This week we have another war-themed poem from Samuel Barley titled Two Tommies in a Trench. The dialogue-poem follows a conversation between two soldiers discussing the morality and politics of war as those out in the field in no-man’s land fight for their lives and witness death. Samuel highlights the cruel irony of war and the sadness which surrounds it.
Two Tommies in a Trench
“Look at them there, food for vultures,
Lying on their backs in the icy sun,
See how they still wear symbols of culture,
Laughing now they’ve had their fun!”
“You know that’s not what they’re doing,
Shame on you for being so vile,
All day fighting and losing,
Give them their moment of guts an’ bile.”
“I was there too you seem to forget,
Guarding a ditch not three feet across,
And yet MY uniform is clean and correct,
But them out there don’t give a toss.”
“Ha, have you ever looked death in the eye?
Ever made a man whimper in pain?
Been taken in by Kitchener’s lie?
Don’t think too hard chum, wouldn’t want you to strain!”
“Lloyd-George himself took me for a fool,
Signed up ‘fore the Autumn was out,
Gave me a rifle in exchange for my gardeners tool,
But I stand firm, I stay stout!”
“Blast you and standing firm,
It’s them out there with right to complain,
Tell me when its the rich mans turn!
No I won’t keep quiet, I won’t refrain.”
“They stand with us, here in mud!
Eat with us too from time to time,
Die with us when shells go thud,
They don’t break, they hold the line!”
“They stand right enough, bold as brass,
Order us to march off to war,
While they drink from a champagne glass,
Joking about blood and guts and gore.”
“They are our betters, just watch it,
Officers know what they are doing see,
You take their food, lecherous old git,
If it’s that bad, go on an’ run. Flee!”
They stood like this for hours,
Arguing of station and rank,
Now they can’t see red flowers,
They didn’t hear the tank.