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Five of the most beautiful WW1 poems written by women

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When we think of First World War poetry we tend to think immediately of men in trenches. Of Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon or Rupert Brooke.

While the historical and literary importance of these male poets shouldn’t be understated, they weren’t the only people creating meaningful poetry about the First World War. Below are five poems about the war by female poets whose work deserves to be recognised alongside that of the soldiers on the front lines.

Charlotte Mew. Image: Wikipedia

1)   June, 1915, by Charlotte Mew

Who thinks of June's first rose today?
Only some child, perhaps, with shining eyes and
rough bright hair will reach it down.
In a green sunny lane, to us almost as far away
As are the fearless stars from these veiled lamps of town.
What's little June to a great broken world with eyes gone dim
From too much looking on the face of grief, the face of dread?
Or what's the broken world to June and him
Of the small eager hand, the shining eyes, the rough bright head?

2) The Falling Leaves, by Margaret Postgate Cole

We came upon him sitting in the sun,

Blinded by war, and left. And past the fence

There came young soldiers from the Hand and Flower,

Asking advice of his experience.

 

And he said this, and that, and told them tales,

And all the nightmares of each empty head

Blew into air; then, hearing us beside,

'Poor chaps, how'd they know what it's like?' he said.

 

And we stood there, and watched him as he sat,

Turning his sockets where they went away,

Until it came to one of us to ask 'And you're-- how old?'

'Nineteen, the third of May.'

  

3)   Perhaps, by Vera Brittain

(Dedicated to her Fiancé Roland Aubrey Leighton, killed in 1915)

 

Perhaps some day the sun will shine again,
And I shall see that still the skies are blue,
And feel once more I do not live in vain,
Although bereft of You.

Perhaps the golden meadows at my feet
Will make the sunny hours of spring seem gay,
And I shall find the white May-blossoms sweet,
Though You have passed away.

Perhaps the summer woods will shimmer bright,
And crimson roses once again be fair,
And autumn harvest fields a rich delight,
Although You are not there.

Perhaps some day I shall not shrink in pain
To see the passing of the dying year,
And listen to Christmas songs again,
Although You cannot hear.

But though kind Time may many joys renew,
There is one greatest joy I shall not know
Again, because my heart for loss of You
Was broken, long ago.

4)   A Volunteer, Helen Parry Eden

He had no heart for war, its ways and means,
Its train of machinations and machines,
Its murky provenance, its flagrant ends;
His soul, unpledged for his own dividends,
He had not ventured for a nation’s spoils.
So had he sighed for England and her toils
Of greed, was’t like his pulse would beat less blithe
To see the Teuton shells on Rotherhithe
And Mayfair – so each body had ‘scaped its niche,
The wretched poor, the still more wretched rich?
Why had he sought the struggle and its pain?
Lest little girls with linked hands in the lane
Should look “You did not shield us!” as they wended
Across his window when the war ended.

 

5)   New Year, 1916, by Ada Harrison

 

Those that go down into silence.

 

There is no silence in their going down,

Although their grave -turf is not wet with tears,

Although Grief passes by them, and renown

Has garnered them no glory for the years.

The cloud of war moves on, and men forget

That empires fall. We go our heedless ways

Unknowing still, uncaring still, and yet

The very dust is clamorous with their praise.

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