Saturday, November 12, 2011


Here Dead We Lie--A.E. Housman

Here dead we lie because we did not choose
To live and shame the land from which we sprung.
Life, to be sure, is nothing much to lose;
But young men think it is, and we were young.

This book is not about poetry. 

English Poetry is not yet fit to speak of them.
Nor is it about deeds, or lands, nor anything about glory, honour, 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 true Poets
must be truthful.

~Wilfred Owen, from a preface to a planned book of his poetry.


We who are left, how shall we look again
Happily on the sun or feel the rain
Without remembering how they who went
Ungrudgingly and spent
Their lives for us loved, too, the sun and rain?

A bird among the rain-wet lilac sings--
But we, how shall we turn to little things
And listen to the birds and winds and streams
Made holy by their dreams,
Nor feel the heart-break in the heart of things?

The Next War

Out there, we've walked quite friendly up to Death;
Sat down an eaten with him, cool and bland, -
Pardoned his spilling mess-tins in our hand.
We've sniffed the green thick odour of his breath, -
Our eyes wept, but our courage didn't writhe.
He's spat at us with bullets and he's coughed
Shrapnel. We chorused when he sang aloft;
We whistled while he shaved us with his scythe.
Oh, Death was never enemy of ours!
We laughed at him, we leagued with him, old chum.
No soldier's paid to kick against his powers.
We laughed, knowing that better men would come,
And greater wars; when each proud fighter brags
He wars on Death - for lives; not men - for flags.


English Rider said...

Housman's poems often explore or remind us of the value of living life. He says so much, in so few words.

Berowne said...

To you from failing hands we throw the torch; be yours to hold it high...

Kathryn Stripling Byer said...

The heart-break in the heart of things.
Thank you for calling these words back up into my mind, after so many years.

Laurie Kolp said...

A very moving tribute.

The Gooseberry Garden said...

love it,
rich and beautiful pieces.