British Columbia recruiting “slacker” verse published December 1915 The Daily Colonist Victoria B.C.

Corporal Robert Stephen who joined the 143rd Battalion CEF on June 30 1916 aged 29 wrote verse regarding recruiting in and around Victoria, British Columbia in late 1916 whilst he was actually directly engaged in recruiting locally for his own battalion. These verses appeared in “The Daily Colonist” Victoria B.C. immediately after Corporal Stephen’s indignant letter to the editor of the same paper and in which letter Stephen alleged that the provincial government was harbouring eligible men.

The Daily Colonist, Victoria, British Columbia Saturday, December 16 1915 page 5

Where on the streets in the daytime are those
Who have failed to enlist and wear khaki clothes?
They’re skulking away from the light of the day:
You’ll find them at dance halls quite cheery and gay.

Since girls who have sweethearts that fight for the right
Don’t dance with these fellows who keep out of sight,
Are the “slackers” confined to the masculine kind?
Oh no! We have girls just the same, bear in mind!

If you’ve never felt it your duty to knit,
Or help all you can the lads that show grit,
We ask you tonight to give us a name
Of a fellow you know not “playing the game.”

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Advertising copy verse applied to sell cigarettes November 1918

Advertisers had long before WWI used rhymes or verses in their copywriting for a wide variety of products or services. The verse below is taken from “The Toronto Daily Star” Wednesday November 6 1918 page 20. Both the copywriter and presumably a Canadian graphic artist in this pictorialized verse advertisement for cigarettes are anonymous. However since the accompanying fine pen and ink illustration to the verse of a front line subaltern in a frontline overseas trench shown with his hand on his revolver are Copyrighted Canada 1918 then either or even both the copywriter and artist are likely Canadians. Cigarettes and other tobacco products such as pipes and chewing tobacco were hugely popular with all soldiers being typically bought by soldiers’ relatives and even special cigarette or tobacco product war charities were established to facilitate all soldiers obtaining “smokes” and such products were sent along with other gifts to soldiers overseas especially. The prevalence of verse as a simple direct communication when combined with highlighting a practical need: the temporary relief of negative stress or “nerves” easily played to consumers, purchasers and users of such tobacco products.
Applications of catchy rhymes, verses or “jingles” were further to be immensely popularized with post-WW1 radio commercials and television “spot” or full ads for cigarettes after WWII. So much so that in the 1950’s when anti-tobacco researchers and lobbyists targeted such advertisements the U.S. Surgeon-General authorized a huge study of hundreds of thousands of American Expeditionary Force (AEF) WW1 veterans and their detailed medical histories including their tobacco uses to ascertain links between tobacco and ill-health.

“Smoked And Enjoyed ‘Over Here’ And ‘Over There.’ /

When you’re waiting for the minute
To charge the blooming Hun,
While the bullets singing over
Make you finger with your gun;
And you know that Fritz is waiting –
Of course it will be a rub –
But you’ll feel a whole lot better
If you’ve got an ARMY CLUB.

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“Salute This Day” a 1923 Toronto Canadian Armistice Day newspaper poem

With Remembrance Day fast approaching on November 11, 2015 I thought it very appropriate to post a now obscure 1923 published post-war but time starting to fade recollections and memories poem. Note the title, traditional poetic structure, diction and the clearly religious derived Christian resurrection figurative references which in part are probably attributable or at least influenced by 1923 perceptions of the seemingly pre-war returns for some to the more regular church activities of peacetime within their environments. Note that many churches were located or even concentrated in neighbourhoods irrespective of denomination so that the appearances of “many people” going back to the church after the war or partaking in religious experiences were common. When newer media such as films and radio (Canada’s first radio station on air in Montreal in 1919) and the like are factored in including their own mediums’ unintentional distorted imagery such as advertising (including the Church’s own appeals via these newer mediums) then one realizes how difficult it is to assess what unfavourable or favourable impacts such verses had generally. A threnody (line 18 below) is a song, hymn or poem of personal mourning delivered or sung to a deceased person.
(Source: “The Toronto Daily Star” Saturday, November 10, 1923, page 1)

Salute This Day

This is Remembrance Day wherein we keep
Vigil for those who sleep,
This is the day
Of binding of wounds and laying down of arms,
An end of war’s alarms.
Unto proud sorrow, not to bitter hate.
This day is dedicate.
Salute this day.

