Here are a few examples of political poetry that were written in response to the occurances of World War II.
Beach Burial by Kenneth Slessor
Eighth Air Force by Randall Jarrell
Chindit by KN Batley
Conscript by FA Horn
"Of course, its done him worlds of good", they said,
"He's twice the man he was - a puny chap
he used to be, if you remember - always at books and that,
but since he joined
he's broadened out. They've made a man of him;
You wouldn't know now".
Deep-sunk in rain-soaked ditch, with weeds and filth
stopping his mouth, the soldir lies;
swollen and black, his face turns to the skies
in blank, unquestioning stare, his body, tight
and big as flood-drowned pig, lurches and sways,
to wind and water. Yes, he's broadened out -
he's twice the man he was; a pity, though,
his life should run, like bright oil down a gutter,
to implement some politician's brag.
His world went out
though that neat hole in temple, quickly and easily
as words from windy mouths. And loves unknown,
and skies unseen, and books unread,
forever lost, he's dead.
You wouldn't know him know.
FA Horn 1940
Softly and humbly to the Gulf of Arabs
The convoys of dead sailors come;
At night they sway and wander in the waters far under,
But morning rolls them in the foam.
Between the sob and clubbing of gunfire
Someone, it seems, has time for this,
To pluck them from the shallows and bury them in burrows
And tread the sand upon the nakedness;
And each cross, the driven stake of tidewood,
Bears the last signature of men,
Written with such perplexity, with such bewildered pity,
The words choke as they begin -
"Unknown seaman" - the ghostly pencil
Wavers and fades, the purple drips,
The breath of wet season has washed their inscriptions
As blue as drowned men's lips,
Dead seaman, gone in search of the same landfall,
Whether as enemies they fought,
Or fought with us, or neither; the sand joins them together,
Enlisted on the other front.
Eighth Air Force
If, in an odd angle of the hutment,
A puppy laps the water from a can
Of flowers, and the drunk sergeant shaving
Whistles O Paradiso!-shall I say that man
Is not as men have said: a wolf to man?
The other murderers troop in yawning;
Three of them play Pitch, on sleeps, and one
Lies counting missions, lies there sweating
Till even his heart beats: One; One; One.
O murderers!...Still, this is how it's done:
This is a war...But since these play, before they die,
Like puppies with their puppy; since, a man,
I did as these have done, but did not die-
I will content the people as I can
And give up these to them: Behold the man!
I have suffered, in a dream, because of him,
Many things; for this last saviour, man,
I have lied as I lie now. But what is lying?
Men wash their hands, in blood, as best they can:
I find no fault in this just man.
Have you ever seen a column march away,
And left you lying, too damned sick to care?
Have you ever watched the night crawl into day
With red-rimmed eyes that are too tired to stare?
Have you ever bled beside a jungle trace
In thick brown mud like coagulating stew?
Have you ever counted leeches loping back
Along the trail of sweat that lead to you?
Have you ever heard your pals shout "cheerio",
Knowing that this is no "Auf wiedershen"?
Have you ever prayed, alone, for help although
The stench of mules has vanished in the rain?
Have you ever thought, "what a bloody way to die!",
Left in the tree-roots, rotting, there to stay?
God, I remember last poignant "Goodbye";
I was one of the ment that marched away.