Discussion in 'WWII General' started by MichaelBully, Nov 9, 2016.
I admire your dedication, Michael - my knowledge of WW2 poetry is certainly being expanded here !
Ah thank you Martin. I have certainly learned a great deal from this thread. Particularly from Forum members outside of Britain, posting about World War 2 poetry they are familiar with, often work that was not originally published in English. Regards
The World War 2 poetry blog has been updated to cover latest news and also some more of my writing about the life and work of Anglo-Welsh poet Keidrych Rhys .
Will write a longer piece of Rhys in the near future.
Also hope to complete a post about Vera Brittain's poem about the thousand bomber raid on Cologne 30thMay/31st May 1942 - 'Lament for Cologne' extremely soon
The Salamander Oasis Trust sadly seems to be dormant now, but their work was of vital importance to anyone interested in World War 2 poetry,
" The Salamander Oasis Trust was set up after the Second World War to collect, edit and publish poems written by servicemen of all nations during the 1939-1945 War. Since its inception, the Trust has collected more than 17,000 Second World War poems and published five anthologies of poetry. "
From their website ....The Salamander Oasis Trust
Glad to see that the website featured Mary E. Harrison's poem 'My Hands' : As a member of the Women's Auxiliary Air Force ( WAAF) and an artist, Mary Harrison made a model of Cologne that was used in the planning of the Thousand Bomber Raid of 1942. She was horrified to see photographs of the results of the bombing and wrote her poem 'My Hands' .
Here is an extract that was published on the Salamander Oasis Trust website.
" Do you know what it is like to have death in your hands?
When you haven't a murderer's mind?
Do you know how it feels when you could be the cause
Of a child being blind?
Let me cover my eyes as you cover the skies
Let me pray it can't happen again.
Don't show me the pictures you take as you fly,
They're ruins and scape - little more.
Is all this part
Of the madness we choose to call War? "
Have now updated the World War 2 poetry blog to feature 'My Hands' by Mary E. Harrison as above and 'Lament for Cologne' by Vera Brittain . Have also included a paragraph and link concerning the Vera Brittain v. George Orwell difference of opinion regarding saturation bombing.
Next post on this blog will probably be about poetry relating to D Day.
Edit : Realised that should have added the blog address Worldwar2poetry.blogspot.co.uk
As this is the anniversary of D Day, have re-read one of my favourite World War 2 poems, 'Walking Wounded' by Vernon Scannell .
Vernon Scannell was wounded in both legs during the Normandy campaign whilst serving in 51st Highland Division .
The poem 'Walking Wounded' was most likely written in 1962.
" ,,,,,The mist still hung in snags from dripping thorns;
Absent-minded guns still sighed and thumped.
And then they came, the walking wounded,
Straggling the road like convicts loosely chained,
Dragging at ankles exhaustion and despair.
Their heads were weighted down by last night’s lead,
And eyes still drank the dark. They trailed the night
Along the morning road. Some limped on sticks;
Others wore rough dressings, splints and slings;
A few had turbanned heads, the dirty cloth
Brown-badged with blood. A humble brotherhood. "
The full text of the poem can be found here
Walking Wounded poem - Vernon Scannell poems | Best Poems
Latest from World War 2 Poetry blog : Seem to get more hits from Russia than anywhere else at present. I have had a couple requests from people who read the blog and live in the UK for posts about German poets who served in World War 2. Working on a post about Johannes Bobrowski ( 1917- 1965) served in the German army from 1940- 1945, and was a Soviet Prisoner of War from 1945- 1949, and Peter Huchel who had a similar war service record. Both men became DDR citizens and friends. Bobrowski died in 1965, and had started to get international recognition. Huchel (April 3, 1903 – April 30, 1981) became a literary editor of a magazine ' Sense and Form' but incurred the disapproval of the authorities, in 1962, and eventually was allowed to leave the DDR in 1971.
Particularly focusing on Bobrowski's ' Kaunas 1941' , about the Lithuanian nationalists anti-Jewish pogrom.
Further to the above post, if anyone in the house can think of any other German poets besides Peter Huchel and Johannes Bobrowski who fought on the Eastern Front, please let me know via personal message or adding to this thread. Many thanks
Please don't hate me for this
But these two were poets and people too.
Heinrich Anacker, they say he spent the entire war at the front as a war correspondent, medic and common soldier. I'm not sure he fought on the Eastern Front but really he had to at least for some time.
Kurt Eggers, a war correspondent and later a war volunteer, took part in the Caucasus Campaign and in the Battle of Kursk. Killed shortly afterwards.
And I wonder who is in this book.
