For remembrance: soldier poets who have fallen in the war/Chapter 6

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search

VI

Mayhap I shall not walk again
Down Dorset way, down Devon way,
Nor pick a posy in a lane
Down Somerset and Sussex way;
But though my bones unshriven rot
In some far distant alien spot,
What soul I have shall rest from care
To know that meadows still are fair
Down Dorset way, down Devon way.

Sergt. Leslie Coulson, From an Outpost.

But all this conscious sacrifice of self must needs have been a small matter if one could have made it without any regrets, without any wistful looking back on happiness forgone and hopes it was hard to relinquish. Making such deliberate renunciation of life and all it meant to them, even for honour and the most sacred cause that ever called for the shedding of blood, these men would have been less admirable, less lovable, less human if they had been touched by no moods in which they knew and felt the full bitterness of it all and could almost find it in their hearts to wish that the cup might pass from them. This mood is a passing cloud over Freston's

and over his 'Renunciation':

Not always do I find myself complain
Against this harsh new order of the day,
Where we must put the old loved things away
And rise up to embrace new toil and pain;
For amongst much of loss there lies much gain:
We have learned new strength from learning to obey
Necessity; and hearts that used to stray,
Often too selfishly, are kind again.
Yet oftentimes to me there cometh one,
With sorrow in his eyes, whom half I know:
Who loved to paint the flowers and the sun
In gentle language musically slow:
Who grieves to leave his life-work scarce begun,
Who hoped so much, but now must turn and go.

A passing mood, that works differently on different temperaments, and differently at different times on the same temperament, it edges with mordant irony Alexander Robertson's 'We shall drink to them that Sleep,' and by turns with irony and with pathos certain of the poems of Leslie Coulson, and his '...But a Short Time to Live' with both:

...Our little hour—how short it is
When love with dew-eyed loveliness
Raises her lips for ours to kiss,
And dies within our first caress.
Youth flickers out like wind-blown flame,
Sweets of to-day to-morrow sour,
For time and Death relentless claim
Our little hour.


Our little hour—how short a time
To wage our wars, to fan our hates,
To take our fill of armoured crime,
To troop our banners, storm the gates:
Blood on our sword, our eyes blood-red,
Blind in our puny reign of power,
Do we forget how soon is sped
Our little hour?


Our little hour—how soon it dies;
How short a time to tell our beads,
To chant our feeble litanies,
To think sweet thoughts, to do good deeds:
The altar lights grow pale and dim,
The bells hang silent in the tower—
So passes with the dying hymn
Our little hour.

All his love of the open road and the green ways of the English countryside pulses and glows in his song 'From an Outpost':

I 've tramped South England up and down,
Down Dorset way, down Devon way,
Through every little ancient town
Down Dorset way, down Devon way:
I mind the old stone churches there,
The taverns round the market square,
The cobbled streets, the garden flowers,
The sundials telling peaceful hours
Down Dorset way, down Devon way...

and the joyance and quaintnesses of English country life laugh pleasantly, too, through 'In Abbas Now.' But 'From the Somme,' found on him among his papers after he had fallen in the forefront of a charge against the German position near Lesbœufs, on 7th October 1917, recalls the past delight he had in tramping English highways, loitering through English forest paths, or by the sea, and resting in homely roadside taverns, and realises with a painful intensity that these things are left behind him for ever:

...I played with all the toys the gods provide,
I sang my songs and made glad holiday.
Now I have cast my broken toys aside
And flung my lute away.


A singer once, I now am fain to weep,
Within my soul I feel strange music swell,
Vast chants of tragedy too deep—too deep
For my poor lips to tell.

There is a stern and darkly passionate protest in the sonnet, 'Judgment,' against the senseless waste and carnage that is making the world desolate, and the same protest is voiced powerfully and as bitterly in 'Who Made the Law?' which was also found with his papers after his death:

Who made the Law that men should die in meadows?
Who spake the word that blood should splash in lanes?
Who gave it forth that gardens should be bone-yards?
Who spread the hills with flesh, and blood, and brains?
Who made the Law?


