In the cases of some of the longer poems, I have opted to present just a stanza or a couple of lines.
1.) Siegfried Sasson - The Redeemer
Darkness: the rain sluiced down; the mire was deep;
It was past twelve on a mid-winter night,
When peaceful folk in beds lay snug asleep;
There, with much work to do before the light,
We lugged our clay-sucked boots as best we might
Along the trench; sometimes a bullet sang,
And droning shells burst with a hollow bang;
We were soaked, chilled and wretched, every one;
Darkness; the distant wink of a huge gun.
2.) Wilfred Owen - Dulce et Decorum est
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.
3.) Brian Turner - The Hurt Locker
Believe it when you see it.
Believe it when a twelve-year-old
rolls a grenade into the room.
Or when a sniper punches a hole
deep into someone’s skull.
Believe it when four men
step from a taxicab in Mosul
to shower the street in brass
and fire. Open the hurt locker
and see what there is of knives
and teeth. Open the hurt locker and learn
how rough men come hunting for souls.
4.) Randall Jarrett - Death of a Ball Turret Gunner
From my mother's sleep I fell into the State,
And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze.
Six miles from earth, loosed from its dream of life,
I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters.
When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose.
5.) Matsunage Shigeo - A Beautiful Illusion
Illusions in the Letters From My Comrades
Many beautiful illusions
All beings are born of illusion
And they all die into illusion
I sleep Intoxicated by the beauty of amber coloured wine
Illusion of peace - no, we must not laugh
6.) Isaac Rosenberg - In the Trenches (found in our very own 'Letters From the Front'!)
In the trenches
I snatched two poppies
From the parapets edge
Two bright red poppies
That winked on the ledge.
Behind my ear
I stuck one through,
One blood red poppy
I gave to you.
The sandbags narrowed
And screwed out our jest
And tore the poppy
You had on your breast...
Dawn – a shell – O! Christ
I am choked...safe...dustblind, I
See trench floor poppies
Strewn. Smashed, you lie...
So, what are your favourite war poems? Do you recognize, like, or despise any of the above? Get in touch and let us know!