These young lives that were cut down as grass,
They have not vanished. No. They shall not pass
into oblivion. Not greying ghosts
Wandering in shadow, but triumphant hosts,
They rally to our poppies’ bugle call.
O sad and scarlet note of grief and pride,
Ring out o’er lake and river and waterfall,
Over our pine woods and our prairies wide,
And echo from our mountains to our sea,
A serenade and not a threnody!

This is Red Poppy Day of blooms whose blaze
Commemorates their praise.
This is the day
When from rich gardens of remembering years
We pluck our scarlet tears
As buds to deck our still green graves of grief,
For solace and relief,
Salute this day!

The poppy like a soaring meadow lark
Proclaims their resurrection form the dark
Of deaf and blind and cold forgetfulness.
Out of the bloodied palette of war’s stress,
Out of their bruised bones and gaping wounds of death,
With shrapnel brush, on woven webs of pain,
Immortal artists they have caught the breath
Of endless glory as their lost life’s gain.
They line not in dark graves, but in fields bright
With poppies by day and deathless stars by night.

Now on our All Souls Day, we bow our head
In honor of our dead.
This is the day
To chant a hymn of thanks, to breathe a prayer
To the war dead everywhere.
This is the Victory Day when Poppies sing
Defiance to Death’s sting.
Salute this day.

Armistice Day, Toronto, 1923


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War Poetry Song Of A General’s Wife 1920 by Osbert Sitwell 1892 1969

The following is NOT a Canadian war poem. It was written by the famous English poet, critic and writer: Osbert Sitwell. Sitwell served throughout the war as an infantry officer on the Western Front and was wounded. His first war poem was published in mid-1916 in The Times of London.  Although Sitwell self-described the following war poem as a “satire” critics consider it clearly a war poem based on the context, war references and the work’s immediate post-war publication. Despite NOT being Canadian this poem is presented here as it so acutely focuses on negative reactionaries of anyone but especially those within “militaries” who are NOT-poetry supporters that the work’s timelessness makes it a universal classic.

“War Poetry Song Of A General’s Wife”  by Osbert Sitwell (1892 – 1969)

The General
Of Art.
He does not
Believe in it.
He has noticed
That Artists
Have an odd look
In their eyes
And a shifty expression.
The General
Disapproves of Art.

He finds that
Artists are stupid
And difficult – to talk – to.
He remembers meeting one
In ’97,
Who was not interested
In polo —
And appeared
To be unaware of the existence
Of the old Duke of Cambridge.
In spite of this
The General thinks
That Music is more dangerous —
And subversive of discipline —
Than painting.
For in painting —
That is to say,
In good painting —
You can see put down on canvas
What you could see yourself,
And you can touch it
With your finger.
A picture should be the same
As a coloured photograph,
Except that the camera
Reveals things
Invisible to the Human Eye.
This is wrong.
By the Human Eye,
The General says
He means
His own eye.
But in Music
You can see nothing.
And you are unable
To touch it
With your fingers.
The General disapproves of Art;
And it makes him nervous
To hear Music.

The General says that,
As far as he can make out,
All musicians
Have been German —
but he can only remember
The name of one —
As the war
Was German
In origin,
It is obvious
That it was made
By German composers,
And not
By German Generals —
Many of whom were fine fellows
Who loved a good joke.
The General remembers one
Who laughed like anything
At one of his stories.
The war was made by German musicians —
Just as surely
As our own
Pacific and imaginative policy
Was interpreted
By Kipling and Lady Butler

“Never trust a Man
Who plays the Piano”
The General says.
He thinks that,
In the main,
The British have a sound instinct
In this matter.
Probably Charles I
Played the piano —
And at any rate
He collected
The English would never
Behead anyone
for governing badly;
It is only Barbarians,
Like the Russians,
Who do this.
The General disapproves of Art.

But, of all these things,
The General says
He dislikes poetry most.
Kipling is different,
He is a Man-of-the-World.
But the General says
That if he got hold
Of one of those long-haired
Conscientious Objectors,
Who write things
Which don’t even rhyme
He’d …………
Yes, dear,
I’ll put on my hat.”

Source: Published in “The Apple (of Beauty and Discord)” London, England: Volume 1, Number 1, January, 1920, pages 33 – 34
[ Later versions were slightly poet altered ]

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Sons of Canada – A 1915 British journalistic poetically expressed deification of the CEF

“Sons of Canada” is the title of the British newspaper (so far anonymous poet) that the Folkstone [ sic ] Town Crier published most likely in the late spring of 1915 during or right after the 2nd. Battle of Ypres and which a Mr. Alex Wilson (presumably a CEF soldier convalescing in Folkestone, Kent, England) sent home to Canada.  “The Almonte Gazette” published in Almonte, Ontario reprinted the poem in full in this newspaper’s Friday, August 13, 1915, page 7 edition.   Whilst the as yet unknown versifier praises Canada and her sons it is the English flag unfurled in Berlin that to the poet epitomizes Canadian contributions.  Ironically one can argue that by such stark conflicting juxtapositions that Canadian identities were actually politically and culturally stimulated.

