The day when we post war poems

November 10, 2013 at 11:23 am (poetry, Rosie B, war)

As the Team’s Head- Brass

As the team’s head-brass flashed out on the turn
The lovers disappeared into the wood.
I sat among the boughs of the fallen elm
That strewed the angle of the fallow, and
Watched the plough narrowing a yellow square
Of charlock. Every time the horses turned
Instead of treading me down, the ploughman leaned
Upon the handles to say or ask a word,
About the weather, next about the war.
Scraping the share he faced towards the wood,
And screwed along the furrow till the brass flashed
Once more.

The blizzard felled the elm whose crest
I sat in, by a woodpecker’s round hole,
The ploughman said. ‘When will they take it away? ‘
‘When the war’s over.’ So the talk began –
One minute and an interval of ten,
A minute more and the same interval.
‘Have you been out? ‘ ‘No.’ ‘And don’t want to, perhaps? ‘
‘If I could only come back again, I should.
I could spare an arm, I shouldn’t want to lose
A leg. If I should lose my head, why, so,
I should want nothing more…Have many gone
From here? ‘ ‘Yes.’ ‘Many lost? ‘ ‘Yes, a good few.
Only two teams work on the farm this year.
One of my mates is dead. The second day
In France they killed him. It was back in March,
The very night of the blizzard, too. Now if
He had stayed here we should have moved the tree.’
‘And I should not have sat here. Everything
Would have been different. For it would have been
Another world.’ ‘Ay, and a better, though
If we could see all all might seem good.’ Then
The lovers came out of the wood again:
The horses started and for the last time
I watched the clods crumble and topple over
After the ploughshare and the stumbling team.

Edward Thomas

In Memoriam (Easter, 1915)

The flowers left thick at nightfall in the wood
This Eastertide call into mind the men,
Now far from home, who, with their sweethearts, should
Have gathered them and will do never again.

Edward Thomas




  1. s4r4hbrown said,

    Here are a couple more interesting examples.

    Tony Harrison

    ‘A Cold Coming’ (1991)

    I saw the charred Iraqi lean towards me from bomb-blasted screen,
    his windscreen wiper like a pen ready to write down thoughts for men,

    his windscreen wiper like a quill he’s reaching for to make his will.
    I saw the charred Iraqi lean like someone made of Plasticine

    as though he’d stopped to ask the way and this is what I heard him say:
    “Don’t be afraid I’ve picked on you for this exclusive interview.

    Isn’t it your sort of poet’s task to find words for this frightening mask?
    If that gadget that you’ve got records words from such scorched vocal cords,

    press RECORD before some dog devours me mid-monologue.”
    So I held the shaking microphone closer to the crumbling bone:

    Full poem here.

    W. B. Yeats

    ‘On Being Asked for a War Poem’ (1915)

    I think it better that in times like these
    A poet’s mouth be silent, for in truth
    We have no gift to set a statesman right;
    He has had enough of meddling who can please
    A young girl in the indolence of her youth,
    Or an old man upon a winter’s night.

  2. The day when we post war poems | OzHouse said,

    […] Nov 10 2013 by admin […]

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