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WAR POETRY | 50 Poems about War | Soldier Poems

War Poetry

War Poetry

War Poetry: Poems about War and Soldier Poems

War poetry: This is a collection of poems about war and soldier poems written in combat. Find First World War poems and videos, poetry from nine wars and Vietnam War Songs.

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War is the common denominator of civilizations. More than history books are able to do, war poetry captures the essence of wars and transmits emotional legacies to succeeding generations.

This collection represents a range of thoughts and experiences as only poets can capture them.

Every November 11 on Remembrance Day (Veterans Day) and on Memorial Day (May 26, 2014), it is war poetry that people want to find. People search for the poetry that reflects their own emotional experience losing loved ones to military conflict. They don't want history books. They know what happened. What they want are words which share their pain. Remembrance Day and Memorial Day poems about war reflect the special grief for lives lost in war.

These poems about war display the evil and the destruction that war has brought to humanity since the first generation.

"And it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him."

– Bible, Genesis 4:8

One quarter of mankind was destroyed on that day.

Table of Contents – Jump to Section

Poems About War

Soldier Poems

American Revolutionary War Poetry

(U.S.) Civil War Poetry

First World War Poems

War Poetry from Spanish Civil War

World War Two Poetry

Israel War of Independence Poetry

Vietnam War Songs

Vietnam War Poems

Air Force War Poetry

First Gulf War Poetry

Second Gulf War Poetry

warpoems

Poems About War

Induction

Induction

Induction

by Writer Fox™

There are few things worth dying for.
There are few things worth living for.
Land is not enough for either. It's only dust.
And under that
The corpses buried for six thousand years.
And under that
The rock spewed forth
From a thousand suns.
And the sky is full of balls
Like this one.
You could have your pick of them.
There are enough of them
To go around
And then some.
Land is not enough.
There's always something more
Than that to drive the soldier to his duty.
Don't shoot until you know it.
If not, you'll miss the mark.

A child's bedroom in Israel, riddled with shrapnel from a missile launched by the Iranian funded Hamas government in Gaza City, in November, 2012.

A child's bedroom in Israel, riddled with shrapnel from a missile launched by the Iranian funded Hamas government in Gaza City, in November, 2012.

A kindergarten classroom in Israel, targeted by the Iranian funded Hamas government in Gaza City, in November, 2012.

A kindergarten classroom in Israel, targeted by the Iranian funded Hamas government in Gaza City, in November, 2012.

A Soldier's Child

A Soldier's Child

War poetry reflects the shock of the first attack, the reaction of the civilian population, and the angst of military leadership.


Siren-Swell

by Writer Fox™

Siren-swell
This one's for real
It's not a drill
Slip the slurping baby from the breast.

Bombs bellowing
There's no such thing
As sheltering
Beneath the twisting tangle of these times.

Full alert
The cannons spurt
Their total worth
Gyring on the vortices of pi.

Wing-to-wing
The gathering
Exhibiting
There's no place like war.

There's no place like war.

There's no place like war.

Scroll to Continue


General Staff Headquarters, Tel Aviv, Israel

General Staff Headquarters, Tel Aviv, Israel

General Staff Headquarters Tel Aviv

by Writer Fox™

All your life you have trained
for the day ahead of you
and this day is the imagining
of the next day
of the next week
of the next war.
And the budget is never enough
but it has to be
enough.
The draft numbers are never enough
but they have to be
enough
and somewhere between
a line is drawn
stopping short
of the right answer.

Scan the sky and the sea
and the ground,
intercept communications,
speak to the spies,
look for the signs,
prepare the
defensive-offensive-defense,
the retaliation-response-ratio,
the if/then/what.
Write the plan
in the Book of Plans.

Send for the savants
of strategy.
Tell them to forget
the last war,
the weapons have changed
and you shall not
covet your neighbor's
weapon.
You must covet
a better one.
And someone will tell you
the lands have not changed
but you know they have,
you have the photographs.