Who made the Law that Death should stalk the village?
Who spake the word to kill among the sheaves?
Who gave it forth that Death should lurk in hedgerows?
Who flung the dead among the fallen leaves?
Who made the Law?...

But a happier spirit breathes through such lyrics as 'For City Folk' and 'A Soldier in Hospital,' and 'The Rainbow,' written while he was in the trenches in France, is filled with a limitless gratitude for the common gifts of life and a sure faith in the new day that burgeons at the heart of all the darkness:

I watch the white dawn gleam
To the thunder of hidden guns;
I hear the hot shells scream
Through skies as sweet as a dream
Where the silver dawnbreak runs;
And stabbing of light
Scorches the virginal white;
But I feel in my being the old, high, sanctified thrill,
And I thank the gods that the dawn is beautiful still.


From death that hurtles by
I crouch in the trench day-long,
But up to a cloudless sky
From the ground where our dead men lie
A brown lark soars in song.
Through the tortured air,
Rent by the shrapnel's flare,
Over the troubleless dead he carols his fill,
And I thank the gods that the birds are beautiful still.


Where the parapet is low
And level with the eye,
Poppies and cornflowers grow,
And the corn sways to and fro
In a pattern 'gainst the sky;
The gold stalks hide
Bodies of men who died
Charging at dawn through the dew to be killed or to kill—
I thank the gods that the flowers are beautiful still.


When night falls dark we creep
In silence to our dead;
We dig a few feet deep
And leave them there to sleep—
But blood at night is red,
Yea, even at night,
And a dead man's face is white;
And I dry my hands, that are also trained to kill,
And I look at the stars—for the stars are beautiful still.

And he wove into his verse something of the dream that was at the hearts of all the fighting-men when he gave language to his never-to-be-realised vision of 'When I Come Home':

When I come home, dear folk o' mine,
We 'll drink a cup of olden wine;
And yet, however rich it be,
No wine will taste so good to me
As English air. How I shall thrill
To drink it in on Hampstead Hill,
When I come home!


When I come home and leave behind
Dark things I would not call to mind,
I 'll taste good ale and home-made bread,
And see white sheets and pillows spread,
And there is one who 'll softly creep
To kiss me ere I fall asleep
And tuck me 'neath the counterpane,
As if I were a boy again,
When I come home.


When I come home, from dark to light,
And tread the roadways long and white,
And tramp the lanes I tramped of yore,
And see the village greens once more,
The tranquil farms, the meadows free,
The friendly trees that nod to me,
And hear the lark beneath the sun,
'Twill be good pay for what I 've done,
When I come home.

Always this love for and longing after the quiet country places of little old England—'I have seen men shattered, dying, dead—all the sad tragedy of war,' he said in a letter home, when he was quartered near a devastated French village in July 1916. 'And this murder of old stone and lichened thatches, this shattering of little old churches and homesteads brings the tragedy home to me more acutely. I think to find an English village like this would almost break my heart.'

