- Let no one ever, from henceforth say one word in any way countenancing war. It is dangerous even to speak of how here and there the individual may gain some hardship of soul by it. For war is hell, and those who institute it are criminals. Were there even anything to say for it, it should not be said; for its spiritual disasters far outweigh any of its advantages.
- As quoted by Robert Nichols in his introduction to The Counter-Attack and Other Poems (1918)
- The visionless officialized fatuity
That once kept Europe safe for Perpetuity.
- On reading the War Diary of a Defunct Ambassador
A Soldier's Declaration (July 1917)
- I am making this statement as an act of wilful defiance of military authority, because I believe that the War is being deliberately prolonged by those who have the power to end it.
I am a soldier, convinced that I am acting on behalf of soldiers. I believe that this War, on which I entered as a war of defence and liberation, has now become a war of aggression and conquest.
- I have seen and endured the sufferings of the troops, and I can no longer be a party to prolong these sufferings for ends which I believe to be evil and unjust.
I am not protesting against the conduct of the war, but against the political errors and insincerities for which the fighting men are being sacrificed.
On behalf of those who are suffering now I make this protest against the deception which is being practised on them; also I believe that I may help to destroy the callous complacency with which the majority of those at home regard the contrivance of agonies which they do not share, and which they have not sufficient imagination to realize.
The Counter-Attack and Other Poems (1918)
- Mute in the clamour of shells he watched them burst
Spouting dark earth and wire with gusts from hell,
While posturing giants dissolved in drifts of smoke.
He crouched and flinched, dizzy with galloping fear,
Sick for escape,— loathing the strangled horror
And butchered, frantic gestures of the dead.
- Lost in a blurred confusion of yells and groans...
Down, and down, and down, he sank and drowned,
Bleeding to death. The counter-attack had failed.
- Soldiers are citizens of death's grey land,
Drawing no dividend from time's to-morrows.
In the great hour of destiny they stand,
Each with his feuds, and jealousies, and sorrows.
- Soldiers are dreamers; when the guns begin
They think of firelit homes, clean beds, and wives.
- If I were fierce, and bald, and short of breath,
I'd live with scarlet Majors at the Base,
And speed glum heroes up the line of death.
- I'd say — "I used to know his father well;
Yes, we've lost heavily in this last scrap."
And when the war is done and youth stone dead
I'd toddle safely home and die — in bed.
- "Base Details"
- You smug-faced crowds with kindling eye
Who cheer when soldier lads march by,
Sneak home and pray you'll never know
The hell where youth and laughter go.
- October's bellowing anger breakes and cleaves
The bronzed battalions of the stricken wood
In whose lament I hear a voice that grieves
For battle's fruitless harvest, and the feud
Of outrage men. Their lives are like the leaves
Scattered in flocks of ruin, tossed and blown
Along the westering furnace flaring red.
O martyred youth and manhood overthrown,
The burden of your wrongs is on my head.
Collected Poems (1949)
- Who will remember, passing through this Gate,
The unheroic Dead who fed the guns?
Who shall absolve the foulness of their fate, —
Those doomed, conscripted, unvictorious ones?
Crudely renewed, the Salient holds its own.
Paid are its dim defenders by this pomp;
Paid, with a pile of peace-complacent stone,
The armies who endured that sullen swamp.
- "On Passing the New Menin Gate" (1927-1928)
- Here was the world's worst wound. And here with pride
'Their name liveth for evermore' the Gateway claims.
Was ever an immolation so belied
As these intolerably nameless names?
Well might the Dead who struggled in the slime
Rise and deride this sepulchre of crime.
- "On Passing the New Menin Gate" (1927-1928)
- This poem is about W. H. R. Rivers.
- What voice revisits me this night? What face
To my heart’s room returns?
From the perpetual silence where the grace
Of human sainthood burns
Hastes he once more to harmonise and heal?
I know not. Only I feel
His influence undiminished
And his life’s work, in me and many, unfinished.
- O fathering friend and scientist of good,
Who in solitude, one bygone summer’s day,
And in the throes of bodily anguish, passed away
From dream and conflict and research-lit lands
Of ethnological learning, — even as you stood
Selfless and ardent, resolute and gay,
So in this hour, in strange survival stands
Your ghost, whom I am powerless to repay.
- Deep in my morning time he made his mark
And still he comes uncalled to be my guide
In devastated regions
When the brain has lost its bearings in the dark
And broken in it’s body’s pride
In the long campaign to which it had sworn allegiance.
- Lines from a draft version of "Revisitation" omitted from final version.