Calculate, anticipate
the activation of the plan:
How many sorties
can a pilot fly
before he drowns in the sea
of his sweat
and slips
like a fish
through the egg-bubble?
How many rounds
can a young man fire
before his eyes
lose their focus
and mist-over the sights?
How many times
can the sea rock the sailor
till his bones
unbolt
at the joints?

Calculate, anticipate
the activation of the plan:
Send the diplomats
abroad,
send the equipment brokers
abroad,
place your bets on the race.
Who will buy for you
a silver bowl
of Time?

Calculate, anticipate
the activation of the plan:
Who will go door-to-door
to the kingdoms of the earth?
Count your friends,
find one,
find one!
dare someone
to find one.

And God said,
"You shall not fear"1,
but Fear
is your employer,
and the fear of myopia
is the milk
stirred in your morning coffee,
curded to cheese in your lunch,
fed to your meat for your dinner,
dining with Dimona2
in your dreams,
answering the call in the night:
The instruments did not warn,
the sonar did not detect,
the spot on the lung.
Have someone's head for this.


1 The passage is found in Isaiah 41:13, as well as many other Scripture verses.
2 According to foreign media, Dimona, Israel, is one of the locations of Israel's nuclear reactors. Israel's presumed nuclear capabilities are considered a weapon of last resort, also known as The Samson Option.

The War Prayer by Mark Twain

Mark Twain wrote The War Prayer in 1905 as a protest against the Philippine-American War. His publisher refused to publish it and his family objected, too. Twain said, "I have told the whole truth in that, and only dead men can tell the truth in this world. It can be published after I am dead." The poem was published posthumously in 1916, two years after World War I began. It has been in print since that day.

This video is an excerpt from the prose poem and the text appears below.

The War Prayer by Mark Twain

The War Prayer by Mark Twain

excerpt from The War Prayer

by Mark Twain

O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle
Be Thou near them! With them – in spirit – we also go forth
from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe.
O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells;
help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead;
help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded,
writhing in pain;
help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire;
help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief;
help us to turn them out roofless with little children to wander unfriended
the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst,
sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter,
broken in spirit, worn with travail,
imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it
for our sakes who adore Thee,
Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives,
protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps,
water their way with their tears,
stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet!
We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love,
and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset
and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts.

warpoems
Soldiers in Military Parade

Soldiers in Military Parade

Soldier Poems

Soldier poems speak to every generation, for the underlying emotions are the same no matter what the war. In this collection of war poetry, you will find poems about soldiers and you find poems written by solders.


excerp from The People, Yes

by Carl Sandburg

The little girl saw her first troop parade and asked,
"What are those?"
"Soldiers."
"What are soldiers?"
"They are for war. They fight and each tries to kill as many of the other side as he can."
The girl held still and studied.
"Do you know . . . I know something?"
"Yes, what is it you know?"
"Sometime they'll give a war and nobody will come."


Verdun destroyed in World War I

Verdun destroyed in World War I

And They Obey

by Carl Sandburg (written in 1916)

Smash down the cities.
Knock the walls to pieces.
Break the factories and cathedrals, warehouses
and homes
Into loose piles of stone and lumber and black
burnt wood:
You are the soldiers and we command you.

Build up the cities.
Set up the walls again.
Put together once more the factories and cathedrals,
warehouses and homes
Into buildings for life and labor:
You are workmen and citizens all: We
command you.


A Dead Statesman

by Rudyard Kipling (1865 – 1936)


I could not dig; I dared not rob:
Therefore I lied to please the mob.
Now all my lies are proved untrue
And I must face the men I slew.
What tale shall serve me here among
Mine angry and defrauded young?

warpoems
George Washington Crossing the Delaware

George Washington Crossing the Delaware

Memorial at Concord, Massachusetts

Memorial at Concord, Massachusetts

American War of Independence Poetry

America's War of Independence from British rule (1775 – 1783) is also called the American Revolutionary War. That war not only gave America a place on the map of nations, but it changed the course of Western Civilization.

American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote his famous poem about the war for the completion of a monument commemorating the war's fallen soldiers.

