The Great War

from Songs & Sonnets for England in War Time, an electronic edition

Publisher's Note

Of our poets who have been inspired to write and publish separate volumes of war poems during the actual progress of a campaign, we can only recall one -- the late Sydney Dobell, whose "Sonnets on the War," and "England in Time of War," both dealt with the Crimea. Mr. William Watson's "The Purple East" was read and quoted the world over during the Armenian atrocities: indeed, "Abdul the Damned" has passed into the language. Although this famous sonnet sequence sprang out of events which could not be called a campaign in the accepted and legitimate sense of the word, yet it may be fairly argued that the Kaiser has surpassed the Turk in inflicting suffering on defenceless people.

Doubtless, however, some of the many poets writing during the present war will in the course of time collect their verses and issue them as independent volumes. Anthologies also there are, without number, of poems of war on land and sea; but none of these, so far as I can discover, has been formed during the conflict itself. In this respect, therefore, this collection is unique. I am proposing to issue a series of these volumes during the progress of this great war, dealing with its outstanding events. The next will include a number of poems that have appeared in American and Canadian papers, and will thus have a peculiar interest as expressing the feelings of our kinsmen beyond the sea. All the profits derived from the sale of these anthologies will be given to the Prince of Wales's Fund. Perhaps, therefore, in the event of similar collections being made, it would generally be well if the poet would prevent any possible overlapping by consenting to his poem's appearance in one collection only. In this way the public may be induced to buy the various collections rather than any particular one.

Viscount Dillon sends me the following, taken from La France du Nord of August 23. These lines, by a poetic ally, who remains anonymous, are as correct in feeling as they are ingenious in adapting themselves to the rhythm of our own National Anthem.

Welcome to You, Gallant Britons

Welcome to you, brave friends,

English, Irish, and Scotch,

Hail to our friends!

Soon at the front with us,

Of foes so treacherous

They will be victorious;

Hail to them all!

And not these friends alone,

But the little Servians,

And the Russians;

The Belgians so gallant,

Who have checked the tyrant

From Li├Ęge to Dinant;

Hail to them all!

The soldiers of fair France

Welcome their British friends,

And grasp their hands,

May their combined army

Bear off the victory,

And reap final glory;

Hail to them all!

I have also been favoured with another poem which has an added interest from the fact that the writer has for many years been well acquainted with German politics and German statesmen.

A Partnership

God for the Kaiser! God for the Hun!

God for the fiercest war ever the sun

Shone on! -- No wonder it hid its face*

When the Kaiser rode forth to his big disgrace.

God for the Kaiser! Burn! burn! burn!

Soldiers let harmless civilians learn

That I am the great almighty Lord,

Lord by the right of torch and sword.

God for the Kaiser! Shield your front,

With women and children to bear the brunt

Lest one brave German soldier be hurt

One German helmet be rolled in the dirt!

God for the Kaiser! Kill! kill! kill!

Blood is your draught, so drink your fill!

Murder the old men, slaughter the young,

Scatter their bodies abroad for dung.

God and the Kaiser! God and I

Can bid men to live or bid them to die;

Mine to command and yours to obey

Lest I wipe you out from the light of day.

God and the Kaiser! A sacred alliance

Bidding the whole wide world defiance --

Wait! and perhaps his Partner may send

The blasphemous Kaiser a fitting end.

My thanks are due for the great generosity displayed by all the authors whose poems appear in this volume, and whose names will be found on following pages; and also to the Editors of the Times, Daily Chronicle, Westminster Gazette, Daily News and Leader, Morning Post, Daily Telegraph, Evening Standard, Daily Express, Pall Mall Gazette, Punch, New Weekly, New Witness, Truth, Saturday Review, T.P.'s Weekly, Yorkshire Post, Glasgow Evening News, for full permission to reprint the poems that have appeared in their columns.

Mr. Vernon Hill has drawn and presented the cover design.

The Bodley Head.

Notes

1. The eclipse of the sun.