I knew Leslie Coulson from the days when he was a child in his mother's arms, and it is not easy for me to realise that he grew to manhood, played such a man's part in the war, and had finished with life when he had numbered only half my years. Son of a well-known journalist, he chose journalism as his profession, and after a year or so in the provinces came to London and was rapidly winning recognition as one of the most brilliant of the younger men. That he was much more than a journalist the few short stories he published and this book of his verse bear witness enough. A month after the declaration of war he enlisted in the 2nd London Regiment of the Royal Fusiliers as a private. 'He was counselled to enter an Officers' Training Corps and obtain a commission,' says his father in a memoir. '"No," he said, "I will do the thing fairly. I will take my place in the ranks." High-minded, conscientious, self-critical, it seemed to him that this was his plain path of duty—to serve as a simple private soldier. He left England with his battalion in December 1914. And none of those to whom he was dear ever saw him again.' From Malta and Egypt he went to Gallipoli, shared in all the horrors of that campaign, and was slightly wounded. 'Never physically robust, he had experienced much ill-health before he became a soldier, and his endurance astonished all who knew him. But after recovery in Egypt from fever—the result of Gallipoli—he rose once again to endure.' By April 1916 he yas in France, attached to the 12th London Regiment—the Rangers. 'He was now sergeant, and was recommended for a commission. With his new regiment he took part in the Somme advance on 1st July.' Thenceforward he was almost continually in the trenches until he fell in action in October. 'He was not by nature a fighter. He was gentle, affectionate, and like all sympathetic natures shrank from inflicting pain. He declared he could never "see red." But he was endowed with the quiet courage and determination that invariably accompany the finer spirit.' Like so many of his comrades, he hated war and its barbarities—'it was just his lion-hearted courage and pride of race that carried him through,' says Major Corbett Smith, who knew him well in the years of peace; 'a sweet and gallant English gentleman who died that the England he loved might live.' His elder brother, Raymond, a journalist and author as gifted and promising as himself, has been throughout the war a lieutenant on active service in the Indian Army.

It was while serving with an Indian regiment in Mesopotamia, in the desperate fighting on the road to Kut, that Howard Stables passed beyond human ken. He was reported wounded and missing in February 1917, and it was supposed that he had been taken prisoner at Sanna-i-yat, when the Turks recaptured their first line of trenches there; but after long and exhaustive inquiry the authorities have placed his name on the roll of the dead. Born in 1895, he was educated at St. David's, Reigate, and at Winchester; entered Christ Church College, Oxford, in 1913, and promptly on the coming of war joined the 6th Hampshires, and was sent to India. In 1915 he received his mission in the 5th Gurkha Regiment, and embarked for Mesopotamia:

Now can we test life's quickness, pay the fee
For splendid living...

he writes in a sonnet 'On leaving India for Mesopotamia.' His letters home show that he took the keenest interest in his work and made light of the difficulties and dangers he had to meet. He was an accomplished musician, and in one letter mentioned that as he had no instrument and could get no music (until one of his Gurkhas, hearing him regret the lack of this, made a native pipe for him) he had taken to writing verses. Presently, he sent a collection of this verse over to Elkin Mathews for publication, but his family knew nothing of his literary projects until the book made its appearance, under the quaint title of The Sorrow that Whistled, at the end of 1916. His poems, which have a strong individual note, had a very favourable reception at the hands of the reviewers. They are largely a poetical itinerary of his war experiences at home and in the East, with a memory of Winchester, a handful of love poems and two on music. He catches the glamour and magic of the Orient in the best of his verse—in this, for instance, of 'High Barbary':

The distant mountains' jagged, cruel line
Cuts the imagination as a blade
Of dove-grey Damascene. In many a raid
Here Barbary pirates drave the ships of wine
Back to Sicilian harbours, harried kine,
Pillaged Calabrian villages and made
The land a desolation....


Saracens, Moors, Phœnicians—all the East,
Franks, Huns, Walloons, the pilgrims of the Pope,
All, all are gone. The clouds are trailing hence:
So goes to Benediction some proud priest
Sweeping the ground with embroidered golden cope.
—Go, gather up the fumes of frankincense.

Something, too, of the magic and glamour of his alien surroundings he distils into an unpublished poem that sighs with his unsatisfied longing for music:

I have not heard music for so long a time,
For twenty dusty months blown by, and each a year
Spent in a dusty prison-house it seems, no rhyme,
No tune to cut the hours upon the walls,
Only the taunt of fading bugle-calls
To rouse a memory from sleep and make it stir.


 
For remembrance, soldier poets who have fallen in the war, Adcock, 1920 DJVU pg 221.jpg

LESLIE COULSON.
SERGT., LONDON BATT. ROYAL FUSILIERS.