In the video below, former U.S. President William Jefferson Clinton reads this poem, 'Concord Hymn.'

The Spirit of '76

The Spirit of '76

Concord Hymn

by Ralph Waldo Emerson (written in 1836)

By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April's breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood
And fired the shot heard round the world.

The foe long since in silence slept;
Alike the conqueror silent sleeps;
And Time the ruined bridge has swept
Down the dark stream which seaward creeps.

On this green bank, by this soft stream,
We set today a votive stone;
That memory may their deed redeem,
When, like our sires, our sons are gone.

Spirit, that made those heroes dare
To die, and leave their children free,
Bid Time and Nature gently spare
The shaft we raise to them and thee.

warpoems

Civil War Poetry

Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina, during the U.S. Civil War

Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina, during the U.S. Civil War

Fort Sumter was the scene of the first shot fired in the U.S. Civil War, when Confederate soldiers attacked the Federal fort. After a 34-hour battle, Fort Sumter surrendered to the Confederate forces.

Poetry written during the American Civil War is mostly considered doggerel today, but it is the authentic poetic style of the 1860s. The poetry that has survived in popularity represents the early explorers of free verse poetic style. In this form, Walt Whitman is considered a master of poems about war.

Following are free verse poems about the Civil War.

Civil War at Ft. Sumter

Civil War at Ft. Sumter

Jacob Goodpasture

by Edgar Lee Masters (from Spoon River Anthology)

When Fort Sumter fell and the war came
I cried out in bitterness of soul:
"O glorious republic now no more!"
When they buried my soldier son
To the call of trumpets and the sound of drums
My heart broke beneath the weight
Of eighty years, and I cried:
"Oh, son who died in a cause unjust!
In the strife of Freedom slain!"
And I crept here under the grass.
And now from the battlements of time, behold:
Thrice thirty million souls being bound together
In the love of larger truth,
Rapt in the expectation of the birth
Of a new Beauty,
Sprung from Brotherhood and Wisdom.
I with eyes of spirit see the Transfiguration
Before you see it.
But ye infinite brood of golden eagles nesting ever higher,
Wheeling ever higher, the sun-light wooing
Of lofty places of Thought,
Forgive the blindness of the departed owl.


Read more about the Battle at Ft. Sumter.

Civil War Battle of Missionary Ridge

Civil War Battle of Missionary Ridge

Storming Missionary Ridge

Storming Missionary Ridge

Knowlt Hoheimer

by Edgar Lee Masters (from Spoon River Anthology)

I was the first fruits of the battle of Missionary Ridge.
When I felt the bullet enter my heart
I wished I had staid at home and gone to jail
For stealing the hogs of Curl Trenary,
Instead of running away and joining the army.
Rather a thousand times the county jail
Than to lie under this marble figure with wings,
And this granite pedestal
Bearing the words, "Pro Patria."
What do they mean, anyway?


Lydia Puckett

by Edgar Lee Masters (from Spoon River Anthology)

Knowlt Hoheimer ran away to the war
The day before Curl Trenary
Swore out a warrant through Justice Arnett
For stealing hogs.
But that's not the reason he turned a soldier.
He caught me running with Lucius Atherton.
We quarreled and I told him never again
To cross my path.
Then he stole the hogs and went to the war –
Back of every soldier is a woman.


Civil War Hospital

Civil War Hospital

Civil War Poetry

Walt Whitman worked throughout the war as a volunteer nurse in primitive, battlefield tent hospitals. His Civil War poetry often reflects on the pain of wounded and dying soldiers.


excerpt from The Wound-Dresser

by Walt Whitman

Bearing the bandages, water and sponge,
Straight and swift to my wounded I go,
Where they lie on the ground after the battle brought in,
Where their priceless blood reddens the grass, the ground,
Or to the rows of the hospital tent, or under the roofed hospital,
To the long rows of cots up and down each side I return,
To each and all one after another I draw near, not one do I miss,
An attendant follows holding a tray, he carries a refuse pail,
Soon to be filled with clotted rags and blood, emptied, and filled again.

