War Poet

The poetry of the Great War provided a means of expression of the horrors and fears experienced by a generation for whom stoicism and stiff upper lip values frowned upon explicit feelings of doubt and depression. But, in addition to the core of well known war poets, Owen, Sassoon, Brooke, there were a host of poets whose audience perhaps extended no further than themselves, their families or, at most, to readers of local newspapers, to whom the author had sent his work.

The following is such a poem.

Private Charles Davies from Winnipeg, who had served in the 12 Canadian Field Ambulance, wrote the following lines which appeared in a Canadian newspaper in 1919.

SHORNCLIFFE CAMP

Folkestone, though Queen of the Southern Coast,

I’m loath to leave your grassy warren;

Those steep white cliffs that beacon like a genial host

Receding from my eyes night dim with tears.

 

What soothing hours and happy days so dear does memory recall;

The walk along the Leas, the leafy undercliff, and Oh, that changing sea,

When the rich red sunset sparkles on thy face,

Such are my thoughts of thee picture of grace.

 

Garden of England! Men of Kent!

Think of your heritage; the flowers sweet scent,

That wooded glade at Seabrook, primrose clad;

The glimpse of moving picture shore to make you glad.

 

Those verdant meads of Shorncliffe Plain,

Bright green as emeralds after rain.

Deep down in mist of blue lies sleeping Sandgate town,

Whose twinkling lights shine like some fairy’s crown.

 

St. Martin’s spire, neath which brave Plimsol sleeps,

Whose noble work the British sailor reaps;

The bugle blasts and all war’s grim array,

Much as it did in Moore’s fair distant day.

 

Not even the mists of Passchendaele and its blood strewn duckboard track

Can blot from out my memory the charm of Radnor Park,

Who would not fight for thee, dear land,

For every flower and Kentish maid’s fair hand.

 

Who cares for the muddy trenches and the shrapnel’s piercing scream,

The waves of poison and all the ghastly scene?

There are those away in the Golden West dearer than Nelson’s name-

Mothers and wives and sisters; it’s for them we play the game.

 

Taken from Coast of Conflict by Michael & Martin George