazine while still at school.
In 1939, at the outbreak of the Second World War, Slessor was appointed as an official war correspondent, and spent time with Australian troops in England, Greece, the Middle-East and New Guinea.
(Remember the Mariners)
Softly and humbly to the Gulf of Arabs
The convoys of dead sailors come;
At night they sway and wander in the waters far under,
But morning rolls them in the foam.
Between the sob and clubbing of the gunfire
Someone, it seems, has time for this,
To pluck them from the shallows and bury them in burrows
And tread the sand upon their nakedness;
And each cross, the driven stake of tidewood,
Bears the last signature of men,
Written with such perplexity, with such bewildered pity,
The words choke as they begin -
'Unknown seaman' - the ghostly pencil
Wavers and fades, the purple drips,
The breath of wet season has washed their inscriptions
As blue as drowned men's lips,
Dead seamen, gone in search of the same landfall,
Whether as enemies they fought,
Or fought with us, or neither; the sand joins them together,
Enlisted on the other front.
More here, of course
One of my favorites......
On Weald of Kent I watched once more
Again I heard that grumbling roar
Of fighter planes; yet none were near
All around the sky was clear
Borne on the wind a whisper came
'Though men grow old, they stay the same'
And then I knew, unseen to eye
The ageless Few were sweeping by
Lord Balfour Of Inchrye
Biggin Hill, July 1947
Further recommendations: Henry Reed's 'Lessons of the War' trilogy, which includes 'Naming of Parts' and Alun Lewis 'All Day it Has Rained', both about the boredom and occasional absurdity of training.
Isn't there some controversy about the provenance of 'High Flight', with claims that Magee 'borrowed' parts of it from earlier poems published in an anthology of verse about flight?
Greetings, have just joined, and have a specific interest in poetry. Looking forward to reading over the threads on this forum.
I run the World War 2 poetry blog
A selection of World War 2 poetry written by those in uniform in the British and Empire forces can be found at the Salamander Oasis Trust website. This organisation published some five anthologies from 1976 - 1995 . The original 'Oasis' organisation published an anthology of Forces poetry in Cairo in 1943.
The Salamander Oasis Trust
For a wider spectrum of World War 2 poetry from different countries , this list here is useful
The Poets of World War II | Voices Education Project
Have to just add that one of my favourite poets is Alan Ross ( 1922-2001) who served in the Royal Navy, including on board HMS Onslow with Arctic Convoy JW51B.
His description of the Battle of Barents Sea 30th December 1942, in which he was present, is very striking. Harder to find a better evocation of 20th century sea warfare. Here are a couple of verses from his poem 'JW51b'
“Orwell astern,ordering Obdurate
And Obedient back to the convoy,
The best he could do for it
In the way of defence, while he himself
Went after Hipper, peppering her,
Tracers like bridges of fireworks
Linking over distance, and the slow
Grey swell heaving itself up,
Collapsing and breathless.
Hipper and Onslow, sea-horses
Entwining, as one turned the other
Also, on parallel courses
Steaming, a zig-zag raking
The forenoon, as two forces,
From each other breaking.
Manoeuvred for position
Like squids squirting their ink
In defence, ship smoked sky
Round them, camouflaging. “
Rather a famous one that hasn't yet cropped up here:
by John Pudney
Do not despair
He sleeps as sound
As Johnny underground.
Fetch out no shroud
And keep your tears
For him in after years.
Better by far
To keep your head,
And see his children fed.
In 1940 Pudney was commissioned into the Royal Air Force as an intelligence officer and as a member of the Air Ministry's Creative Writer's Unit. During World War II Pudney published articles for this organization and wrote considerable poetry, including his famous ode to British airmen, "For Johnny." This poem achieved national significance and was broadcast and performed by several famous actors including Sir Laurence Olivier and used in the appropriately named 1945 film "The Way To The Stars"
Here are two by Sgt Cyril Grimes who served with the 9th Battalion, Royal Sussex and saw action in the Arakan, and Burma
Dawn on the Mayu Range
Is always new and beautiful and strange
to you: because the night before
You're never absolutely sure
The day just past
Was not your last.
