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Poems About War

Table of Contents

  1. The Conqueror by Hannah Flagg Gould
  2. Somebody's Darling by Anonymous
  3. The Dying Soldiers by Anonymous
  4. The Battle-Field by Emily Dickinson
  5. Roll-Call by Nathaniel Graham Shepherd
  6. Burial of Sir John Moore by Charles Wolfe
  7. The Soldier's Rest by Sir Walter Scott
  8. The Brave at Home by Thomas Buchanan Read
  9. The Charge of the Light Brigade by Alfred, Lord Tennyson
  10. Suicide In The Trenches by Siegfried Sassoon
  11. Does it Matter? by Siegfried Sassoon
  12. Boots by Rudyard Kipling

  1. The Conqueror

    by Hannah Flagg Gould

    There's blood on the laurel that wreathes his brow,
    And the death-cry delights his ear!
    The widow is wailing his victory now;
    And his meed is the orphan's tear.

    But the might of his arm shall lose its dread,
    For a mightier foe comes near!
    The plume will be stripped from the conqueror's head
    To wave o'er the conqueror's bier!

    Alone he must march to the terrible fight,
    For there is no army to save!
    His glory will set in an endless night,
    And his honors be hid in the grave.

    He must tread the darksome valley alone,
    Assailed by remorse and fear;
    Nor rod, nor staff help the traveller on;
    Nor is there a comforter near.

    He sinks! and none shall his requiem sound,
    Or sprinkle his turf with tears;
    His head with the clods of the vale is crowned,
    And a shroud is the buckler he wears!

    But who shall follow the fugitive home
    When his last great battle is o'er;
    Or sever the curtain that veils the doom
    Of a soul on an untried shore?

  2. Somebody's Darling

    by Anonymous

    Into a ward of the whitewashed halls,
    Where the dead and dying lay,
    Wounded by bayonets, shells, and balls,
    Somebody's darling was borne one day;

    Somebody's darling, so young and brave,
    Wearing yet on his pale, sweet face,
    Soon to be hid by the dust of the grave,
    The lingering light of his boyhood's grace.

    Matted and damp are the curls of gold,
    Kissing the snow of that fair young brow;
    Pale are the lips of delicate mold
    Somebody's darling is dying now.

    Back from his beautiful, blue-veined brow,
    Brush all the wandering waves of gold;
    Cross his hands on his bosom now;
    Somebody's darling is still and cold.

    Kiss him once for somebody's sake,
    Murmur a prayer soft and low;
    One bright curl from its fair mates take;
    They were somebody's pride, you know;

    Somebody's hand has rested there;
    Was it a mother's, soft and white?
    And have the lips of a sister fair
    Been baptized in the waves of light?

    God knows best! he was somebody's love:
    Somebody's heart enshrined him there;
    Somebody wafted his name above,
    Night and morn, on the wings of prayer.

    Somebody wept when he marched away,
    Looking so handsome, brave, and grand;
    Somebody's kiss on his forehead lay;
    Somebody clung to his parting hand.

    Somebody's watching and waiting for him,
    Yearning to hold him again to her heart;
    And there he lies, with his blue eyes dim,
    And the smiling, childlike lips apart.

    Tenderly bury the fair young dead,
    Pausing too drop on his grave a tear;
    Carve on the wooden slab at his head,
    "Somebody's darling slumbers here."

  3. The Dying Soldiers

    by Anonymous

    A waste of land, a sodden plain,
    A lurid sunset sky,
    With clouds that fled and faded fast
    In ghostly phantasy;
    A field upturned by trampling feet,
    A field uppiled with slain,
    With horse and rider blent in death
    Upon the battle plain.

    The dying and the dead lie low;
    For them, no more shall rise
    The evening moon, nor midnight stars,
    Nor day light's soft surprise:
    They will not wake to tenderest call,
    Nor see again each home,
    Where waiting hearts shall throb and break,
    When this day's tidings come.