 

Though from red ramparts I can see the city swarm
With press of life, look on the swinging caravans
Of camels come from Gwalior beneath the moon,
Hear all the glinting hum of things that take
The curious fancy, can they ever wake
Those slumbering tunes with all their wealth of jewelled fans?


And shall I hear again the swaying orchestras—
Those rhythmic cohorts—and low passionate songs sung
For Sorrow; the tense preluding of operas
So rare and fraught; canorous harmony
Of bourdons; airs my mother played to me
And sweet old fiddled strains I knew when I was young?...


And from carven doors and lattices, and throng
Of narrow ways that lace the long bazaar's mosaic
Of human hearts and painted curious walls, the song
Of evening, all the city's tintamar
Springs up like sandalwood or cinnabar,
A drench of heavy-scented noises, mixed to slake


My thirst for music. Yet right dead I am to all,
Dram-wrapped in unsung harmonies that seem to climb
With cool, slow, rippling strength towards a god's grey hall
Through wind-swept woods of tonal mysteries,
Up granite fugues...abysmal cadences.—
Ah, I have not heard music for so long a time!

War widened his horizon and took him into new, strange lands that were an unfailing source of interest and delight to him. These and their strangeness and bizarre loveliness were themes that attracted him; only now and then he touched on the war itself, more or less elusively, as in 'Credit and Debit' and 'While Scouring Linen,' or satirically as in 'Thoughts of a Refugee.' He spends no hate or rage on his enemies—I do not remember, indeed, that he ever has anything to say of them. He fought them because they had made that his duty, but he was not inclined to write about them. He had no fear of death, but no love of it. 'Dearest,' he says in the last letter to his mother, written three days before he fell wounded and was no more seen, 'how beautiful a thing life is!'

Perhaps on the dreadful and vaster battlefields of France Death slew such myriads and the menace of it was so constant that there was not often such escape there from the thought of it. Most of the poets who have written from there have been moved to sing of its sadness, its pain, its tragedy, to speculate on it philosophically, to hail it as the honour that shall crown the memory of the brave, or to fling a proud defiance in its face, or to welcome it and hymn its praise as if they looked to rise upon the tomb like triumph on a pedestal. The too-constant presence of Death and the desire for respite is the burden of Victor Ratcliffe's 'Optimism':

At last there 'll dawn the last of the long year,
Of the long year that seemed to dream no end,
Whose every dawn but turned the world more drear
And slew some hope, or led away some friend.
Or be you dark, or buffeting, or blind,
We care not, Day, but leave not Death behind.


The hours that feed on war go heavy-hearted,
Death is no fare wherewith to make hearts fain.
Oh, we are sick to find that those who started
With glamour in their eyes come not again.
O Day, be long and heavy if you will,
But on our hopes set not a bitter heel....


Fell year unpitiful, slow days of scorn,
Your kind shall die, and sweeter days be born.

This is the simple, eternal confession of faith that though the winter is here and has put out the sun and laid the world in ruins, we have only to be patient and the spring will yet return and all be well again. But how is it with those to whom now all seasons are as one? Buried so far from home, with their dearest dreams unsatisfied, do no blind longings reach down to them still and trouble them with vain regrets? A haunting fancy came to Walter Wilkinson, the adopted son of Mrs. William Sharpe, that the spring which brought life back to all the earth wakens old yearnings after lost happiness in the dust of his comrades who are dead, and he could hear their voices in the silence:

Peace! Vex us not—we are the Dead!
We are the Dead for England slain.
(O England and the English Spring,
The English Spring, the Spring-tide rain:
Ah, God, dear God, in England now!)
Peace! Vex us not; we are the Dead!
The snows of Death are on our brow:
Peace! Vex us not!


