Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Falling Leaves Like Snowflakes

In their beauty strewed

Margaret Cole campaigned against conscription in the First World War. It was a deeply unpopular stance but then she was a very unconventional woman: a socialist, atheist and pacifist in a very “traditional” era.

Her poem The Falling Leaves is one of the classic War Poems, one I always enjoyed teaching because of its sound and rhythm as much as its content.

The Falling Leaves
by Margaret Postgate Cole 

November 1915

Today, as I rode by,
I saw the brown leaves dropping from their tree
In a still afternoon,
When no wind whirled them whistling to the sky,
But thickly, silently,
They fell, like snowflakes wiping out the noon;
And wandered slowly thence
For thinking of a gallant multitude
Which now all withering lay,
Slain by no wind of age or pestilence,
But in their beauty strewed
Like snowflakes falling on the Flemish clay

Fathomless Eyes

W N Hodgson was warded the Military Cross in 1915. He had been killed on the first day of the Battle of the Somme, July 1st 1916. His poem Glimpses was written in June 1914.

by W N Hodgson

I saw you fooling often in the tents
With fair dishevelled hair and laughing lips,
And frolic elf lights in your careless eyes,
As who had never known the taste of tears
Or the world's sorrow. Then on the march one night,
Halted beneath the stars I heard the sound
Of talk and laughter, and glanced back to see
If you were there. But you stood far apart
And silent, bowed upon your rifle butt,
And gazed into the night as one who sees.
I marked the drooping lips and fathomless eyes
And knew you brooded on immortal things.