While making sure the sweet children didn’t cheat in their exam I stumbled upon Brian Gardner’s classic reissued poetry Anthology, Up The Line To Death: The War Poets 1914-1918.
First published over forty years ago, it contains war poems from poets both famous and unknown, at least half of whom didn’t live to see the end of the war.
One of the best is titled Soliloquy and goes something like this:
When I was young I had a care
Lest I should cheat me of my share
Of that which makes it sweet to strive
For life, and dying still survive
A name in sunshine written higher
Than lark or poet dare aspire
But I grew weary doing well,
Besides,’twas sweeter in that hell
Down with the loud Banditti people
Who robbed the orchards, climbed the steeple
For jackdaw’s eggs and made the cock
Crow ere ’twas daylight on the clock
I was so very bad the neighbours
Spoke of me at their daily labours
And now I’m drinking wine in France
The helpless child of circumstance.
Tomorrow will be loud with war,
How will I be accounted for?
It is too late now to retrieve
A fallen dream, too late to grieve
A name unmade but not too late
To thanks the gods for what is great;
A keen-edged sword, a soldier’s heart,
Is greater than a poet’s art.
And greater than a poet’s fame
A little grave that has no name.
killed in action, 1917