I onward go, I stop,
With hinged knees and steady hand to dress wounds,
I am firm with each, the pangs are sharp yet unavoidable,
One turns to me his appealing eyes – poor boy! I never knew you,
Yet I think I could not refuse this moment to die for you, if that would save you.

On, on I go, (open doors of time! open hospital doors!)
The crushed head I dress, (poor crazed hand tear not the bandage away,)
The neck of the cavalry-man with the bullet through and through I examine,
Hard the breathing rattles, quite glazed already the eye, yet life struggles hard,
(Come sweet death! be persuaded O beautiful death!
In mercy come quickly.)

From the stump of the arm, the amputated hand,
I undo the clotted lint, remove the slough, wash off the matter and blood,
Back on his pillow the soldier bends with curved neck and side falling head,
His eyes are closed, his face is pale, he dares not look on the bloody stump,
And has not yet looked on it.

I dress a wound in the side, deep, deep,
But a day or two more, for see the frame all wasted and sinking,
And the yellow-blue countenance see.

I dress the perforated shoulder, the foot with the bullet-wound,
Cleanse the one with a gnawing and putrid gangrene, so sickening, so offensive,
While the attendant stands behind aside me holding the tray and pail.

I am faithful, I do not give out,
The fractured thigh, the knee, the wound in the abdomen,
These and more I dress with impassive hand, (yet deep in my breast a fire, a burning flame.)

Civil War Battle

Civil War Battle

Storming Ft. Wagner

Storming Ft. Wagner

An Army Corps On The March

by Walt Whitman

With its cloud of skirmishers in advance,
With now the sound of a single shot snapping like a whip, and now an
irregular volley,
The swarming ranks press on and on, the dense brigades press on,
Glittering dimly, toiling under the sun--the dust-cover'd men,
In columns rise and fall to the undulations of the ground,
With artillery interspers'd – the wheels rumble, the horses sweat,
As the army corps advances.


Year That Trembled And Reel'd Beneath Me

by Walt Whitman

Year that trembled and reel'd beneath me!
Your summer wind was warm enough, yet the air I breathed froze me,
A thick gloom fell through the sunshine and darken'd me,
Must I change my triumphant songs? said I to myself,
Must I indeed learn to chant the cold dirges of the baffled?
And sullen hymns of defeat?


To A Certain Civilian

by Walt Whitman

Did you ask dulcet rhymes from me?
Did you seek the civilian's peaceful and languishing rhymes?
Did you find what I sang erewhile so hard to follow?
Why I was not singing erewhile for you to follow, to understand – nor
am I now;
(I have been born of the same as the war was born,
The drum-corps' rattle is ever to me sweet music, I love well the
martial dirge,
With slow wail and convulsive throb leading the officer's funeral;)
What to such as you anyhow such a poet as I? therefore leave my
works,
And go lull yourself with what you can understand, and with
piano-tunes,
For I lull nobody, and you will never understand me.

warpoems
British Military Cross

British Military Cross

First World War Poems

In the summer of 1914, the war known as The Great War began. It was named World War One when its sequel arrived in 1938. The war killed more than 35 million people before it ended in November of 1918.

Wilfred Owen

Many First World War poems were written by soldier poets, that is, soldiers who wrote poetry while in action rather than poets who wrote about soldiers. Chief among the remembered World War I soldier poets is Wilfred Owen.

A British son, Wilfred Edward Salter Owen was killed in action in northern France in 1918, fighting a courageous battle that posthumously earned him the Military Cross. He was 25 years old. His death came one week before the Armistice.

His poems survived in letters written to his mother, in his diaries, and in hand-written manuscripts found with his body. Only a handful of his poems were published prior to his death.

In May, 1918, he wrote a preface for his collection of poetry that he hoped to publish. This is an excerpt:

"This book is not about heroes. English poetry is not yet fit to speak of them. Nor is it about deeds, or lands, nor anything about glory, honor, might, majesty, dominion, or power, except War. Above all I am not concerned with Poetry. My subject is War, and the pity of War.