    Two soldiers, lying as they fell
    Upon the reddened clay—
    In daytime, foes; at night, in peace
    Breathing their lives away!
    Brave hearts had stirred each manly breast;
    Fate only, made them foes;
    And lying, dying, side by side,
    A softened feeling rose.

    "Our time is short," one faint voice said;
    "To-day we've done our best
    On different sides: what matters now?
    To-morrow we shall rest!
    Life lies behind. I might not care
    For only my own sake;
    But far away are other hearts,
    That this day's work will break.

    "Among New Hampshire's snowy hills,
    There pray for me to-night
    A woman, and a little girl
    With hair like golden light;"
    And at the thought, broke forth, at last,
    The cry of anguish wild,
    That would not longer be repressed
    "O God, my wife, my child!"

    "And," said the other dying man,
    "Across the Georgia plain,
    There watch and wait for me loved ones
    I ne'er shall see again:
    A little girl, with dark, bright eyes,
    Each day waits at the door;
    Her father's step, her father's kiss,
    Will never greet her more.

    "To-day we sought each other's lives:
    Death levels all that now;
    For soon before God's mercy seat
    Together we shall bow.
    Forgive each other while we may;
    Life's but a weary game,
    And, right or wrong, the morning sun
    Will find us, dead, the same."

    The dying lips the pardon breathe;
    The dying hands entwine;
    The last ray fades, and over all
    The stars from heaven shine;
    And the little girl with golden hair,
    And one with dark eyes bright,
    On Hampshire's hills, and Georgia's plain,
    Were fatherless that night!

  4. The Battle-Field

    by Emily Dickinson

    They dropped like flakes, they dropped like stars,
    Like petals from a rose,
    When suddenly across the June
    A wind with fingers goes.

    They perished in the seamless grass, —
    No eye could find the place;
    But God on his repealless list
    Can summon every face.

  5. Roll-Call

    by Nathaniel Graham Shepherd

    "CORPORAL GREEN!" the orderly cried;
    "Here!" was the answer, loud and clear,
    From the lips of a soldier standing near;
    And "here!" was the word the next replied.
    "Cyrus Drew!" and a silence fell;
    This time no answer followed the call;
    Only his rear man saw him fall,
    Killed or wounded he could not tell.

    There they stood in the fading light,
    These men of battle, with grave, dark looks,
    As plain to be read as open books,
    While slowly gathered the shades of night.
    The fern on the slope was splashed with blood,
    And down in the corn, where the poppies grew,
    Were redder stains than the poppies knew;
    And crimson-dyed was the river's flood.

    For the foe had crossed from the other side
    That day, in the face of a murderous fire
    That swept them down in its terrible ire;
    And their lifeblood went to color the tide.
    "Herbert Cline!" At the call there came
    Two stalwart soldiers into the line,
    Bearing between them Herbert Cline,
    Wounded and bleeding, to answer his name.

    "Ezra Kerr!" and a voice said "here!"
    "Hiram Kerr!" but no man replied:
    They were brothers, these two; the sad wind sighed,
    And a shudder crept through the cornfield near.
    "Ephraim Deane!"—then a soldier spoke:
    "Deane carried our regiment's colors," he said,
    "When our ensign was shot; I left him dead,
    Just after the enemy wavered and broke.

    "Close to the roadside his body lies;
    I paused a moment and gave him to drink;
    He murmured his mother's name, I think;
    And death came with it and closed his eyes."
    'T was a victory—yes; but it cost us dear;
    For that company's roll, when called at night,
    Of a hundred men who went into the fight,
    Numbered but twenty that answered "here!"

  6. The Burial of Sir John Moore at Corunna

    by Charles Wolfe

    Not a drum was heard, not a funeral note,
    As his corse to the rampart we hurried;
    Not a soldier discharged his farewell shot
    O'er the grave where our hero we buried.

    We buried him darkly, at dead of night,
    The sods with our bayonets turning,
    By the struggling moonbeam's misty light,
    And the lantern dimly burning.

    No useless coffin inclosed his breast,
    Not in sheet nor in shroud we wound him;
    But he lay like a warrior taking his rest,
    With his martial cloak around him.

