WAR VERSE

Verses about war and warriors - past present, future and mythical.

 

ODE TO THE ANCIENT WARRIOR
Copyright 1982, S Hartwell 

In my earthen bed so deep they laid my corpse to rot,
They laid me in eternal sleep in this unmarked spot
Buried in unfamiliar ground, far from the light of day
A stiffened form by mud surrounded; mouldering bones
                received by clay

A soldier trained to fight and kill, buried nameless where
                I died
A vanquished foe laid in the hill, a sword blade in my side.
Beneath your ignorant feet I lie, below the earth,
                among the stones
Unknown to any living eyes, an ancient warrior's bones

Your eyes behold such wondrous things as monuments
                and ancient crowns
Of noble lords and coward kings whose armies lie forgotten
                in the ground.

 

In my earthen bed so deep, commended to my God,
I was laid in final sleep in this unremembered spot
Buried deep in foreign ground, my homeland far away
In this muddied battleground, another wartime grave.

A soldier sent to fight and kill and buried where I died
A vanquished foe laid in the hill, a bullet in my side,
Beneath the poppy-fields I rest, and though anonymous
                I lie,
Names inscribed on monuments, remind the world
                just why I died.

And in the war-torn lands today where hundreds fall
                to civil strife
Will the dead get monuments, or in fields, forgotten, lie?

(At any one time there are around 30 wars and 100 'lesser' conflicts in the world.)

 

THE SIGHTS THAT CAN'T SPEAK
S Hartwell, 2012

History remembers the bold and the brave,
But was built on the backs of the sold and the slave,
So when we admire the gold in the grave
Of a king, don’t forget those left cold in the clay.

We find in its records the bright and the bleak,
Where we see the triumphs of might, not the meek,
And what of the trampling of rights of the weak?
The stories unwritten, the sights that can’t speak?

 

THE BLACKBIRD IN THE HAWTHORN
S Hartwell, 1998

I met him by the millstream in the merry month of May,
The elder and the hawthorn filled the air with perfume,
There was larksong in the meadow on that spring afternoon,
And the blackbird in the hawthorn sings so sweetly in May.

We swore then to be sweethearts, firm and true from
               that day,
In the sweet grass, under larksong, we found a soft bed,
And with May bloom for confetti, we called outselves wed,
And the blackbird in the hawthorn sings so sweetly in May.

Late in summer choked with roses and the call to arms came,
My waist thick with the baby, I waved him farewell,
To fight for his country while my belly did swell,
And the blackbird in the hawthorn sings so sweetly in May.

The letter came in the winter when the snow thickly lay,
That the father of my first child in some foreign field died,
In the name of king and country, widowing a bride,
And the blackbird in the hawthorn sings so sweetly in May.

Now I walk by the millstream in the sweet month of May,
Hawthorn blossom bruised and scentless trod in dirt 'neath
               my feet,
A child so like his father, in my arms lies asleep,
And the blackbird in the hawthorn sings so sweetly in May.

LIFT THE TATTERED BANNER
Copyright 1992, S Hartwell 

Lift the tattered banner, gory,
Raise our heroes’ names to glory,
Now lie they in the arms of death,
Stilled, their hearts; stilled, their breath,
But still they’ll live in history
When we commemorate this victory.

Sound the brazen horns and beat
The drum in measured metre,
For home we come diminish-ed
By the number of the dead.

Lift your chins you soldiers proud,
Suffer the worship of the crowd,
Sons, husbands, fathers, heroes died,
In foreign fields their bodies lie,
Their wives and daughters cheer us loud
As we return, so fierce, so proud.

Sound the brazen horns and beat
The drum that sounds ne’er defeat,
For home we come diminish-ed,
By the number of the dead.

Hear them shout in adoration,
Humbly accept their veneration,
But words are nought but hollow mouthings
To those who fought in foreign climes,
The bells ring out in celebration
When they should speak of lamentation.

Sound the brazen horns and beat
The drums in mourning metre,
For home we come diminish-ed,
To find no honour for our dead.

SALUTE
Copyright 1994, S Hartwell 

Returning home victorious,
From the battle swift and glorious,
Salute the sun with upraised hands,
That same sun shines on the murdered lands.

