Cannon’s roar: Lieutenant Coningsby Dawson’s verse volleys from his “The Glory Of The Trenches” 1918

war-poetry-ww1-candaa-lieutenant-coningsby-dawson-1883-1959-photo-frontispiece-portrait-as-cef-cfa-lt-the-glory-of-the-trenches-1918

Photo of Dawson circa 1916 – 1917 taken in Newark, New Jersey, USA by Walters

Lieutenant Coningsby Dawson (born: February 26, 1883 High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, England – died: August 10, 1959) was a 1905 University of Oxford graduate who dropped out of his post-graduate theological studies and travelled to the United States to attempt becoming a writer. In fair measure successful Dawson focused on writing about Canadian subjects for the British press. When the war broke out he traveled to Ottawa and after a long training course at the Royal Military College, Kingston, Ontario he was commissioned in 1916 as a Lieutenant into the Canadian Field Artillery. Serving overseas he was wounded a couple of times and during latter 1917 – 1918 toured the United States to foster recruiting and Allied war support. He published several books during the war about his war experiences and while his prose work is known he did write several poems. From his book “The Glory Of The Trenches” 1918 he published the following war poems,viz.:

p. 5 “To You At Home”
p. 18 “In Hospital”
p. 52 “The Lads Away”
p. 104 “The Glory Of The Trenches”

“To You At Home

Each night we panted till the runners came,                                                                                       Bearing your letters through the battle-smoke.                                                                                 Their path lay up Death Valley spouting flame,                                                                                 Across the ridge where the Hun’s anger spoke                                                                               In bursting shells and cataracts of pain;                                                                                             Then down the road where no one goes by day,                                                                               And so into the tortured, pockmarked plain                                                                                 Where dead men clasp their wounds and point the way.                                                           Here gas lurks treacherously and the wire                                                                                         Of old defences tangles up the feet;                                                                                                     Faces and hands strain upward through the wire,                                                                       Speaking the anguish of the Hun’s retreat.                                                                               Sometimes no letters came; the evening hate                                                                                 Dragged on till dawn.   The ridge in flying spray                                                                               Of hissing shrapnel told the runner’s fate;                                                                                    We knew we should not hear from you that day —                                                                           From you, who from the trenches of the mind                                                                           Hurl back despair, smiling with sobbing breath,                                                                           Writing your souls on paper to be kind,                                                                                         That you for us may take the sting from Death.”

“In Hospital

Hushed and happy whiteness,                                                                                                               Miles on miles of cots,                                                                                                                             The glad contented brightness                                                                                                             Where sunlight falls in spots.

Sisters swift and saintly                                                                                                                           Seem to tread on grass;                                                                                                                           Like flowers stirring faintly,                                                                                                                   Heads turn to watch them pass.

Beauty, blood and sorrow,                                                                                                                     Blending in a trance —                                                                                                                             Eternity’s to-morrow                                                                                                                               In this half-way house of France.

Sounds of whispered talking,                                                                                                                 Laboured indrawn breath;                                                                                                                     Then like a young girl walking                                                                                                               The dear familiar Death.”

“The Lads Away

All the lads have gone out to play                                                                                                         At being soldiers, far away;                                                                                                                   They won’t be back for many a day,                                                                                                     And some won’t be back any morning.

All the lassies who laughing were                                                                                                         When hearts were light and lads were here,                                                                                       Go sad-eyed, wandering hither and there —                                                                                       They pray and they watch for the morning.

Every house has its vacant bed                                                                                                               And every night, when sounds are dead,                                                                                             Some woman years for the pillowed head                                                                                           Of him who marched out in the morning.

Of all the lads who’ve gone out to play                                                                                                 There’s some’ll return and some who’ll stay;                                                                                     There’s some will be back ‘most any day —                                                                                         But some won’t wake up in the morning.”

“The Glory Of The Trenches

We were too proud to live for years                                                                                                       When our poor death could dry the tears                                                                                           Of little children yet unborn.                                                                                                                 It scarcely mattered that at morn,                                                                                                       When manhood’s hope was at its height,                                                                                           We stopped a bullet in mid-flight.                                                                                                         It did not trouble us to lie                                                                                                                       Forgotten ‘neath the forgetting sky.                                                                                                     So long Sleep was our only cure                                                                                                           That when Death piped of rest made sure,                                                                                         We cast our fleshly crutches down,                                                                                                       Laughing like boys in Hamelin Town.                                                                                                 And this we did while loving life,                                                                                                         Yet loving more than home or wife                                                                                                     The kindness of a world set free                                                                                                       For countless children yet to be.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Debt a Canadian Anglophile bucolic verse

