Soldier poets, songs of the fighting men/Julian Grenfell, D.S.O.

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Soldier poets, songs of the fighting men  (1916) 
Julian Grenfell, D.S.O., Captain, Royal Dragoons (B.E.F.)

JULIAN GRENFELL, D.S.O.

Captain, Royal Dragoons (B.E.F.)

Into Battle

THE naked earth is warm with Spring,
And with green grass and bursting trees
Leans to the sun's gaze glorying,
And quivers in the sunny breeze;
And Life is Colour and Warmth and Light,
And a striving evermore for these;
And he is dead who will not fight;
And who dies fighting has increase.


The fighting man shall from the sun
Take warmth, and life from the glowing earth;
Speed with the light-foot winds to run,
And with the trees to newer birth;
And find, when fighting shall be done,
Great rest, and fullness after dearth.


All the bright company of Heaven
Hold him in their high comradeship,
The Dog-Star, and the Sisters Seven,
Orion's Belt and sworded hip.


The woodland trees that stand together,
They stand to him each one a friend;
They gently speak in the windy weather;
They guide to valley and ridge's end.


The kestrel hovering by day,
And the little owls that call by night,
Bid him be swift and keen as they,
As keen of ear, as swift of sight.


The blackbird sings to him, "Brother, brother,
If this be the last song you shall sing
Sing well, for you may not sing another;
Brother, sing."


In dreary, doubtful, waiting hours,
Before the brazen frenzy starts,
The horses show him nobler powers;
O patient eyes, courageous hearts!


And when the burning moment breaks,
And all things else are out of mind,
And only Joy of Battle takes
Him by the throat, and makes him blind,


Through joy and blindness he shall know,
Not caring much to know, that still
Nor lead nor steel shall reach him, so
That it be not the Destined Will.


The thundering line of battle stands,
And in the air Death moans and sings;
But Day shall clasp him with strong hands,
And Night shall fold him in soft wings.

Flanders, April, 1915.

To a Black Greyhound

SHINING black in the shining light,
Inky black in the golden sun,
Graceful as the swallow's flight,
Light as swallow, winged one,
Swift as driven hurricane—
Double-sinewed stretch and spring,
Muffled thud of flying feet,
See the black dog galloping,
Hear his wild foot-beat.


See him lie when the day is dead,
Black curves curled on the boarded floor.
Sleepy eyes, my sleepy head—
Eyes that were aflame before.
Gentle now, they burn no more;
Gentle now and softly warm,
With the fire that made them bright
Hidden—as when after storm
Softly falls the night.


God of Speed, who makes the fire—
God of Peace, who lulls the same—
God who gives the fierce desire,
Lust for blood as fierce as flame—
God who stands in Pity's name—
Many may ye be or less,
Ye who rule the earth and sun;
Gods of strength and gentleness,
Ye are ever one.

The Hills

MUSSOORIE and Chakrata Hill
The Jumna flows between;
And from Chakrata's hills afar
Mussoorie's vale is seen.
The mountains sing together
In cloud or sunny weather,
The Jumna, through their tether
Foams white, or plunges green.


The mountains stand and laugh at Time;
They pillar up the Earth,
They watch the ages pass, they bring
New centuries to birth.
They feel the daybreak shiver,
They see Time passing ever
As flows the Jumna river,
As breaks the white sea-surf.


They drink the sun in a golden cup,
And in blue mist the rain;
With a sudden brightening they meet the lightning
Or ere it strikes the plain.
They seize the sullen thunder,
And take it up for plunder,
And cast it down and under,
And up and back again.


They are as changeless as the rock,
As changeful as the sea;
They rest, but as a lover rests
After love's ecstasy.
They watch, as a true lover
Watches the quick lights hover
About the lids that cover
His eyes so wearily.


Heaven lies upon their breasts at night,
Heaven kisses them at dawn;
Heaven clasps and kisses them at even
With fire of the sun's death born.
They turn to his desire
Their bosom, flushing higher
With soft receptive fire,
And blushing, passion-torn.


Here, in the hills of ages
I met thee face to face;
O mother Earth, O lover Earth,
Look down on me with grace.
Give me thy passion burning,
And thy strong patience, turning
And wrath to power, all yearning
To truth, thy dwelling-place.

Hymn to the Fighting Boar

GOD gave the horse for man to ride,
And steel wherewith to fight,
And wine to swell his soul with pride,
And women for delight:
But a better gift than these all four
Was when He made the fighting boar.


The horse is filled with spirit rare,
His heart is bold and free;
The bright steel flashes in the air,
And glitters hungrily.
But these were little use before
The Lord He made the fighting boar.


The ruby wine doth banish care,
But it confounds the head;
The fickle fair is light as air,
And makes the heart bleed red;
But wine nor love can tempt us more
When we may hunt the fighting boar.


When Noah's big monsoon was laid,
The land began to ride again,
And then the first hog-spear was made
By the hands of Tubal Cain;
The sons of Shem and many more
Came out to ride the fighting boar.


Those ancient Jew boys went like stinks,
They knew not reck nor fear,
Old Noah knocked the first two jinks,
And Nimrod got the spear.
And ever since those times of yore
True men do ride the fighting boar.


Drink then to women and to wine,
Though heart and head they steal—
But here's to steed and spear and swine
A brimming glass, no heel,
And humble thanks to God Who saw
His way to make the fighting boar.

To the Mussourie Race Club

TO win a race, you need a horse
With speed, and power to stay the course.
The horse that beats the other skins
And finishes the winner, wins—
Not so, Sir, at Mussourie.


I had the devil of a horse;
I won; but failed to scale, of course,
Because the judges, for my sins,
Had backed the second horse (which wins,
When backed by all Mussourie).


A horse that swings athwart the course,
A horse that bumps another horse,
Is reprimanded for his sins;
And he that finished second, wins—
Not so, Sir, at Mussourie.


Again I ran my speedy horse;—
A native jockey comes across,
And knocks me clean from off my pins,
And smiles, and gallops on and wins
The "Mountain Plate" Mussourie.


We all objected—but, of course,
When judges back the winning horse
The horse that finished winner, wins—
And that is when the fun begins
In racing at Mussourie.

[We are indebted to Lord Desborough for the use of these hitherto imprinted poems by his son, Captain Julian Grenfell, D.S.O., whose "Into Battle" (published in The Times on May 28th, 1915—the day his death from wounds was recorded—and afterwards included in Robert Bridges' Anthology, "The Spirit of Man," and in "A Crown of Amaranth") has been described as "the one incorruptible and incomparable poem which the war has yet given us in any language." The above poems were sent home while on service in India, where he killed thirty-six boars in one season. Both achievements are characteristic of the fine courageous spirit and all-round activities of the young Dragoon who "knocked out the champion boxer of South Africa in the intervals of writing poetry."]