THE BALLAD OF NOVA
Copyright 1989, Sarah Hartwell

- I -

They heard the sound of distant battle,
The clash of swords, the clang of iron and stone,
The orchestra of war, the ring of armour,
And the hooves of warriors thund'ring home.

The distant shrieks were growing louder,
And the steady drumbeats were growing ever near,
Their warriors ran before the hordes of daemons,
Oh! The smell of horse-sweat and the stench of fear.

- II -

Into a rock their general plunged his bloodied sword-blade,
And invoked the spell of endless sleep,
Thus turned to stone they slumber on in silence,
The souls of ancient Nova do not know defeat.

Until the sleeping sword once more is held on high,
And the enchanted souls of Nova thus released;
Or until time the master claims his due,
Nova and its people rest in undefeated peace.

ANGEL OF DARKNESS
Copyright 1985, S Hartwell 

My eyes have seen oblivion too many times to cry,
Over another million men who choose to war and die.
My ears have heard too often now the awful sounds
                of death,
For me to waste in mourning my foul and foetid
                breath.
I’m the Angel of Darkness, the consort of war,
My psyche is fed by the fear and the gore,
And the silent despair of those far from home,
Who are men among many and yet feel alone.

My heart has beat the rhythm of many a battle hymn,
Vain incantation to some god to help believers win,
It does not beat in sorrow when another army falls,
For a soul without feeling should have no heart at all.
I’m the Angel of Darkness, harbinger of doom,
My wings reek of death and my shadow brings gloom,
In my wake I bring chaos, ill and despair,
And my breath is the odour of rot in the air.

I’m the black angel of darkness, the consort of war,
My existence is nourished by the death and the gore,
And the silent despair of warriors certain to die,
In the name of allegiance to their faith or country.
With me come chaos, downfall and decay,
Who feed on the souls of the dead who decay.
I am the foul stench of rot and corruption,
The Angels of Darkness, of death and destruction.

King Arthur's Tomb
Copyright 1985, S Hartwell

Scroll Fragment Circa 10th Century. Translation:

Do not disturb these ancient men,
One day they’ll rise to fight again,
And wield their swords and spears once more,
To defend these lands another time.
But for now these warriors sleeping lie,
Till summoned to a greater war.

Field Archeologists Report, Day 20 of Dig:

Here lies a cache of the mighty’s bones
Entombed with jewels and precious stones,
And ancient metals rich and rare
Surround the kings of ancient realms
And their armour, shields and helms,
Whilst swathed in silk lie white bones bare -
Laid here in eternal rest
With arms a-folded ‘cross their chests
And daggers clutched in bony hands.
Swords lie in jewel-encrusted scabbards gold,
And cloaked in dust, now ages old,
Lie slumb’ring kings of vanished lands.

WARRIOR
S Hartwell, 2000

Warrior - where are your people?
You've come a long way from home,
Do you think your bows and arrows,
Are a match for bullets and guns?

You sit your ash-grey stallion,
Proud, alert and tall,
Did you hear your children weeping
When you heard the battle call?

Warrior - your time is over,
You're two hundred years from home,
There's a sterile concrete wasteland
Where once your people roamed.

You sit your ash-grey stallion,
And you stare in disbelief,
You're two hundred years too late now,
Do I see you cry in grief?

You're two hundred years too late now,
You've stepped outside of time,
The battle's long forgotten,
You're the last one of your line.

Warrior - I see you weeping,
Silent tears roll down your face,
You rode out of the green prairie,
Found this devastated place.

You sit your ash-grey stallion,
And you see skyscrapers rise,
Sprung from the lush green prairie,
To scratch the smoke-clogged skies.

You're two centuries too late now,
Your battle's done and gone,
You've stepped outside of your time,
With no way to go back home.

TWO KNIGHTS
S Hartwell, 1999

Two knights fight at the edge of time,
At the edge of the abyss of chaos,
And one will lose far more than his life,
For all of creation will be won or lost.

With swords of steel and armour bright,
And red fire down the blade-edge,
And one will win, will win more than a fight,
For all of creation is to play for.

VAINGLORY
S Hartwell, 1984

To the tattered banner, gory!
Come with me to death and glory,
To the certain victory,
Of battle brave and well-honed swords,
And honour songs by famous bards.

DRAGONQUEEN'S LAIR

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