    Few and short were the prayers we said,
    And we spoke not a word of sorrow;
    But we steadfastly gazed on the face of the dead
    And we bitterly thought of the morrow.

    We thought, as we hollowed his narrow bed,
    And smoothed down his lonely pillow,
    That the foe and the stranger would tread o'er his head,
    And we far away on the billow!

    Lightly they'll talk of the spirit that's gone
    And o'er his cold ashes upbraid him;
    But little he'll reck, if they'll let him sleep on
    In a grave where a Briton has laid him.

    But half of our heavy task was done,
    When the clock struck the hour for retiring
    And we heard the distant random gun
    That the foe was sullenly firing.

    Slowly and sadly we laid him down,
    From the field of his fame, fresh and gory;
    We carved not a line, we raised not a stone,
    But we left him alone with his glory!

  7. The Soldier's Rest

    by Sir Walter Scott

    Soldier, rest! thy warfare o'er,
    Sleep the sleep that knows not breaking;
    Dream of battlefields no more,
    Days of danger, nights of waking.
    In our isle's enchanted hall,
    Hands unseen thy couch are strewing,
    Fairy strains of music fall,
    Every sense in slumber dewing.
    Soldier, rest! thy warfare o'er,
    Dream of battlefields no more;
    Sleep the sleep that knows not breaking,
    Morn of toil, nor night of waking.

    No rude sound shall reach thine ear,
    Armor's clang, or war steed champing,
    Trump nor pibroch summon here
    Mustering clan, or squadron tramping.
    Yet the lark's shrill fife may come,
    At the daybreak from the fallow,
    And the bittern sound his drum,
    Booming from the sedgy shallow.
    Ruder sounds shall none be near,
    Guards nor warders challenge here,
    Here's no war steed's neigh and champing,
    Shouting clans or squadrons stamping.

    Huntsman, rest! thy chase is done;
    While our slumb'rous spells assail ye,
    Dream not, with the rising sun,
    Bugles here shall sound reveille.
    Sleep! the deer is in his den;
    Sleep! thy hounds are by thee lying;
    Sleep! nor dream in yonder glen,
    How thy gallant steed lay dying.
    Huntsman, rest; thy chase is done,
    Think not of the rising sun,
    For at dawning to assail ye,
    Here no bugle sounds reveille.

  8. The Brave at Home

    by Thomas Buchanan Read. NOTE.—The above selection is from the poem entitled "The Wagoner of the Alleghanies."

    The maid who binds her warrior's sash,
    And, smiling, all her pain dissembles,
    The while beneath the drooping lash,
    One starry tear-drop hangs and trembles;
    Though Heaven alone records the tear,
    And fame shall never know her story,
    Her heart has shed a drop as dear
    As ever dewed the field of glory!

    The wife who girds her husband's sword,
    'Mid little ones who weep and wonder,
    And bravely speaks the cheering word,
    What though her heart be rent asunder;—
    Doomed nightly in her dreams to hear
    The bolts of war around him rattle,—
    Has shed as sacred blood as e'er
    Was poured upon the field of battle!

    The mother who conceals her grief,
    While to her breast her son she presses,
    Then breathes a few brave words and brief,
    Kissing the patriot brow she blesses;
    With no one but her loving God,
    To know the pain that weighs upon her,
    Sheds holy blood as e'er the sod
    Received on Freedom's field of honor!

  9. The Charge of the Light Brigade

    by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

    Half a league, half a league,
    Half a league onward,
    All in the valley of Death
    Rode the six hundred.
    “Forward, the Light Brigade!
    Charge for the guns!” he said.
    Into the valley of Death
    Rode the six hundred.

    “Forward, the Light Brigade!”
    Was there a man dismayed?
    Not though the soldier knew
    Someone had blundered.
    Theirs not to make reply,
    Theirs not to reason why,
    Theirs but to do and die.
    Into the valley of Death
    Rode the six hundred.

