The First World War continues to have a great impact on all who read about it. The poets of the First World War have a unique place of honour and influence in British culture. Since the First World War a great many people have been so affected by what they have read about the war that they have been moved to write their own poems about that war and more recent wars.
There are other examples of such poems on this website. I hope, in due course, to gather more of them onto this page. To start this page here are some poems that arrived early in 2011. David Roberts, Website Editor, May 2011.
POEMS BY KRISTINA ADAMSON
Kristina introduces her poems
I produced two of the following poems (‘Compassionate Spring’ and ‘England’s Glory’) when studying for my A-Levels the year before last. We looked at various pieces of literature written during the Great War (and after), including poetry by Sassoon and Owen, plays, fiction, and soldiers' original accounts. I was greatly moved by what I read, and decided to have a go at writing my own poetry as a way of responding to the loss and tragedy I had read about. ‘Compassionate Spring’ is one of the first.
I wrote ‘Provocation’ at university; it is a response to reading both Sassoon’s poetry, and one of his books entitled ‘Siegfried’s Journey’.
My sister recently lost a close friend in Afghanistan called Darren. He was a cheerful person who always made her laugh. It seems that the whole situation has grown beyond ridiculous; we are losing innocent people that fight so bravely, yet under no circumstances deserve the fate that often befalls them. What those people do deserve however, as you have so rightly recognised, is to be remembered and supported.
How often have I looked for you
And how often have I found,
You crying in a corner?
Stumbled over tins, paper,
Mess, only to comfort what
Could well be inconsolable?
How many times have I
questioned: was it really worth
The torment? Untouchable faces
Frozen in a sick struggle:
An underworld of distant whines and
Harrowing howls for mercy.
In my own state of fear -
Perpetual anxiety masked
By hateful Vengeance, I exude
That moral, caring quality
Which many do not see
On the battlefield:
The side of good that emerges
Only when hope is lost,
Or anger, scarcely having surfaced,
"He's delirious," they cry,
But not as I touch you,
Wipe your brow, coax
Your words into something more meaningful
Than hallucinatory mumblings -
Helpless cries from boys past;
They lie in rotten piles,
Across the barren terrain,
Their eyes strangely shrunken,
Memories gone from their half-eaten heads.
As I stroke you now,
Drawing my hand slowly across
Your pallid face, feeling for
Life as tender as the day,
I become aware of your
Humanity, and as I brush a
Strand of fine hair from your
Ashen cheek, a pearly tear rolls
Down my own expressionless face,
And for a moment, lies, glistening,
Upon your silent chest,
Beat, Of your
Will you walk with me,
Along the wounded shore?
Gaze out to sea at the mass
Of roaring water, crawling
Inwards in frothing gargles,
Only to be thrown so violently
Backwards to its place of birth.
Will you look at me,
As you idly stroll along
The battered coastline?
Catch the eye of a soldier,
Light glimmering in his pupils,
Reflecting like the ocean
England’s glory off its surface,
A sad array of stones to
Keep the lonely company.
Take me now, good friend,
And lay me with gentleness
Down upon a boulder –
Jagged and sanded like the
Metal of an exploded shell –
Draw your fingers across
My eyelids, and burn into
Them an image of silence,
Be it broken by curses:
Lapping waves muted by
Roaring bellows of drowning
Bodies, immersed in water,
Preserved in irreversible impotency.
Will you walk with me,
Head held up, through the
Changing sands of time?
And remember a torment,
So vivid in my mind’s eye?
Think not of it, for it disturbs
Peace I know, but occasionally,
When you feel the wind whip
Across a spread of sand,
A dusty upheaval of bones and
Chalk alike, Regrettable in
Nature but noble in act,
Gaze down at that mussel
And know clasped deep inside,
I lie in meaning, as I am
Washed up by the ocean tide.
The Rainbow Over Man
Cancerous is the mood beneath,
The bruised and battered sky,
Endless seems the dusty heath,
That pleads and begs to die.
Gas calling out to mournful souls,
Who teeter across the land,
In hopelessness they did enrol,
In a fate that murder planned.
Bloody wounds of red and pink,
Brittle, fleshy lines,
I can only pray, not change, nor think,
Through the din these whines provide.
Tree, shelter me from morbid weather,
Lead raining on my bones,
In light of day we lived together,
Tonight I’ll die alone.
The Priest's Last Goodbye
To murder a boy is to bid hope goodbye,
We stumble to dark from the light,
In anguish I pray that we all shall die.
Spirits invert: to heaven they’ll fly,
Where nothing remains of their might,
The terror of man is the whispered goodbye.
Nothing breaks out way up in the sky,
Earth is the place where men fight,
The place where they all shall die.
Bodies deflate, releasing a sigh,
From lips that once guarded a bite,
The church door will close at the priest’s last goodbye.
I have not the will to tell boys to try,
The words to their blood will seem trite,
When shadows creep in, boys: head for the light.
Dawn shall soon bleed, all the words I will buy,
In peace they my mind do delight,
The lists silent drone; may the world say goodbye,
Lord, carry our boys to the light.
Kristina Adamson -16 April 2010
(A poem written in response to the writing of Siegfried Sassoon)
A moment for the madness, inside my mind contained,
I devour this sick splendour of passion unrestrained,
Yearning for the presence of a brave, divulging teacher,
An efficacious, sombre sermon from the war’s most honest preacher.
I can so well remember the poignant nature of your poem,
My admiration and fascination, faithfully keep on growing,
Through evocation, truth spills and spurts, from the wound of knowing,
The desperation, the indignation, that kept your anger flowing.
Truthful not delectable, you claimed your verse to be,
A mocking, livid statement on man’s inhumanity,
An earnest pledge, a grim request, to seek out harmony,
To save their souls from likely death, by a ruthless enemy.
I cannot claim, unlike yourself, to have fought in any war,
Yet keen I am to understand the hate and hurt you saw,
To stamp upon perfidious prose which side-steps evil ways,
And slaughter lies with the bravery, that you yourself displayed.
Currently studying English Literature at Kingston University (2011). Originally from London, but moved to Sussex when I was five. Enjoy a range of hobbies including: writing, reading, tennis, music, walking (Downs and coast), camping, and attempting to play the guitar.