A Moment of Reflection…

11 11 2008

Having spent much of this afternoon in the University’s Special Collections, I thought I would relay two of my findings which seem to have particular poignancy on this day.

They are both poems written by W.M. Letts in 1917.

The Deserter

There was a man, – don’t mind his name,
Whom Fear had dogged by night and day
He could not face the German guns
And so he turned and ran away.
Just that – he turned and ran away,
But who can judge him, you or I?
God makes a man of flesh and blood
Who yearns to live and not to die.
And this man when he feared to die,
Was scared as any frightened child,
His knees were shaking under him,
His breath came fast, his eyes were wild.
I’ve seen a hare with eyes as wild,
With throbbing heart and sobbing breath.
But oh! it shames one’s soul to see
A man in abject fear of death.
But fear had gripped him, so had death;
His number had gone up that day,
They might not heed his frightened eyes,
They shot him when the dawn was grey.
Blindfolded when the dawn was grey,
He stood there a place apart,
The shots rang out and down he fell,
An English bulelt in his heart.
An English bullet in his heart!
But here’s the irony of life, –
His mother thinks he fought and fell
A hero, foremost in the strife.
So she goes proudly; to the strife
Her best, her hero son she gave.
O well for her she does not know
He lies in a deserters grave.

Casualty

John Delaney of the Rifles has been shot
A man we never knew
Does it cloud the day for you
That he lies among the dead
Moving, hearing, heeding not?

No history will hold his humble name
No sculptured stone will tell
The traveller where he fell;
That he lies among the dead
Is the measure of his fame.

When our troops return victorious we shall care
That deaf to all the cheers,
Lacking tribute of our tears,
He is lying with the dead
Stark and silent, God knows where?

John Delaney of the Rifles – who was he?
A name seen on a list
All unknown and all unmissed,
What to us that he is dead? –
Yet he died for you and me.
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