“Sons of Canada –

O Canada, O Canada, your sons are loyal
     and brave,
They’ve answered the Motherland’s call,
     her colors for to save.
Your sons are bone and muscle, with
     hearts of steel and grit,
And they meet the Germans, the
     Huns won’t them forget.
So send us ammunition with plenty of ex-
      plosive shell,
And soon we’ll show the Germans the
      shortest cut to — Tunbridge Wells.
O Canada, O Canada, the land of the
      Maple Leaf,
Your sons have fought most gallantly and
      come to our relief.
They rushed the German trenches and
      pursued the fleeing Hun,
You have split your sides with laughter
       if you’d have seen the run.
The Germans run like madmen to seek
       some safe repose,
But when they felt the bayonet thrust they
       soon turned up their toes.
O Canada, O Canada, Brave are the sons
       you’ve got
Who come from Lake Ontario, Winnipeg
       and every other spot,
We’re steadily marching onward, the vic-
       tory we shall win
And soon old England’s flag will be flying
       in Berlin,
Then great rejoicing there will be
        throughout the entire world
And every nation will point with pride to
        England’s flag unfurled.”
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The Farewell of the GGBG Leaving Camp Borden 1916 verse postcard from the TPL digital online Collections

Here is the direct hyperlink to another of those circa latter 1915 to 1916 published likely in Toronto, Ontario, Canada brief verse unit postcards sold in the military camps for CEF recruits to send to their friends and relatives.  The verse card is from the Toronto Public Library’s digital online initiatives and the library is commended for posting especially such rare Canadian war related ephemera.  This postcard is for the men of the 124th. Battalion, CEF which was largely composed of former members of the Governor General’s Body Guard (GGBG) based in Toronto and founded by and commanded by the Denison’s of Toronto:  War Poetry Canada 124th Battn CEF The Farewell of the GGBG Leaving Camp Borden 1916 poetry post card 1916

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Teachers’ Network for the Study of War & the Canadian Experience / Community referral to my blog

The Teachers’ Network for the Study of War & the Canadian Experience / Community on their Facebook Timeline page dated February 2, 2015 referred to my blog for which I thank them!

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Successful John McCrae presentation at Hart House U of T Sunday May 3 2015

I attended the May 3, 2015 Sunday presentation on John McCrae the author of “In Flanders’ Fields” poem and enjoyed the event very much.  From a small display to some rarely seen visuals and a very pleasant and welcoming atmosphere not to mention the wonderful musical introduction by the carillon and the Hart House chorus who sang after the presentation a fine event that the Soldiers’ Tower Memorial committee, staff and volunteers should be quite proud of.

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Sensible sensitivities or fanatical flag waving verse? Annie Beatrice Hickson’s “Canada” 1916

Annie Beatrice Hickson’s (1873 – 1943) (A.B.H.) “Canada” was produced as a small fold over card poem in 1916.   Hickson although living in Calgary, Alberta during the war spent almost all her life in Montreal, Quebec where she was born and where she also died.  Her verse was in part a response to the growing societal and family anxieties of increasingly frequently appearing and successively longer casualty lists published in many daily Canadian newspapers.  Her verse card also typifies the upper class “culture dabbling” gentlewoman as this was her only publication and she became far better known for her painted figurines and both her pre-war and post-war educationally based charitable work.  Still this poem was certainly well liked as the complete verse was used on the front plinth face of the Prince County Memorial 1914 – 1918 unveiled during July 1922 in Summerside, Prince Edward Island and which memorial survives.  Hickson herself never married nor as far as is known bore any children of her own.  For further biographical information see the excellent A. Beatrice Hickson entry in Simon Fraser University’s online db “Canada’s Early Women Writers” here:          

War Poem Canada 1916 by  A Beatrice Hickson signed A B H

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The History Education Network THEN/HiER e-Bulletin No 65 January 2015 announcement of CWPWW1 Era blog

I thank the editor of The History Education Network THEN/HiER e-Bulletin No 65 January 2015 online edition for announcing on their first page as a resource using contemporary primary sources this blog.

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