Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Three War Poems That Stick with Me

107th Infantry Memorial, Central Park New York City (Steve Harris Photo)

To Germany

You are blind like us. Your hurt no man designed,
And no man claimed the conquest of your land.
But, gropers both through fields of thought confined,
We stumble and we do not understand.
You only saw your future bigly planned,
And we, the tapering paths of our own mind,
And in each other's dearest ways we stand,
And hiss and hate. And the blind fight the blind.

When it is peace, then we may view again
With new-won eyes each other's truer form,
And wonder. Grown more loving-kind and warm,
We'll grasp firm hands and laugh at the old pain,
When it is peace. But, until peace, the storm,
The darkness, and the thunder and the rain.

Charles Hamilton Sorley, Suffolk Rgt., Killed at Loos, 1915
(Sorley was studying in Germany when war broke out.)

Guard Duty 

A star frightens the steeple cross
a horse gasps smoke
iron clanks drowsily
mists spread
staring shivering

August Stramm, German Army, KIA Eastern Front 1915

Harbonnières to Bayonvillers: Picnic (a Sonnet)

A house marked Ortskommandantur—a great
sign Kaiserplatz on a corner of the church,
and German street names all around the square.
Troop columns split to let our sidecar through.
“Drive like hell and get back on the main road—it’s getting late.”
The roadway seemed to reel and lurch
through clay wastes rimmed and pitted everywhere.
“You hungry?—Have some of this, there’s enough for two.”
We drove through Bayonvillers—and as we ate
men long since dead reached out and left a smirch
and taste in our throats like gas and rotten jam.
“Want any more?”
“Yes sir, if you got enough there.”
“Those fellows smell pretty strong.”
“I’ll say they do,
but I’m too hungry sir to care a damn.”

John Allan Wyeth, 33rd Division AEF, Survived War
From: This Man’s Army: A War in Fifty-Odd Sonnets
Available from the University of South Carolina Press


  1. "until peace, the storm,
    The darkness, and the thunder and the rain."

    Powerful trio. Well chosen.

  2. Wonderful choices! I have yet to blog on Wyeth or Stramm (lost voices of WW1) at -- but my next post this week will be on a German poet.

  3. See The War Poetry of John Allan Wyeth.