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War Poems

Table of Contents

  1. To My Brother by Siegfried Sassoon
  2. Opportunity by Edward Rowland Sill
  3. The Portrait of a Warrior by Walter De la Mare
  4. The Day of Battle by A.E. Housman
  5. Kearny at Seven Pines by Edmund Clarence Stedman

  1. To My Brother

    by Siegfried Sassoon

    Give me your hand, my brother, search my face;
    Look in these eyes lest I should think of shame;
    For we have made an end of all things base.
    We are returning by the road we came.

    Your lot is with the ghosts of soldiers dead,
    And I am in the field where men must fight.
    But in the gloom I see your laurell’d head
    And through your victory I shall win the light.

  2. Opportunity

    by Edward Rowland Sill

    This I beheld, or dreamed it in a dream:—
    There spread a cloud of dust along a plain;
    And underneath the cloud, or in it, raged
    A furious battle, and men yelled, and swords
    Shocked upon swords and shields. A prince's banner
    Wavered, then staggered backward, hemmed by foes.
    A craven hung along the battle's edge,
    And thought, "Had I a sword of keener steel—
    That blue blade that the king's son bears,—but this
    Blunt thing!" he snapped and flung it from his hand,
    And lowering crept away and left the field.
    Then came the king's son, wounded, sore bestead,
    And weaponless, and saw the broken sword,
    Hilt-buried in the dry and trodden sand,
    And ran and snatched it, and with battle-shout
    Lifted afresh he hewed his enemy down,
    And saved a great cause that heroic day.

  3. The Portrait of a Warrior

    by Walter De la Mare

    His brow is seamed with line and scar;
    His cheek is red and dark as wine;
    The fires as of a Northern star
    Beneath his cap of sable shine.

    His right hand, bared of leathern glove,
    Hangs open like an iron gin,
    You stoop to see his pulses move,
    To hear the blood sweep out and in.

    He looks some king, so solitary
    In earnest thought he seems to stand,
    As if across a lonely sea
    He gazed impatient of the land.

    Out of the noisy centuries
    The foolish and the fearful fade;
    Yet burn unquenched these warrior eyes,
    Time hath not dimmed, nor death dismayed.

  4. The Day of Battle

    by A. E. Housman

    "Far I hear the bugle blow
    To call me where I would not go,
    And the guns begin the song,
    'Soldier, fly or stay for long.'"

    "Comrade, if to turn and fly
    Made a soldier never die,
    Fly I would, for who would not?
    'Tis sure no pleasure to be shot."

    "But since the man that runs away
    Lives to die another day,
    And cowards' funerals, when they come
    Are not wept so well at home."

    "Therefore, though the best is bad,
    Stand and do the best my lad;
    Stand and fight and see your slain,
    And take the bullet in your brain."

  5. Kearny at Seven Pines

    by Edmund Clarence Stedman

    So that soldierly legend is still on its journey,
    That story of Kearny who knew not to yield!
    'T was the day when with Jameson, fierce Berry, and Birney,
    Against twenty thousand he rallied the field.
    Where the red volleys poured, where the clamor rose highest,
    Where the dead lay in clumps through the dwarf oak and pine,
    Where the aim from the thicket was surest and nighest,
    No charge like Phil Kearny's along the whole line.

    When the battle went ill, and the bravest were solemn,
    Near the dark Seven Pines, where we still held our ground,
    He rode down the length of the withering column,
    And his heart at our war-cry leapt up with a bound;
    He snuffed, like his charger, the wind of the powder,
    His sword waved us on and we answered the sign:
    Loud our cheer as we rushed, but his laugh rang the louder,
    "There's the devil's own fun, boys, along the whole line!"

    How he strode his brown steed! How we saw his blade brighten
    In the one hand still left, and the reins in his teeth!
    He laughed like a boy when the holidays heighten,
    But a soldier's glance shot from his visor beneath.
    Up came the reserves to the mellay infernal,
    Asking where to go in,—through the clearing or pine?
    "O, anywhere! Forward! 'T is all the same, Colonel:
    You'll find lovely fighting along the whole line!"

    O, evil the black shroud of night at Chantilly,
    That hid him from sight of his brave men and tried!
    Foul, foul sped the bullet that clipped the white lily,
    The flower of our knighthood, the whole army's pride!
    Yet we dream that he still,—in that shadowy region
    Where the dead form their ranks at the wan drummer's sign,—
    Rides on, as of old, down the length of his legion,
    And the word still is Forward! along the whole line.