Thanks for your help wm. Have just updated the blog with my thoughts on Peter Huchel and Johannes Bobrowski will follow soon. Will explore the references that you have provided . Appreciated.
The question of 'poetry' , and then 'poets' 'war poets' , 'soldier poets', gets complicated. I tend to be suspicious about the cult of the World War 1 soldier poets, though admire a lot of their work a great deal. I also think that war poetry can be written by non-combatants .
Service is one of my favorite poets. I tend to favor his works on the Yukon but he did write poetry about WWI and his service as a "non combatant" I think one of his books is Rhymes of a Red Cross Man. One of his poems ("The Cremation of Sam McGee" sp?) used to be a standard in English classes (middle school I think) here but I think he's gone out of favor.
Yes good to be reminded about Robert Service. From what I can work out 'Rhymes of a Red Cross Man' was popular in the latter part of World War 1 but his work rarely appears in anthologies of World War 1 poetry now.
Robert Service lived until 1958 but not sure if he ever wrote poems about World War 2.
According to his biography entry on 'Poem Hunter' , Robert Service visited US Army Camps during World War 2 and read poems to the troops.
Robert William Service - Robert William Service Biography - Poem Hunter
Interesting to see that he played himself in a film called 'The Spoilers' in 1942, amongst a cast that included John Wayne and Marlene Dietrich.
Finally have had a look at the book you have linked to 'Hitler's War Poets:Literature and Politics in the Third Reich' by Jay. W. Barid. Appreciate your help wm .
Looking at the extract available on 'Amazon Co Uk' , seems full of poets that I had never heard of. Presumably the danger of giving the Third Reich some sort of heroic appeal was just too much for many publishers and translators in the decades following World War 2.
I have managed to get hold of a book titled
'Poetry in East Germany -Adjustments Visions and Provocations 1945-197'0' by John Flores, published in 1971, which features a number of poets who would have lived through World War 2.
Trouble is a lot of the poems quoted are published in the original German without translation. But has chapters on Peter Huchel and Johannes Bobrowski in English which is helpful for me own research.
Maybe it is the danger, or alternatively maybe they all were mediocre poets
But it seems Eggers and Anacker were good, but probably still not very interesting.
It would be interesting to read Eggers' "To My Sons", he wrote it convinced he would certainly (and willingly - he was a volunteer after all) die at the front.
And actually SS-Obersturmführer Kurt Eggers was killed by a Soviet antitank gun leading his platoon of five PzKpfw IV in a rather suicidal frontal counterattack.
SS-Standarte Kurt Eggers was named after him.
His colleague SA-Obersturmbannführer Heinrich Anacker survived the war. Two of his poems:
Brothers, What Will Remain?
Brothers, what will remain from our time?
Runes will forever glow!
Our bodies will disappear
As dust in the winds they will blow.
It was we who built the streets,
That our grandchildren first saw complete;
Along them, cars will boldly whiz,
For a hundred and a thousand years.
What we wrote in inflexible deeds
Unshaken will ever remain,
Forever, beginning and amen,
The most vivid rune: The Führer's name!
Die Braune Kompanie
I still am young of many years,
And I am far from dead!
But yet I’ve seen the many tears
That desperate people shed!
And whether I am joyful
My thoughts will ever be:
To serve you, true and loyal,
My brown-clad company!
Many have given up their lives,
In our prestigious corps,
The tolling bells can hear my cries,
As arms to heaven soar!
I nobly swear and reaffirm
My oath, my song shall be:
To serve you, true and loyal,
My brown-clad company!
So I will bravely carry on,
Until the bloody end!
When Germany shall find itself,
With peace at home again!
And giving thanks to God alone,
Who gave us victory:
I served you true and loyal,
My brown-clad company!
A poem written by another Polish poet killed, like Baczyński, in the Warsaw Uprising:
The Scarlet Plaque by Józef Szczepański
We're waiting for you, O scarlet plaque
To save us from the Black Death:
Waiting for a salvation
To be welcomed with disgust
By a country that's already hanged and quartered
We await you - sweating herd
Of brutalized cattle ruled by the knout.
We await you, so you may crush us underfoot
With the torrent and clamour of your slogans.
We await you, our immemorial enemy
And blood-stained mass murderer of our brothers.
We are waiting - not to pay you back
But to greet you with bread and salt at our ruined threshold.
If you only knew - O hated saviour
How we wish you'd perish
How we shake your hand from impotence,
Seeking aid from a criminal.
If only you knew how much it hurts,
For us, the children of a free and sacred country
To fix the shackles of your cursed mercy
That reeks of the yoke of ancient slavery.
