WW2 poetry

Discussion in 'General' started by Susan Smethurst, May 19, 2010.

  1. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member

    With the coming 75th anniversary of the final battles at Cassino in mind, I add here a poem - named Lacrimae Liri (Tears of the Liri) - written by my father's comrade, Nicholas Mosley, MC, platoon commander in E Company of the London Irish Rifles, when he was in hospital after being wounded on the morning of 16 May 1944. It is included in Nicholas' war time memoir "A Time at War".

    I was fortunate enough to meet Nicholas a couple of times, once with my father, to share memories of some of their friends, including Eddie Mayo, who died at Casa Sinagoga dring the LIR's assault on the Gustav Line. Nick kindly gave us permission to include the poem as the foreword of my father's book about his war time service.

    Quis Separabit.

    The cornfields wave toward the sky.

    And from above the clouds reply

    With smiles of gentle sleepiness.

    Below, the summer sun’s caress

    Lies softly on the silent plains.

    And deep within the sunken lanes,

    The trailing thorns hang down to dream

    And slowly in the silver stream,

    The leaves of weary willows drift

    And sway to lazy winds that lift

    The heavy heads of drooping trees

    With tenderness of silken breeze

    But Stranger, Stranger, don’t you see?

    Behind each crimson-tinted tree,

    Within those hollow, haunted walls

    And torn upon each thorn that falls

    So gently, gently, groping down

    Beside the silent fields that crown

    The sleepy summer’s brittle glare

    With ripples in the sun-swept air?

    Stranger, don’t you see that there

    The devil’s terror-laden breath

    Suffuses all with taint of death?

    That here one summer long ago

    The silent lanes did slowly flow

    With drops of dying hearts that bled,

    And drained the dying to the dead?

    That here, vain tears of frozen grief

    Once trembled on each withered leaf

    And hung from every tearing thorn;

    And out amongst the golden corn,

    Blind eyes did strain in vain to see

    The light that mocked their agony.

    mayo (3) - Copy.JPG
    Last edited: May 26, 2019
  2. Michael Bully

    Michael Bully Member

    I think that 'The Soldiers At Lauro' is very moving- I haven't seen any other Spike Milligan poems in World War 2 anthologies so far.
    Spike used to take part in the 'Poetry and Jazz in concert ' events from 1961 around Britain . By 1969 there had been 250 performances. Some poets read about war, such as Vernon Scannell , but not sure if Spike ever drew on his war service during his readings.
  3. Michael Bully

    Michael Bully Member

    Great poem , bexley84. Thank you for posting it . Will look for Nicholas Mosley' s 'A Time At War'. Could you post here or message me with details of your father's book? Regards
  4. Michael Bully

    Michael Bully Member

    I have updated the World War 2 poetry blog with the poem 'Lidice' by C Day Lewis from 1943.
    Lidice was a Czech village caught up in the reprisals the Germans ordered following the death of Reinhard Heydrich , who died from wounds incurred some two weeks after an assassination attempt in Prague on 27th May 1942.
    On 10th June 1942 the male inhabitants were massacred , the women and children were transported from Lidice, many to meet their deaths in concentration camps. The village was destroyed and German radio broadcast the fact to the world.
    Have already started on a follow up post with more poetry about Lidice


    Not a grave of the murdered for freedom
    but grows seed for freedom- Walt Whitman

    " Cry to us ,murdered village while you grieve
    Ashes raw on history makes us understand
    What freedom asks of us . Strengthen our hands
    Against the arrogant dogmas that deprave
    And have no proof but death as their command

    Must the innocent blood for ever to remedy
    These fantastic fits that tear mankind apart?
    The pangs we felt from you atrocious hurt
    Promise a time when even the killer shall see
    His sword is aimed at his own naked heart."

    Cecil Day Lewis- From his collection, 'Word All Over' 1943.
  5. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member

    Thanks... here's a link to a soft copy of the book...I know not the same:
    The story of London Irish Colour Sergeant Edmund O’Sullivan

    When my father met Nick 62 years after they had last met in Austria in 1945, he still thought he was a "scruffy officer".
    Michael Bully likes this.
  6. Michael Bully

    Michael Bully Member

    Thank you Richard

    Will read 'The story of London Irish Colour ' -appreciate the link. Just seen that it is the tenth anniversary of your father's passing. Seems a fitting time to start looking at his book.