As the war dragged on and casualties mounted how did Canadian born or longer term residents in Canada poetically respond to the ultimate sacrifices made? Here is a late war probably written in latter 1917 or the first half of 1918 example of such a poetic response published by the Great War Comrades of Canada in a small undated pamphlet but probably dating from early or mid-1918: “A Treasury of War Poetry.” [ no place / no date ]: Distributed by the Great War Comrades of Canada 32 pages “The Debt” page 15. Unfortunately no author/poet is given! Athough presumably published in Canada with Canada the presumed focus Bignor Hill is of course in Sussex, England on the famous South Downs and the topographical textual focus is distinctly bucolicaly Anglophile!

The Debt

No more of Canada will they see —
Those men who’ve died for you and me.

So lone and cold they lie; but we,
We still have life; we still may greet
Our pleasant friends in home and street;
We still have life, are able still
To climb the turf of Bignor Hill,
To see the placid sheep go by,
To hear the sheep-dog’s eager cry,
To feel the sun, to taste the rain,
To smell the Autumn’s scents again
Beneath the brown and gold and red
Which old October’s brush has spread,
To hear the robin in the lane,
To look upon the Canadian sky.

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“On Patrol” rare HMCS Grilse 1916 poem

Here is a very rare 1916 poem written by Bertrand Lawrence Twinn (born August 27, 1887 near London, England – died: 1972) who served as a clerk in the Canadian Navy during WWI. The poem appeared inside a 1916 Greetings card from the ship. He had previously served in the Royal Navy from 1902 and marrying in 1909 with a daughter born in 1910 and a son in 1912 he probably was one of the huge wave of British immigrants in the few years just before WWI broke out to Canada. This is the first maritime / naval Canadian war poem to appear on this blog and it is fortuitously from a distinctively interesting ship history. HMCS Grilse was a donated American yacht bought by one of Canada’s wealthiest men from Montreal, Quebec and given to the Canadian Navy in July 1915. She served until decommissioned on December 10, 1918. What makes this 1916 dated in print poem quite interesting is that it was written probably whilst the ship was still in Canadian waters and before she departed Halifax, Nova Scotia on December 11, 1916 for the Caribbean Sea and the West Indies (given her structure which with an open bridge and deck was considered a more suitable cruising area for her). Steaming in a major winter North Atlantic storm in mid-December 1916 she was actually reported lost at sea though she entered Shelburne, Nova Scotia 3 days after leaving Halifax (though losing 6 men who had been swept overboard).

“On Patrol”

Out on the deep when the waves roll high,
When storm clouds scurry o’er sombre sky,
Plunging and rolling this way and that,
Scanning the seas for periscope’s cap.

Steaming along when folks are at rest,
Scorning each danger with many a jest,
Searching for mine or submarine’s lair.
By darkest night and the noonday glare.

Patrolling our beat on trembling keel,
With cheerful hearts and our nerves like steel,
Raging storm or foe — fear there is none;
Our duty’s clear and it SHALL BE DONE.

We dream of our loved ones so far away,
‘Tis them we’re guarding each night and day,
Our glorious Empire to Britons dear,
Her honour’s at stake, we’ll show no fear.

We’ll stick to our task till Vic’trys won,
Bring to his knees the treacherous hun,
Singing songs of the free and the Brave;
Britannia ever shall rule the wave.

Bertrand L. Twinn / 1916″

The Canadian War museum have an excellent collection of contemporary WWI artifacts including even a very unusual cap tally or ribbon for the sailor’s hats of the GRILSE online.

war-poetry-ww1-canada-hmctb-grilse

Arthur Lismer one of the Group of Seven and an official Canadian War Artist in WWI also did an often reproduced 1919 dated lithograph of the GRILSE :

hmcs-grilse-on-convoy-duty-1919-lithograph-arthur-lismer

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Female Poets of the First World War List of Female Poets includes Canada Section

From a Great Britain blog “Female Poets of the First World” – List of Female Poets which includes a separate section on Canadian female poets of the war (as of June 26 2016 39 listed!):
http://femalewarpoets.blogspot.ca/p/female-poets-of-first-world-war-revised.html
Main URL:
http://femalewarpoets.blogspot.ca/
The most recent post on this blog refers to a poem attributed to Amelia Earheart. Amelia spent some time in Toronto and indeed was materially induced to become a pilot herself when Royal Air Force pilots took up her up in their training machines at Armour Heights (Toronto). This site is now part of mid-town Toronto, Ontario. Former Knox College is now being converted into a major component of the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Architecture building and is scheduled to open 2016 – 2017. In 1918 Amelia worked as a voluntary aid detachment worker at the Spadina Military Hospital located in the same building. Heritage Toronto has a plaque specifically mentioning Amelia which presumably will be preserved when the Faculty of Architecture opens.