If only you knew, O hangman of our forebears
And grim legend of Siberian jails
How everyone here will course your kindness -
And all of us Slavs, all your kin.
Your victorius scarlet army
Has stopped beneath Warsaw's fiery clouds
And like a vulture with a carcass sates itself
On a handful of madmen, who are dying on the ruins.
We await you, not for us soldiers
Or for our thousands of wounded.
Bur because there are children here, and nursing mothers
And disease is spreading through their cellars.
We are waiting whilst you delay and delay.
We know very well that you fear us.
That you'd prefer us to be killed.
So you are waiting, too - for our extermination.
Yet no illusions. From our graves
A new, triumphant Poland will be born.
And it won't be you, O scarlet tyrant
O depraved power, that rules the land
You'll find a poem by my father, Michael Arthur Mason, a schoolboy and then a member of the RAF during the war, below. Here is a link to a reading of the poem on Youtube:
Forty Years Backward March
Tired but precise, a voice. “We are at war
With Germany.” I’d seen him the year before
Bringing home “Peace with Honour.”
Chamberlain. “It is the evil things
That we shall be fighting against.”
Thus spake a disheartened Victorian.
Warm summer and bright sunshine brought them out.
This was a Junkers, circling the school
Low down. “To shelters?” No.
We had no instructions. Besides,
The All Clear had sounded; and so, officially,
He wasn’t there. It seems he abided by that,
Drifting away from us, taking his time.
Bomber in a hurry shed its cargo
Over the woods. We were below it,
Hunting for walnuts. You fling up a stick and
Down they come. Old Tom was eighty,
But outran most of us. “What’s the use?”
You ask. Why, none. We might have become
So easily part of the harvest.
Air Commodore, once retired;
Demothballed. He was old; to us, on parade,
Incredibly. “I wish you
A good war,” he said. “Resent him?”
No, not now. For what he meant was
“I hope you survive it.” In such times
This is not the way you should say it.
An outsize motorbike belting along behind trees
But raised as if to skim them. Suddenly there’s
Our first Vee-One, yammering over the fields
Towards us – you can imagine them
Looking for you (which is bad for morale) –
Till high in plain view over
The huge dead elm behind the house it
Cut, dipped as it lost momentum, and
Blew up somewhere else.
“Missed by a mile?” Or so;
Unless you were in the houses it demolished.
Before long they were common as wasps and
Rather a trouble at night: each dragon of darkness
Bringing you to the window
The better to watch that
Flaring rumble charting its
Ruinous way. “I take a dim view of this,”
So the cliché ran; but you’d heard
They sometimes swung round before dropping,
And you always had to be sure
That this next one kept right on going.
Yes, a long time ago, and just
Marginal. Of the mute and inglorious
Multitude only a memory
By another long-time survivor.
But, when nobody’s left to remember
The strange particular drumbeat
Of a Junkers, or Vee-Ones, or summer
So fine that it brought all the wasps out
And thus gave a tinge rather special
To youthful ambitions in those years,
Let’s hope there won’t be such a mustering
Of heavy battalions of nightmares
Lining up on parade at the recall
To arms for the next Peace with Honour
That, by the time that one’s been swatted,
There’ll be nobody left to remember.
I apologise if I posted "Forty Years Backward March" in an inappropriate place. I'm finding it a challenge to see precisely how these forums flow.
That's a great poem Paul ....any more where that came from? Did your father get this poem or any other war poetry published? Particularly like the unusual combination of imagery, such as the bombers and the walnuts, and the notion of nightmares being in a battalion on parade. Thought that it was well read. Thank you for sharing .
wm -once again thank you for help. I thought that The Scarlet Plaque by Józef Szczepański was excellent, I take it was about the Red Army hesitating to assist the Warsaw uprising?
The verse here seems to be particularly accusative .
" We are waiting whilst you delay and delay.
We know very well that you fear us.
That you'd prefer us to be killed.
So you are waiting, too - for our extermination "
Will be looking for further work by Szczepariski . Appreciate the reference.
With regard to the German poets, I've decided not to use work on my blog by any German poets who were in agreement with Nazi ideology, as opposed to German conscripts. Ultimately I am not claiming to be presenting an objective collection of World War 2 poetry, but pursuing my own interest in the subject so have the final say in this respect. But good to read about the work of Eggers and Anacker .
Have been working on a post about Johannes Bobrowski off line but hope to upload this soon.
Thank you, Michael. My father has had a fair number of poems published over the years -- but not this one. (I doubt, frankly, that he ever submitted it anywhere. He had to be pushed to do so.)