As November is upon us, and this is the month of Remembrance, I thought that I might present a few of Robert Service’s poems from his ‘Rhymes Of A Red Cross Man’
Robert Service, ‘The Bard Of The North’ is my personal favorite poet. A lot of critics dismiss him as a ‘minor’ writer/poet, but I am deeply moved by his poetry.

The first poem that I will present represents the ‘Personal contact of war’, and the killing of another human being face to face!

                  My Foe

      A Belgian Priest-Soldier Speaks:–

GURR! You ‘cochon’!  Stand and fight!
Show your mettle!  Snarl and bite!

Spawn of an accursed race,
Turn and meet me face to face!

Here amid the wreck and rout
Let us grip and have it out!

Here where ruins rock and reel
Let us settle, steel to steel!

Look!  Our houses, how they spit
Sparks from brands your friends have lit.

See!  Our gutters running red,
Bright with blood your friends have shed.

Hark!  Amid your drunken brawl
How our maidens shriek and call.

Why have YOU come here alone,
To this hearth’s blood-spattered stone?

Come to ravish, come to loot,
Come to play the ghoulish brute?

Ah, indeed!  We well are met,
Bayonet to bayonet.

God!  I never killed a man:
Now I’ll do the best I can.

Rip you to the evil heart,
Laugh to see the life-blood start.

Bah!  You swine!  I hate you so.
Show you mercy?  No! . . . and no! . . .

There!  I’ve done it.  See!  He lies
Death a-staring from his eyes;

Glazing eyeballs, panting breath,
How it’s horrible, is Death!

Plucking at his bloody lips
With his trembling finger-tips;

Choking in a dreadful way
As if he would something say

In that uncouth tongue of his. . . .
Oh, how horrible Death is!

How I wish that he would die!
So unnerved, unmanned am I.

See!  His twitching face is white!
See!  His bubbling blood is bright.

Why do I not shout with glee?
What strange spell is over me?

There he lies; the fight was fair;
Let me toss my cap in air.

Why am I so silent?  Why
Do I pray for him to die?

Where is all my vengeful joy?

I’d a brother of his age
Perished in the war’s red rage;

Perished in that bloody hell:
Oh, I loved my brother well.

And though I be hard and grim,
How it makes me think of him!

He had just such flaxen hair
As the lad that’s lying there.

Just such frank blue eyes were his. . . .
God!  How horrible war is!

I have reason to be gay:
There is one less foe to slay.

I have reason to be glad:
Yet–my foe is but a lad.

So I watch in dull amaze,
See his dying eyes a-glaze,

See his face grow glorified,
See his hands outstretched and wide

To that bit of ruined wall
Where the flames have ceased to crawl,

Where amid the crumbling bricks

Now, oh now I understand.
Quick I press it in his hand,

Close his feeble finger-tips,
Hold it to his faltering lips.

As I watch his welling blood
I would stem it if I could.

God of Pity, let him live’
God of Love, forgive, forgive.


.    .    .    .    .

His face looked strangely, as he died,
Like the One they crucified.

And in the pocket of his coat
I found a letter; thus he wrote:

'The things I’ve seen!  Oh, mother dear,
I’m wondering can God be here?

To-night amid the drunken brawl
I saw a Cross hung on a wall;

I’ll seek it now, and there alone
Perhaps I may atone, atone. . . .’

Ah no!  'Tis I who must atone.
No other saw but God alone;

Yet how can I forget the sight
Of that face so woeful white!

Dead I kissed him as he lay,
Knelt by him and tried to pray;

Left him lying there at rest,
Crucifix upon his breast.

Not for him the pity be.
Ye who pity, pity me,

Crawling now the ways I trod,
Blood-guilty in sight of God.


