Poets are especially adept at describing the horrors and heroism of war. Some poets have even fought on the battlefield alongside fallen comrades. Here is a collection of moving war poems written by renowned poets.
- "Dulce Et Decorum Est" by Wilfred Owen
Owen's poem contains the lines:
"Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;"
- "Grass" by Carl Sandburg
Sandburg's poem begins:
"Pile the bodies high at Austerlitz and Waterloo.
Shovel them under and let me work—
I am the grass; I cover all."
- "If We Must Die" by Claude McKay
McKay's poem contains the lines:
"If we must die, O let us nobly die,
So that our precious blood may not be shed In vain;
then even the monsters we defy"
- "Concord Hymn" by Ralph Waldo Emerson
Emerson's poem contains the lines:
"Spirit, that made those heroes dare
To die, and leave their children free, "
- "Vigil Strange I Kept on the Field one Night" by Walt Whitman
Whitman's poem contains the lines: "Passing sweet hours, immortal and mystic hours with you dearest comrade—not a tear, not a word, Vigil of silence, love and death, vigil for you my son and my soldier, "
- "Battle-Hymn of the Republic" by Julia Ward Howe
Howe's hymn begins:
"Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord:
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fatal lightning of his terrible swift sword:
His truth is marching on. "
- "When You See Millions of the Mouthless Dead" by Charles Hamilton Sorley
Sorley's poem begins with the lines "When you see millions of the mouthless dead Across your dreams in pale battalions go, Say not soft things as other men have said,"
- "The Battle of Maldon" by Anonymous
The poem tells of a battle against Vikings and contains the lines: "Bitter was the onslaught, warriors fell on either side, the young men lying down. Wulfmær was wounded, choosing a slaughter-rest, Byrhtnoth’s kinsman—he was mightily cut down"
- "The Charge of the Light Brigade" by Alfred Lord Tennyson
Tennyson's war poem contains the lines: "Stormed at with shot and shell, Boldly they rode and well, Into the jaws of Death, Into the mouth of hell Rode the six hundred."
- "The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner" by Randall Jarrell
Jarrell's short disturbing war poem contains the lines: "Six miles from earth, loosed from its dream of life, I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters."
- "Strange Meeting" by Wilfred Owen
Owen's poem begins: "It seemed that out of battle I escaped Down some profound dull tunnel, long since scooped Through granites which titanic wars had groined. "
- "The Bloody Sire" by Robinson Jeffers
Jeffers poem contains the lines: "What but fear winged the birds, and hunger Jewelled with such eyes the great goshawk’s head? Violence has been the sire of all the world’s value"
- "The Existing State of Things" by Percy Bysshe Shelley
Shelley's poetical essay contains the lines:
"Who scheme, regardless of the poor man’s pang,
Who coolly sharpen misery’s sharpest fang,
Yourselves secure. Your’s is the power to breathe
O’er all the world the infectious blast of death,"
- "In Flanders Fields" by John McCrae
McCrae's poem contains the lines: "We are the dead; short days ago We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, Loved and were loved, and now we lie In Flanders fields. "
- "A Dead Boche" by Robert Graves
Graves' poem contains the lines:
I’ll say (you’ve heard it said before)
"'War’s Hell!' and if you doubt the same,
Today I found in Mametz Wood
A certain cure for lust of blood:"
- "Break of Day in the Trenches" by Isaac Rosenberg
Rosenberg's poem contains the lines:
"The torn fields of France.
What do you see in our eyes
At the shrieking iron and flame
Hurled through still heavens?"
- "Here Dead We Lie" by A E Housman
Housman's poem because: "Here dead we lie Because we did not choose To live and shame the land From which we sprung."