    Cannon to right of them,
    Cannon to left of them,
    Cannon in front of them
    Volleyed and thundered;
    Stormed at with shot and shell,
    Boldly they rode and well,
    Into the jaws of Death,
    Into the mouth of hell
    Rode the six hundred.

    Flashed all their sabres bare,
    Flashed as they turned in air
    Sabring the gunners there,
    Charging an army, while
    All the world wondered.
    Plunged in the battery-smoke
    Right through the line they broke;
    Cossack and Russian
    Reeled from the sabre stroke
    Shattered and sundered.
    Then they rode back, but not
    Not the six hundred.

    Cannon to right of them,
    Cannon to left of them,
    Cannon behind them
    Volleyed and thundered;
    Stormed at with shot and shell,
    While horse and hero fell.
    They that had fought so well
    Came through the jaws of Death,
    Back from the mouth of hell,
    All that was left of them,
    Left of six hundred.

    When can their glory fade?
    O the wild charge they made!
    All the world wondered.
    Honour the charge they made!
    Honour the Light Brigade,
    Noble six hundred!

  10. Suicide In The Trenches

    by Siegfried Sassoon

    I knew a simple soldier boy
    Who grinned at life in empty joy,
    Slept soundly through the lonesome dark,
    And whistled early with the lark.

    In winter trenches, cowed and glum,
    With crumps and lice and lack of rum,
    He put a bullet through his brain.
    No one spoke of him again.

      *               *               *               *               *

    You smug-faced crowds with kindling eye
    Who cheer when soldier lads march by,
    Sneak home and pray you'll never know
    The hell where youth and laughter go.

  11. Does it Matter?

    by Siegfried Sassoon

    Does it matter?—losing your leg? . . .
    For people will always be kind,
    And you need not show that you mind
    When the others come in after hunting
    To gobble their muffins and eggs.

    Does it matter?—losing your sight? . . .
    There's such splendid work for the blind;
    And people will always be kind,
    As you sit on the terrace remembering
    And turning your face to the light.

    Do they matter?—those dreams from the pit? . . .
    You can drink and forget and be glad,
    And people won't say that you're mad;
    For they'll know that you've fought for your country,
    And no one will worry a bit.

  12. Rudyard Kipling

    by Rudyard Kipling

    We're foot—slog—slog—slog—sloggin’ over Africa!
    Foot—foot—foot—foot—sloggin’ over Africa—
    (Boots—boots—boots—boots—movin’ up and down again!)
    There’s no discharge in the war!

    Seven—six—eleven—five—nine-an’-twenty mile to-day—
    Four—eleven—seventeen—thirty-two the day before—
    (Boots—boots—boots—boots—movin’ up and down again!)
    There’s no discharge in the war!

    Don’t—don’t—don’t—don’t—look at what’s in front of you.
    (Boots—boots—boots—boots—movin’ up an’ down again!)
    Men—men—men—men—men go mad with watchin’ ’em,
    And there’s no discharge in the war!

    Try—try—try—try—to think o’ something different—
    Oh—my—God—keep—me from goin’ lunatic!
    (Boots—boots—boots—boots—movin’ up an’ down again!)
    There’s no discharge in the war!

    Count—count—count—count—the bullets in the bandoliers.
    If—your—eyes—drop—they will get atop o’ you
    (Boots—boots—boots—boots—movin’ up and down again!)
    There’s no discharge in the war!

    We—can—stick—out—’unger, thirst, an’ weariness,
    But—not—not—not—not the chronic sight of ’em—
    Boots—boots—boots—boots—movin’ up an’ down again!
    An’ there’s no discharge in the war!

    ’Tain’t—so—bad—by—day because o’ company,
    But—night—brings—long—strings—o’ forty thousand million
    Boots—boots—boots—boots—movin’ up an’ down again.
    There’s no discharge in the war!

    I—’ave—marched—six—weeks in ’Ell an’ certify
    It—is—not—fire—devils—dark or anything,
    But boots—boots—boots—boots—movin’ up an’ down again,
    An’ there’s no discharge in the war!

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