"The Poetry is in the pity. Yet these elegies are to this generation in no sense consolatory. They may be to the next. All a poet can do today is warn. That is why the true Poets must be truthful."

His poem, Dulce Et Decorum Est, reflects on the Latin poet, Horace. The phrase "Dulce et Decorum est/ Pro patria mori'" translates as:

"It is sweet and right to die for one's country."

– Horace, Odes, III. ii 13.

It is one of the most famous First World War poems and is a war poetry classic.


World War 1 Victims of Chemical Weapons

World War 1 Victims of Chemical Weapons

Dulce Et Decorum Est

by Wilfred Owen

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.
Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And floundering like a man in fire or lime –
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori
.

In Wilfred Owen's Anthem for a Doomed Youth, there is the haunting premonition that Owen himself would soon fall in action.


World War 1 Soldiers

World War 1 Soldiers

Anthem For Doomed Youth

by Wilfred Owen

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells,
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs, –
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.
What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes.
The pallor of girls' brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing down of blinds.


Isaac Rosenberg

Isaac Rosenberg was killed in action in Fampoux, France, in 1918. He is one of the 16 poets from World War One who are recognized in the Poet's Corner of Westminster Abbey.

His poem, Break of Day in the Trenches, is one of his most famous.


World War 1 Poppies

World War 1 Poppies

Break Of Day In The Trenches

by Isaac Rosenberg

The darkness crumbles away.
It is the same old druid Time as ever,
Only a live thing leaps my hand,
A queer sardonic rat
As I pull the parapet's poppy
To stick behind my ear.
Droll rat, they would shoot you if they knew
Your cosmopolitan sympathies.
Now you have touched this English hand
You will do the same to a German
Soon, no doubt, if it be your pleasure
To cross the sleeping green between.
It seems you inwardly grin as you pass
Strong eyes, fine limbs, haughty athletes,
Less chanced than you for life,
Bonds to the whims of murder,
Sprawled in the bowels of the earth,
The torn fields of France.
What do you see in our eyes
At the shrieking iron and flame
Hurled through still heavens?
What quaver – what heart aghast?
Poppies whose roots are in man's veins
Drop, and are ever dropping;
But mine in my ear is safe –
Just a little white with the dust.


John Alexander McCrae

John Alexander McCrae was a Canadian medical doctor and artillery veteran of the Second Boer War, fighting for the British in South Africa. He served in World War 1 as a surgeon at the Canadian hospital set up in northern France, where he died of pneumonia in 1918. He once remarked to a friend,

"All the goddamn doctors in the world will not win this bloody war: what we need is more and more fighting men."

He wrote In Flanders Fields, perhaps the most famous of all World War 1 poems, when a close friend died in battle.


Poppies between crosses

Poppies between crosses

In Flanders Fields

by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.


Siegfried Sassoon

Siegfried Sassoon wrote many of the famous First World War poems. He wrote as a combat soldier poet. Because he survived the war, he is known as one of the most prolific poets of the war. Following are just a few of his most loved war poems.

Manuscript of 'The General', a War Poem by Siegfried Sassoon

Manuscript of 'The General', a War Poem by Siegfried Sassoon

The General

by Siegfried Sassoon (written in 1917 while serving in World War I)

'Good-morning; good-morning!' the General said
When we met him last week on our way to the line.
Now the soldiers he smiled at are most of 'em dead,
And we're cursing his staff for incompetent swine.
'He's a cheery old card,' grunted Harry to Jack
As they slogged up to Arras with rifle and pack.
But he did for them both by his plan of attack.


World War I Generals

World War I Generals

Base Details

by Siegfried Sassoon

If I were fierce, and bald, and short of breath,
I'd live with scarlet Majors at the Base,
And speed glum heroes up the line to death.
You'd see me with my puffy petulant face,
Guzzling and gulping in the best hotel,
Reading the Roll of Honour. "Poor young chap,"
I'd say – "I used to know his father well;
Yes, we've lost heavily in this last scrap."
And when the war is done and youth stone dead,
I'd toddle safely home and die – in bed.


