Friday, October 11, 2013

War Poems (WW1 to Contemporary)

War. Nothing is alien about it anymore. the word itself seems to be carved onto our lips as if it is cursed. As many poems are written in response to a certain historical events, war poems are no exception. A great number of poems have been written for the past decades significantly from WW1 until now. 

When talking about WW1 (1914-1918), Alfred Edward Salter Owen (1893-1918) may be considered as one of the most significant poets. Although Alfred Owen himself is a soldier, he latter found out that he is against war as what he saw was nothing but gruesome sights. His remarkable works entitled Dulce Et Decorum Est is about a speaker (presumably soldier) that shares his experience on the battlefield. The text suggested that nothing is normal on the battleground and seeing his comrades died in front of him is an unbearable thought.

Wilfred Owen (Picture source:

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 disappointed shells that dropped behind.


GAS! Gas! Quick, boys!-- An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And floundering like a man in fire or lime.--
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.


In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.


If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,--
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

( Poem source: )

Other WW1 poets and their poem that you may be interested/considered:-

- Rupert Chawner Brooke (1887-1915) "Fragment"
- Siegfried Sassoon (1886-1967) "How to Die"
- William Noel Hodgson (1893-1916) "Before Action"
- Wilfred Gibson (1878-1962) "Back"

WW2 (1939-1945) also known as the Second World War that formed two sides which are The Allies and Axis. There a lot of poems written by both sides but just like most poems, they are also about how the soldiers wish the war would just stop as they had enough having bullets for breakfast everyday. One of the best WW2 poets is Keith Castellain Douglas (1920-1944) who died during the D-Day at Normandy. His poem entitled How to Kill is one of my personal favorites and also considered as one of the best poems of WW2.

Keith Douglas (Picture Source:

How to Kill

Under the parabola of a ball,
a child turning into a man,
I looked into the air too long.
The ball fell in my hand, it sang
in the closed fist: Open Open
Behold a gift designed to kill.


Now in my dial of glass appears
the soldier who is going to die.
He smiles, and moves about in ways
his mother knows, habits of his.
The wires touch his face: I cry
Now. Death, like a familiar, hears


And look, has made a man of dust
of a man of flesh. This sorcery
I do. Being damned, I am amused
to see the centre of love diffused
and the waves of love travel into vacancy.
How easy it is to make a ghost.


The weightless mosquito touches
Her tiny shadow on the stone,
and with how like, how infinite
a lightness, man and shadow meet.
They fuse. A shadow is a man
when the mosquito death approaches.

( Poem source: ) 

Other WW2 poets and their poem that you might considered:-

-  Sir Herbert Read (1893–1968) "To A Conscript Of 1940"
- Konstantin Simonov (1915-1979) "Wait for Me"
- Frank Gibbons "A Beach in France"

Contemporary War usually related to the wars happening in the Middle Eastern countries and some part of Africa such as the massacre in Nigeria. To me war has lost its value. Peace and salvation are no longer the objective but merely an excuse to satisfy ones desire and greed. Nevertheless, the poems written in this period is not to be taken lightly compared to the old days' (WW1-WW2). The poems still retain its value in expressing emotions as it supposed to in any poems. One poem that caught my intention is entitled Fiance in Afghanistan written by Abi Townsend. The poem suggested that the speaker wish the war will end soon and the speaker love one will return to her/him.

Fiancé in Afghanistan

Step by step they take great care,
Fear and frightened eyes red with despair,

Shock and horror to hear “Man Down”,
So many soldiers fall to the ground,

Yet one by one they struggle through,
Scared and thinking he may not pull through,

Soaring temperatures are rapidly rising,
Scarce special medics is not surprising,

With no mercy just bitter aggression,
Shooting the injured is the Taliban’s mission,

Please save our partners, family and friends,
Bring this war to its final end,

Our hero, our soldier, their brother, their friend,
Our honour is with you as you battle the end,

Back at home we will wait alone,
To hear you slightly on the phone,

Unsettled nights and shattered dreams,
Imaging all those nasty scenes,

R&R I hope is soon,
To have our candle lit dinner under the moon,

Come and gone now back to war,
To fight the Taliban and find their core,

Wrapping parcels and special gifts,
The happiness it brings and the joy it lifts,

To all the soldiers that made through the tour,
Solute to those with us no more,

No game or sport can compete,
The strength our soldiers go to defeat,

Queen or president the fact still remains,
Our soldiers out there is just insane.

(Poem source:

Do consider these poets and their poem:- 

- Bill Mitton "Young Sons"
- John Bailey "Taking a Stand"
- Ibukun Babarinde "Elegy for Jos"

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