Brothers, the footfalls of the year
(The maiden month 's in England now!)—
I feel them pass above my head:
Alas, they echo on my heart!
(Ah, God, dear God, in England now!)—
Peace! Vex me not, for I am dead:
The snows of Death are on my brow:
Peace! Vex me not!


Brothers, and I—I taste again,
Again I taste the Wine of Spring
(O Wine of Spring and Bread of Love,
O lips that kiss and mouths that sing,
O Love and Spring in England now!)
Peace! Vex me not, but pass above,
Sweet English love, fleet English Spring—
Peace! Vex me not!...

Then the still living man makes answer, urging them to a resigned acceptance of their loss:

Brothers, I beg you be at rest,
Be quite at rest for England's sake.
The flowerful hours in England now
Sing low your sleep to English ears;
And would you have your sorrows wake
The mother's heart to further tears?—
Nay, be at peace, her loyal Dead.
Sleep! Vex her not!

The pity and tenderness of that are not surpassed in any poem of the war, and the man who wrote it was soon to make the great acceptance himself—he was killed on Vimy Ridge, and maybe some one of his brothers-in-arms saw him laid to rest with much such thoughts as were his when he witnessed a similar scene and wrote 'The Wayside Burial,' which is dated the 4th April 1917, five days before he died:

They 're bringing their recent dead!—No pomp, no show:
A dingy khaki crowd—his friends, his own.
I too would like—(God, how that wind does moan!)
To be laid down by friends: it 's sweetest so!
A young life, as I take it; just a lad—
(How cold it blows, and that grey sky how sad!)
And yet: 'For Country'—so a man should die:
Comrade unknown, good rest to you!—Good-bye!


They 're burying their dead!—I wonder now:
A wife?—or mother? Mother it must be,
In some trim home that fronts the English sea
(A sea-coast country; that the badges show).
And she?—I sense her grief, I feel her tears:
This, then, the garnered harvest of my years!
And he?—'For Country, dear, a man must die.'
Comrade unknown, good rest to you!—Good-bye!

Walter Wilkinson was born at Bristol in 1886. His father, who was chief manager of goods traffic on the Great Western Railway, was an inventive engineer. His mother died when he was a child, and on the death of his father he was introduced to Mrs. William Sharpe, the widow of the well-known author, by Sir Alexander Nelson Hood (Duke of Bronte), who asked her to interest herself in the youngster's striking literary gifts, which, hampered by ill health, he was sedulously developing down to the outbreak of the war. Then, although in peace-time, for the benefit of his health, he had become an expert aeronaut, he was rejected by the Flying Service, solely on the score of his age, and enlisted in the University and Public School Corps as a private in September 1914. Later, he entered the Inns of Court O.T.C., and in 1916 obtained his commission. He was sent to France in January 1917, and within three months was killed in the attack on Vimy Ridge.

It was the voice of the living that cried through Colin Mitchell's 'Autumn in England,' but reading it now is to hear again in fancy that longing of the dead for the England they had loved, for since the spring of 1918 his place has been with them:

Autumn in England! God! How my heart cries
Aloud for thee, beloved pearl-gowned bride,
With tresses russet-hued and soft grey eyes
Which sometimes weep and sometimes try to hide
Sweet sadness in a smile of transient bliss,
Painting the West with blushing memories
Of Summer's hot and over-ardent kiss
Betokening farewell....
Autumn in England, why art thou sublime,
So meekly mantled in thy Quaker grey?
No shining coquetry of tropic clime
Could e'er estrange me, nor could e'er allay
My longing for the country of my birth,
Where winds are passion-voiced, and lullabies
Of raging tempest rock the sons of Earth.
Autumn in England, mine till memory dies!

Sincerity and a simple naturalness of thought and sentiment are the keynotes of Sergeant Colin Mitchell's little collection of verses, Trampled Clay. The brotherly regard that grew up betwixt officers and men whose days were bounded by the common peril of the trenches is in the breezy, rugged story of 'Our Captain'; there is naked realism and power in the thumb-nail battle-sketch 'Hooge'; charm in the brief idyll of 'Hughine and Ninette'; the boyish fun of the regiment in 'Soliloquies on the March'; and in others are a man's unpretentious musings on life and death and the ways of God, and a sorrow for the dead and for those who will miss them.