    I am sure that many years ago I read one of Nicholas Mosley's books about his family upbringing .
    And also read his book on Julian Grenfell, who was killed in action in World War 1- most known for his poem ' Into Battle'.
    Have treated myself to a kindle version of 'A Time At War'.

    The Oasis Trust , who were heavily involved in collecting poetry and publishing Forces poetry from the North Africa campaign also brought out an anthology titled ' From Oasis into Italy- War poems and diaries from 'African and Italy 1940-1946' edited by one Victor Selwyn. I am trying to get hold of a copy. I will check to see if Nicholas Mosley's poem made it into this anthology.

  7. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member

    Thank you Richard

    Will read 'The story of London Irish Colour ' -appreciate the link. Just seen that it is the tenth anniversary of your father's passing. Seems a fitting time to start looking at his book.



    Thank you - it was actually 10 years today, 24th May, on the evening I actually returned from a LIR visit to Cassino... I got the chance to show him a video of the current day pipers parading to Casa Sinagoga playing the 'Garryowen' before he died.....

    best wishes
  8. Michael Bully

    Michael Bully Member


    Glad that you had the final opportunity to talk to your father about the LIR . Have got a lot out of reading 'The story of London Irish Colour' so far. The section about Irish history, and your father's upbringing in London in the 1930's certainly held my interest. Grateful to be introduced to his book.

    Having a quick look at 'The Guardian ' obituary , there seemed to be no mention of Nicholas Mosley's poetry.

    Nicholas Mosley obituary

    Very curious to see if he wrote any more poems, and had any of them published besides 'Tears of the Lin' above. Will check the 'Oasis' anthologies and report back.



  9. Michael Bully

    Michael Bully Member

    Manged to get hold of the anthology 'From Oasis Into Italy-War Poems & Diaries From Africa & Italy 1940-1946'( 1983)
    This poem was written by John Jarmain, officer with the 51st Highland Division anti tank unit, served in North Africa and
    was later killed in action during the Normandy campaign on 22nd June 1944. His work is not often included in anthologies.

    Really enjoy the simplicity and sense of solitude that comes over in this poem.

    Ring Plover at El Alamein

    "Nothing grows on the sand-flats
    Beside the salt late at El Alamein ,
    The water is still and rust pink
    And the flat sand rim is crusted with salt.
    Beyond the white dunes and the shallow beach
    In the brilliant tideless sea;
    Behind is the endless sand.

    Yet here at the dead lake's side
    I saw a solitary ring plover-
    Small and plump and coloured,
    Black and white and read,
    Surprising as a painted wooden toy,
    He and I alone had the pale shore
    I still and watching him.
    The bird busy as an absorbed small boy;
    Small and pre-occupied, always hurrying,
    As if he were always a little behind
    So I have seen him on busy beaches of the North
    Hunting with the dunlin, between the fishing-boats
    And the nets hung on poles to dry
    Along the shores of the Moray Firth.

    But like memory the quick wings flickered,
    Left momentarily a white arc in the air,
    And he was over the dunes, out to sea,
    I was alone on the sand-flats
    Beside the rust-pink water"
  10. Michael Bully

    Michael Bully Member

    Have updated the World War Poetry website with some thoughts about Sidney Keyes , who died whilst serving in Tunisia in 1943, just before his 21st birthday.

    Hoping to get a chance to read more of John Jarmain's work later this week at the British Library and at the National Poetry Library.

    Sidney Keyes – World War Poetry
  11. Michael Bully

    Michael Bully Member

    Latest update to the World War poetry blog features the life and work of the Hungarian poet Miklos Radnoti , who was executed in 1944 whilst being made to serve in a unit for Jewish labourers.

    Here is Dame Judi Dench reciting Radnoti's 1944 poem 'I can not tell' from 1976.


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