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Prose Poetry

More than any other conflict, the Great War inspired writers of all generations and classes, most notably among combatants.

The war’s poets are chiefly celebrated today, although much outstanding prose work was also produced by such poets as Sassoon and Blunden, chiefly in the form of personal memoir.

Thoughts of War.

What is War
(Weilburg A. D. Lahn, February 11th, 1916)
J. M. Rose-Troup

What is war?
Ask the young men who fight,
Men who defend the right,
Ask them – what is war?
“Honour – or death – that is war,”
Say the young men.

What is war?
Ask of the women who weep,
Mourning for those who sleep,
Ask them – what is war ?
“Sorrow and grief – that is war,”
Say the women.

What is war?
By ways beyond our ken,
God tries the souls of men,
Sends retribution just,
Punishing vice and lust,
God’s wrath for sin – that is war.


If I Should Die
by Rupert Brooke

If I should die, think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England’s, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.

And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her iights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven



by Robert Nichols
(Written on Expeditionary Force Leave, 1915)

For the last time, maybe, upon the knoll
I stand. The eve is golden, languid, sad.
Day like a tragic actor plays his role
To the last whispered word and falls gold-clad.
I, too, take leave of all I ever had.

They shall not say I went with heavy heart:
Heavy I am, but soon I shall be free,
I love them all, but oh I now depart
A little sadly, strangely, fearfully,
As one who goes to try a mystery.

The bell is sounding down in Dedham vale:
Be still, O bell: too often standing here
When all the air was tremulous, fine and pale,
Thy golden note so calm, so still, so clear,
Out of my stony heart has struck a tear.

And now tears are not mine. I have release
From all the former and the later pain,
Like the mid sea I rock in boundless peace
Soothed by the charity of the deep-sea rain….
Calm rain!  Calm sea!  Calm found, long sought in vain!

O bronzen pines, evening of gold and blue,
Steep mellow slope, brimmed twilit pools below,
Hushed trees, still vale dissolving in the dew,
Farewell. Farewell. There is no more to do.
We have been happy. Happy now I go.


Before Action
by William Noel Hodgson
(Written on 29 June 1916)

By all the glories of the day,
And the cool evening’s benison,
By that last sunset touch that lay,
Upon the hills when day was done,
By beauty lavishly outpoured,
And blessings carelessly received,
By all the days that I have lived,
Make me a soldier, Lord.

By all of man’s hopes and fears,
And all the wonders poets sing,
The laughter of unclouded years,
And every sad and lovely thing;
By the romantic ages stored
With high endeavour that was his,
By all his mad catastrophes
Make me a man, O Lord.

I, that on my unfamiliar hill
Saw with uncomprehending eyes
A hundred of thy sunsets spill
Their fresh and sanguine sacrifice,
Ere the sun swings his noonday sword
Must say good-bye to all of this;-
By all delights that I shall miss,
Help me to die, O Lord.


I Love
by Colwyn Philipps

I love thee as I love the holiest things,
Like perfect poetry and angels’ wings,
And cleanliness, and sacred motherhood,
And all things simple, sweetly pure, and good.
I love thee as I love a little child,
And calves and kittens, and all things soft and mild:
Things that I want to cuddle and to kiss,
And stroke and play with: dear, I love like this.
And, best of all, I love thee as a friend,
O fellow seeker of a mutual end!

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