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Soldier poets, songs of the fighting men/Sydney Oswald

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SYDNEY OSWALD

Major, King's Royal Rifle Corps

 

The Dead Soldier

THY dear brown eyes which were as depths where truth
Lay bowered with frolic joy, but yesterday
Shone with the fire of thy so guileless youth,
Now ruthless death has dimmed and closed for aye.


Those sweet red lips, that never knew the stain
Of angry words or harsh, or thoughts unclean,
Have sung their last gay song. Never again
Shall I the harvest of their laughter glean.


The goodly harvest of thy laughing mouth
Is garnered in; and lo! the golden grain
Of all thy generous thoughts, which knew no drouth
Of meanness, and thy tender words remain


Stored in my heart; and though I may not see
Thy peerless form nor hear thy voice again,
The memory lives of what thou wast to me.
We knew great love.... We have not lived in vain.

 

Dulce et Decorum est pro Patria Mori

On April 25th, 1915, three companies and the head-quarters of the 1st Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers, in effecting a landing on the Gallipoli Peninsula to the west of Cape Helles, were met by a very deadly fire from hidden machine-guns, which caused a great number of casualties. The survivors, however, rushed up to cut the wire entanglements, notwithstanding the terrific fire from the enemy; and, after overcoming supreme difficulties, the cliffs were gained and the position maintained.

Among the many very gallant officers and men engaged in this most hazardous undertaking, Major R. R. Willis, Sergeant Richards, and Private Keneally were selected by their comrades as having performed the most signal acts of bravery and devotion to duty, and have been awarded the V.C.

THEY gave their lives for England: did not pause
To count the glorious cost, when England bade
Her sons to strive in Freedom's holy cause,
But armed to fight. Full soon they died, yet made
A name of lasting glory; gained applause
From all the brave; a fame which cannot fade.


We will not grieve for them, though when they fell
All joy seemed drowned in sorrow's seething tide,
No hope remained in Heaven, or Earth, or Hell,
And naught was left, save only that great pride
We feel in those brave deeds their comrades tell
Of them. Heroes amongst the brave they died.


'Neath foreign soil the soldier heroes lie
In lonely graves. No record raised above
To tell their names or deeds; to dignify
War's resting-place, save where with hands of love
Some comrade placed a cross to testify
His dead friends' worth; how manfully they strove.


Glory is theirs; the People's narrative
Of fame will tell their deeds of gallantry,
And for all time their memories will live
Shrined in our hearts. Now by our King's decree
As lasting honour, lo! their comrades give
The cross "FOR VALOUR" to the chosen Three.

 

The Attack

THE cold grey light of dawn yet hardly shows
The piles of tattered sandbags which surround
Our narrow trench, where we beneath the ground
Wait with the longing every soldier knows
To reap the harvest which the gunner sows
Amongst the Huns. Ah! sweet the whistling sound
Of shells o'erhead; next silence most profound;
Then the wild rush, the quick exchange of blows,
The raging curses, and the strange mad lust
Of slaughter, all we know; and how the breath
Sobs out in troublous gasps; and with each thrust
The bayonet claims a bloody gift for death.
And in the end what guerdon shall we reap?
To tend the wounded, for the dead to weep?

 

The Aftermath

NOT yet the end of toil. The trench is won.
Though short and splendid was the bloody fight
With steel and bomb, and though the Huns in flight
Slunk swifter through the dark than does the sun,
We cannot rest, our work is scarce begun;
We must make good the trench, ere morning light
The Huns will come again in greater might.
No end to toil, no rest for anyone.


Thrice lucky we, who live to fight again,
For Death was busy 'mongst the young and brave,
Yet lucky they who wait a soldier's grave,
For some blind Death has made the guests of Pain
To tend awhile. Would Death had swiftly ta'en
The fair young lives he had no mind to save!

 

The Battlefield

AROUND no fire the soldiers sleep to-night,
But lie a-wearied on the ice-bound field,
With cloaks wrapt round their sleeping forms, to shield
Them from the northern winds. Ere comes the light
Of morn brave men must arm, stern foes to fight.
The sentry stands his limbs with cold congealed;
His head a-nod with sleep; he cannot yield,
Though sleep and snow in deadly force unite.


Amongst the sleepers lies the Boy awake,
And wide-eyed plans brave glories that transcend
The deeds of heroes dead; then dreams o'ertake
His tired-out brain, and lofty fancies blend
To one grand theme, and through all barriers break
To guard from hurt his faithful sleeping friend.