The wonder is that so much verse, written on active service, posted to friends at home, or stowed away in a man's kit, or in his pockets, and often found on him or among his belongings only after he was dead, has survived all the chances of loss or destruction and arrived at ultimate preservation in print. The wonder, too, is not that some of such verse, scribbled down in odds and ends of time, under all manner of inconveniences and discouragements and amidst the grimmest preoccupations, should be halting and flawed in utterance, but that so much of it should be so careful of form and finish as it is. Through the kindness of his brother, the worn, red-covered pocket-book that J. W. Streets carried with him on his campaigning has come into my hands. There are jottings in it of stray ideas or phrases that occurred to him for stories or for verses, and on certain of its pages, or on loose leaves folded in between them, are various poems, two or three of which have not been included in his published volume. They all bear marks of haste, are in pencil and often difficult to read, and show little sign of revision. Two of these unpublished poems are characteristic of the high idealism and the spirit of mystical exaltation in which he entered upon the war. All his beliefs, all his instincts were opposed to it, and nothing but the martyrdom of Belgium, and a burning love of his own country and of the peace and liberty that must be saved from the menace of the Hun, could ever have made a soldier of him. What death in such causes meant to him glimmers upon you from 'The Vigil':

Sentry, what do you see out there?—
Sorrow, mourning, everywhere,
Death in youth, and stranger things,
Yet dawn appearing on wild, swift wings.


Sentry, what do you see out there?
Youth grown old, and Spring grown sere,
Life a bitter memory,
Love a dark Gethsemane.


Sentry, what do you see out there?
Madness, chaos, everywhere,
Men entwined in sanguine strife,
Yet Youth in Calvary finding Life.

—it glows like a dawn of triumph in the second of these unpublished poems, 'The Fallen':

Their laughter and their merriment have ceased;
Their dreams have found Life's winter in the bud;
The cycle of their life, its dawn decreased
Ere Love had sung the matin-song; their good
Was in the embryo, lips had scarcely known
The first mad kiss of love, scarce felt the thrill
Of woman's hair and cheek; their dreams had grown
Not yet to fadeless purpose, tireless will.


There is a dawn whose flush outlives the day,
Engraves itself upon the consciousness:
There is a fate that Youth will gladly pay
So honour flourish, beauty grow no less:
To Liberty their heritage they gave
And won immortal glory at the grave.

Streets was a coal miner, and quitted work in the pit to be one of 'Kitchener's men.' J. M., a schoolmaster and mission worker, who was a friend of his, writes in a postscript to The Undying Splendour, that 'born in the same village, attending the same Sunday School, playing in the same cricket team, finally coming to intimacy, the ideals and pursuits of J. W. S. flowed into our common chat. Condemned, as he was, to toil from boyhood in the mine, and also to environment that wounded his sensitive nature, his was yet ever the search after the beautiful and the true.' He was a keen helper in the work of 'the small Wesley an community of his village,' and 'early, too, he tried to express himself with the brush, and gave great promise, though always the call of a written mode of expressing himself was with him.... His poems tell the secret of his whole life, which was an untiring love of nature,' and there is one line from them, says this friend,

O Liberty, at thy command, we challenge Death,

which 'tells in essence the reason that led one who hated war to go from that quiet North Derbyshire village to make one of the millions who are fighting for us and our Allies.' From the training camp at Hurdcott, from the trenches in France, he sent home his poems from time to time, pencilled on scraps of paper, and looked to revising them in proof, but he was reported wounded and missing in July 1916, and the following May, while his book was in the press, it was officially notified that he had been killed.