And so the early golden ray
That brings you yet another day
Evokes a silent grateful prayer
It's nice to find that you're still there.
By the road and the hills lie the scatter seed
A bamboo cross on each lonely grave
Shimmering silence and jungle weed
Enfold and touch lightly- here sleep the brave
Not yet the fruit of your dying be tasted
The sun and the rain no harvest unfold
But rest, we shall see that the seed was not wasted
The living remember, the tale shall be told
Cyril Grimes, Sgt. 9th Battallion, Royal Sussex Rgt.
The poem "The Arakan" or "Dawn" appears in Roy Humphries book "To Stop A Rising Sun" published by Alan Sutton, with the date it was written given as 29th June 1944. This would have been when the author was in 68th B.G.H. in Chittagong, recovering from hepatitis.
Sonnet for the Madonna of the Cherries
by Archibald Wavell
Dear Lady of the cherries, cool, serene,
Untroubled by the follies, strife and fears,
Clad in soft reds and blues and mantle green
Your memory has been with me all these years.
Long years of battle, bitterness and waste,
Dry years of sun and dust and eastern skies,
Hard years of ceaseless struggle, endless haste,
Fighting ‘gainst greed for power hate and lies.
Your red-gold hair, your slowly smiling face
For pride in your dear son, your king of kings,
Fruits of the kindly earth, and truth and grace,
Colour and light, and all warm lovely things –
For all that lovelieness, that warmth, that light,
Blessed Madonna, I go back to fight.
[Northwick Park, April 29th, 1943]
It's great to all these new poems on the thread, thank you for sharing them. Must add this one from the North Africa campaign.
'The Path of Memory’
The smell of new paint, of oil, and of guns,
Of exhausts and diesel oil drums,
The smell of ammo and brass shells in racks,
and the smell of the desert too.
The smell of the fire as they rest for the night,
Of a fag and ‘The Old Man’s Pipe’
The smell of M. and V. and corned beef stew,
Of strong tea, the tank man’s brew,
And the smell of friendship too.
The smell of battle, of the dust and smoke,
Of cordite fumes that choke,
The smell of hot engines , and screeching gears,
Of sweat and growing fears
And the smell of heroes too.
The smell of silence, the smell of the night
The smell of that ‘There’s something not just right’
The tank stands silent, the cold wind sighs
And the crew lie inside, with sightless eyes,
And the smell of DEATH came too ."
From the 1980 anthology, ‘Return to Oasis- War Poems & Recollection from the
Middle East 1940- 1946 ‘
'J. Nugent was described as a 'trooper with 7th Armored Brigade, taken prisoner at Tobruk', and was (at time of publication ) thought to be living in Fleetwood.
( ‘M and V’ referred to in the second verses is the standard army issue tinned meat and vegetables)
One poet I mean to research further is Alexandra Etheldreda Grantham . Born in Germany in 1870, married an Englishman, became a renowned specialist in Oriental art. And had the tragic distinction of having two sons killed whilst serving, Ltn. Hugo Grantham in World War 1 ( at Gallipoli) and Godfrey Grantham during World War 2, whilst training RAF pilots. Alexandra Grantham wrote poetry to mourn the loss of her sons . This poem 'Crashed' -published in 1942- is about the loss of Godfrey.
"An hour ago or less this piteous tangled heap
Made up-of metal bits whose scattered fragments
Black trace of flames attacking it with dead leap
An hour ago.
Soared in the blue, triumphant like a star, sheer
Of silver on great wings spread in spirals
To rise and climb o'er midnight clouds of ice and
And he who swept it upwards- slain, never to
The harvest of his dreams, nor wondrous joys to
Of coming home, nor wake again. He laughed
An hour ago."
WorldWar2poetry: Beatrice Gibbs/ Alexandra Etheldreda Grantham
Separate names with a comma.