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Canada Lad a Manchester England poetic paen

“Canada Lad” is a poem on the last page of the immediate post-war published memoirs “Maple Leaves In England” Manchester, England: n.d. (circa 1920) of a very kind “The Little Mother” from Manchester England (aka Mrs. M. Bagshaw) who opened up her own home for the war to the many visiting and training Canadians in Great Britain. Poems such as these reveal the emotional hugs and punches of countless young mens’ impressions on British civilians especially those home front civilians who chose to directly furnish rest and recreation for such young men. Emotional stresses induced by socialization facilitation of these men and their departures to parts unknown generally during and after the conflict are unmistakable. Mrs. Bagshaw suffered personal loss as one of her own sons had been KIA early in the war. “The Little Mother” has her own page on a blog from Manchester, England, viz.: https://17thmanchesters.wordpress.com/2014/08/07/maple-leaves-in-england-dedicated-to-17th-bttn-manchester-regiment/

“Canada Lad.

Canada lad, though you’re back at home,
On the other side of the grey-backed foam –
Back with the friends who hold you dear,
Say, will you think of me over here?

Will you think of the crowds in each dim-lit
street,
Where the pulse of Manchester in wartime beat?
Will you think of the shortage of sugar and
cheese?
And the fun we had at those Sunday teas?

Yours in the fight was a glorious part,
And you fairly won my English heart :
Yes! e’en more than I did fret and grieve,
No more you’d come on “blighty” leave.

Canada lad, though the war was won,
I’ll never forget what you’ve borne and done.
My Maple Leaf boys, in khaki clad —
Good luck and God bless you! Canada lad.”

(Source: “The Little Mother” (Bagshaw, Mrs. M.) “Maple Leaves In England” Manchester, England: Saunders & Co, Printers (1920), [ p. 140 ]

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Mid-war recruiting poem for the 220th Battalion (12th. York Rangers)

Sergeant Horace Henry Anderson,living in Toronto with his wife and one boy aged 8 decided to enlist into the 220th Battalion during the hectic recruiting drives of 1916 when multiple battalions were competing for recruits. An electrician by trade and having served with the Royal Engineers and 2nd. Devon Artillery in England for 15 years plus serving in the 12th Battalion York Rangers Canadian Militia, tall and fit he was given NCO rank upon his attestation on July 20, 1916 in Toronto. Whilst still serving with the 12th. York Rangers Battalion a local newspaper whose territory was actively being used for recruitment purposes by the 220th. Battalion published his untitled recruiting poem, viz.:

The day has sped and night has
spread
Her dismal shroud o’er Britain’s
head;
Old England’s greatest warrior
dread,
Brave Kitchener, is dead.

Let British maids and matrons
weep;
Children and old folks still may
sleep
In earned ease, but man must
keep
Their tryst with Britain’s
foes.

One more we owe them, but that
one
Shall cost the thrice-accursed
Hun
All that he’s won by guile or gun,
Or Jack Canuck’s foreworn.

O Canada, as in the past,
Cold calculations form you cast;
To honor you’re committed fast,
You’ve nailed your colors to the
mast
To quell the foe.
On Flanders’ fields your thous-
ands slain
Call you to arms again, again,
And you must go.

“The Newmarket Era” Newmarket, Ontario Friday, June 16th, 1916, page 2
http://news.ourontario.ca/newmarket/2426049/page/2?n=

Sergeant Horace Henry Anderson (born: November 18, 1882/1883? in England – died: November 29, 1937 in York County, Ontario) did eventually serve in France with the 4th. Canadian Mounted Rifles but was sick only late in the war and hospitalized at the start of 1919 in England.

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You can take the country out of the girl but you can’t take the girl out of the country

“Farmerettes”

Oh, we are the farmerettes,
Done up in assorted sets.
It was such a pity
To stay in the city
Along with the slackerettes.

A verse composed by V. M. Wright (possibly of Toronto, Ontario) and published: “The Globe”, Toronto, Ontario Saturday, February 9, 1918, page 10 (Women’s Section)

Here is a humourous versified perspective by some women who call into question what other women are doing or not doing to aid the war effort.

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