In a letter to Galloway Kyle, enclosing the sonnet sequence, 'The Undying Splendour,' which was to give the title to his volume, Streets offers this apologia and explanation: 'They were inspired while I was in the trenches, where I have been so busy I have had little time to polish them. I have tried to picture some thoughts that pass through a man's brain when he dies. I may not see the end of the poems, but hope to live to do so. We soldiers have our views of life to express, though the boom of death is in our ears. We try to convey something of what we feel in this great conflict to those who think of us, and sometimes, alas! mourn our loss. We desire to let them know that in the midst of our keenest sadness for the joy of life we leave behind, we go to meet death grim-lipped, clear-eyed, and resolute-hearted.' Which merely reflects the man as he reveals himself, without premeditation, in his verses; and there is testimony to the truth of the picture in a note from his company officer, Captain Moore: '...When he was reported missing, few of us who knew him had much hope of seeing him again. We knew that Streets was not the man easily to surrender': and in a letter from Major Plackett, under whom Streets served in England, in Egypt and, to the last, in France: '...He died as he had lived—a man. If his verses are as good as his reputation as a soldier, you may rest assured that the book will be a great success.'

Some of us used to say, perhaps too complacently, that Waterloo was won on the playing-fields of Eton. Be that as it may, it is clear to all eyes that the more terrible battles of the Great War were won on the playing-fields and in the class-rooms of the Council Schools, as well as of the Colleges, and in the homes of the whole nation—in cottages and workmen's dwellings no less than in town and country mansions. The Public School spirit is a splendid and a potent tradition, but it does not account for such men as Streets, and, in our days, there are not a few of them. I honour their memories too profoundly to think for a moment that it was just their Public School training which made such dear and heroic souls as Grenfell, Philipps, Palmer, Ivar Campbell or Wyndham Tennant the fearless and perfect gentle knights that they were; for without that training at least as many have risen, like Ledwidge from his scavengering, like Flower from his clerking, like Streets from toiling in the mine, fired by the same shining ideals, the same hatred of cruelty and scorn of wrong, the same selfless love of country, and have died for these things with a chivalry and courage that are of no school but of all schools, that are of no class, no limited section of the community, but are in the very blood and bones of our people, in the large tradition of the race. Whatever else we may learn from the war, this it has taught us already, for it is the emergence in rich and poor, plebeian and aristocrat, of fundamental qualities which are the natural heritage of all that drew us together and brought us to a recognition of our common brotherhood.

This good sense of brotherhood, at all events between officers and men, runs pleasantly through the verse of Lieutenant-Colonel Short, who was killed in France in June 1917; it is in his warm-hearted response on receipt of a Christmas card from the Sergeants' Mess of his battery, and you glimpse it in and between the lines of other of his poems. He was of the Old Army, and in character and temperament had much in common with Brian Brooke. There is sometimes a sombre touch, but always a sturdy, breezy, soldierly courage, in his war verse and often a delightfully whimsical humour. Perhaps one lingers most over the tender, fanciful series to his wife—such as this, 'To Venus,' with its gallant, gracious ending:

Mars leads me now, but shall thy worship cease?
Shall war blot out the memory of ease?
When I am 'under arms before the dawn,'
Thy star shines just as brightly as in peace.


No, Venus, Aphrodite, Ashtoreth,
Whatever pretty name whatever faith
Has given thee, thou Perfect Woman, I
Am still thy servant to my dying breath.—

and over the three charmingly playful
 
For remembrance, soldier poets who have fallen in the war, Adcock, 1920 DJVU pg 239.jpg
Photo by Seaman, Sheffield.

JOHN WILLIAM STREETS.
SERGT, 12th YORK AND LANCASTER REGT.

 
poems to his baby daughter on her birthdays, the second of which—

was written in an interval of fighting on the retreat from Mons. He is so genially frank and unaffected that, after reading his posthumous volume, you feel you have become as intimate with the man himself, the brave, gracious, friendly spirit of him, as if you had known him personally.