War poetry after Memorial Day.

This is the begiining of summer, and therefore Memorial day in the USA was Monday. From Peter Grant.

May the souls of our honored dead rest in God’s peace; and may those they left behind receive what comfort they may from a grateful nation. Even if the nation as a whole is forgetting its debt to them, we who served remember them, and we will keep their memory alive as long as we are. May others take the torch from our hands when the time comes, and keep it aloft.

Kipling is a war poet of sorts: but he did not fight in the first war. His poems are of the barrack room and the Indian Raj. Sassoon did.

Dreamers

Soldiers are citizens of death’s grey land,
Drawing no dividend from time’s to-morrows.
In the great hour of destiny they stand,
Each with his feuds, and jealousies, and sorrows.
Soldiers are sworn to action; they must win
Some flaming, fatal climax with their lives.
Soldiers are dreamers; when the guns begin
They think of firelit homes, clean beds and wives.

I see them in foul dug-outs, gnawed by rats,
And in the ruined trenches, lashed with rain,
Dreaming of things they did with balls and bats,
And mocked by hopeless longing to regain
Bank-holidays, and picture shows, and spats,
And going to the office in the train.

SIEGFRIED SASSOON

I like the comment from Yeats, which was written at around the same time as Sassoon. Yeats was too old for the first war. He left the war poetry to the young, who were losing their youth.

On being asked for a War Poem

I think it better that in times like these
A poet’s mouth be silent, for in truth
We have no gift to set a statesman right;
He has had enough of meddling who can please
A young girl in the indolence of her youth,
Or an old man upon a winter’s night.

WILLIAM BUTLER YEATS