Dreamers

by Siegfried Sassoon

Soldiers are citizens of death's grey land,
Drawing no dividend from time's tomorrows.
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 pictures shows, and spats,
And going to the office in the train.


Suicide in the Trenches War Poem Sung by Peter Doherty

Siegfried Sassoon's famous World War I poem is put by music by Peter Doherty.


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.


War With Swords

War With Swords

Carl Sandburg

Carl Sandburg (1878 – 1967) was an America poet who wrote poems about war during World War I and World War II. His war poetry is among the most famous in American literature.


Wars

by Carl Sandburg (written in 1916)

In the old wars drum of hooves and the beat of shod feet.
In the new wars hum of motors and the tread of rubber tires.
In the wars to come silent wheels and whirr of rods not
yet dreamed out in the heads of men.

In the old wars clutches of short swords and jabs into faces with spears.
In the new wars long range guns and smashed walls, guns
running a spit of metal and men falling in tens and twenties.
In the wars to come new silent deaths, new silent hurlers
not yet dreamed out in the heads of men.

In the old wars kings quarreling and thousands of men following.
In the new wars kings quarreling and millions of men following.
In the wars to come kings kicked under the dust and
millions of men following great causes not yet
dreamed out in the heads of men.


Killers

by Carl Sandburg (written in 1916)

I am singing to you
Soft as a man with a dead child speaks;
Hard as a man in handcuffs,
Held where he cannot move:

Under the sun
Are sixteen million men,
Chosen for shining teeth,
Sharp eyes, hard legs,
And a running of young warm blood in their wrists.

And a red juice runs on the green grass;
And a red juice soaks the dark soil.
And the sixteen million are killing . . . and killing
and killing.

I never forget them day or night:
They beat on my head for memory of them;
They pound on my heart and I cry back to them,
To their homes and women, dreams and games.

I wake in the night and smell the trenches,
And hear the low stir of sleepers in lines--
Sixteen million sleepers and pickets in the dark:
Some of them long sleepers for always,

Some of them tumbling to sleep to-morrow for always,
Fixed in the drag of the world's heartbreak,
Eating and drinking, toiling . . . on a long job of
killing.
Sixteen million men.


Fighting in France in World War 1

Fighting in France in World War 1

Joyce Kilmer

Fighting in France in 1918, American poet Joyce Kilmer wrote this poem upon losing 21 comrades in battle. The poem was read at their burial.

Five months later, the poem was read at Kilmer's own grave when he was killed in action at the age of 31.

Rouge Bouquet

by Joyce Kilmer

In a wood they call the Rouge Bouquet
There is a new-made grave to-day,
Built by never a spade nor pick
Yet covered with earth ten meters thick.
There lie many fighting men,
Dead in their youthful prime,
Never to laugh nor love again
Nor taste the Summertime.
For Death came flying through the air
And stopped his flight at the dugout stair,
Touched his prey and left them there,
Clay to clay.
He hid their bodies stealthily
In the soil of the land they fought to free
And fled away.
Now over the grave abrupt and clear
Three volleys ring;
And perhaps their brave young spirits hear
The bugle sing:
"Go to sleep!
Go to sleep!
Slumber well where the shell screamed and fell.
Let your rifles rest on the muddy floor,
You will not need them any more.
Danger's past;
Now at last,
Go to sleep!"

There is on earth no worthier grave
To hold the bodies of the brave
Than this place of pain and pride
Where they nobly fought and nobly died.
Never fear but in the skies
Saints and angels stand
Smiling with their holy eyes
On this new-come band.
St. Michael's sword darts through the air
And touches the aureole on his hair
As he sees them stand saluting there,
His stalwart sons;
And Patrick, Brigid, Columkill
Rejoice that in veins of warriors still
The Gael's blood runs.
And up to Heaven's doorway floats,
From the wood called Rouge Bouquet,
A delicate cloud of buglenotes
That softly say:
"Farewell!
Farewell!
Comrades true, born anew, peace to you!
Your souls shall be where the heroes are
And your memory shine like the morning-star.
Brave and dear,
Shield us here.
Farewell!"