          The dedication of “Rhymes Of A Red Cross Manâ€

Robert William Service was born on January 16, 1874 to a Scottish bank clerk and the daughter of an English factory owner.
At the age of 15 he followed his father into the banking business, but in 1896 he emigrated to Canada where he joined his younger brother in an experiment in ranching. The life of a farmer in British Columbia, however, was far from his expectations and after 18 months he set off for California.
For the next 6 years Service drifted up and down the Pacific coast. In 1903, finding himself broke in Vancouver, he applied to and was hired by the Canadian Bank of Commerce and won a posting in Whitehorse in the Yukon Territory.
Here Service found the western life he had sought, with its balance of a frontier sort of social life and the solitude of the northern woods.
During his wanderings Service had spent much time reading and dreaming and one day he was invited to recite at a church concert. A friend of his suggested that Service write something about the Yukon. He was inspired, as he tells it, by his surroundings. “It was Saturday night, and from the various bars I heard sounds of revelry. The line popped into my mind: ‘A bunch of boys were whooping it up’ and it stuck there. Good enough for a start.”.
Desiring a quiet place to work he went to his bank where the startled bank guard fired a shot at him the event which led Service’s mind toward the idea of a shooting and, “The Shooting of Dan McGrew” was born. The flood gates opened, Service wrote so many poems over the next few months that he decided to publish them and found a publisher who would pay a 10% royalty, and Songs of a Sourdough (reissued as The Spell of the Yukon) was published to some success.
In 1908 he was transformed 400 miles north to Dawson where he composed and published Ballads of a Cheechako and, the following year, resigned from the bank in order to write full time.
Setting up shop in a log cabin Service decided to write a novel about the Gold Rush. In preparation he travelled along the Klondike River visiting the famous gold sites and boom towns; interviewing those who had settled in the area during 1898 and read everything he could find on the subject. Having finished the novel he moved to New York City where the book was published as The Trail of 8.
Having seen the book to publication service travelled to Louisiana, then Cuba and back to Alberta from whence he returned to the Yukon by paddling a canoe down the Mackensie River.
Back in his cabin Service took up where he had left off, enjoying a bohemian sort of life and writing a great amount of poetry. In 1912, having finished Rhymes of a Rolling Stone he accepted the job of war correspondent in the Balkan war.
During his travels in Europe Service married a woman from paris and purchased a villa in Brittany. In the First World War he served in an America volunteer ambulance unit and became a war correspondent for the Canadian government. Following the war he travelled and wrote two volumes of poetry and several novels. With the outbreak of the Second World War he escaped from Poland to Hollywood where he lived in exile until the end of the war and his return to France.
Though he never returned to the Yukon after he left in 1912 it remained a part of his life until his death in 1958.

A Song of Winter Weather

It isn’t the foe that we fear;
It isn’t the bullets that whine;
It isn’t the business career
Of a shell, or the bust of a mine;
It isn’t the snipers who seek
To nip our young hopes in the bud:
No, it isn’t the guns,
And it isn’t the Huns–
It’s the MUD,

It isn’t the melee we mind.
That often is rather good fun.
It isn’t the shrapnel we find
Obtrusive when rained by the ton;
It isn’t the bounce of the bombs
That gives us a positive pain:
It’s the strafing we get
When the weather is wet–
It’s the RAIN,

It isn’t because we lack grit
We shrink from the horrors of war.
We don’t mind the battle a bit;
In fact that is what we are for;
It isn’t the rum-jars and things
Make us wish we were back in the fold:
It’s the fingers that freeze
In the boreal breeze–
It’s the COLD,

Oh, the rain, the mud, and the cold,
The cold, the mud, and the rain;
With weather at zero it’s hard for a hero
From language that’s rude to refrain.
With porridgy muck to the knees,
With sky that’s a-pouring a flood,
Sure the worst of our foes
Are the pains and the woes
Of the RAIN,
              the COLD,
                        and the MUD.

Robert W. Service.

          The Call

      Robert W. Service
  (France, August first, 1914)

    Far and near, high and clear,
    Hark to the call of War!
Over the gorse and the golden dells,
Ringing and swinging of clamorous bells,
Praying and saying of wild farewells:
    War!  War!  War!

    High and low, all must go:
    Hark to the shout of War!
Leave to the women the harvest yield;
Gird ye, men, for the sinister field;
A sabre instead of a scythe to wield:
    War!  Red War!

    Rich and poor, lord and boor,
    Hark to the blast of War!
Tinker and tailor and millionaire,
Actor in triumph and priest in prayer,
Comrades now in the hell out there,
    Sweep to the fire of War!

    Prince and page, sot and sage,
    Hark to the roar of War!
Poet, professor and circus clown,
Chimney-sweeper and fop o’ the town,
Into the pot and be melted down:
    Into the pot of War!

    Women all, hear the call,
    The pitiless call of War!
Look your last on your dearest ones,
Brothers and husbands, fathers, sons:
Swift they go to the ravenous guns,
    The gluttonous guns of War.

    Everywhere thrill the air
    The maniac bells of War.
There will be little of sleeping to-night;
There will be wailing and weeping to-night;
Death’s red sickle is reaping to-night:
    War!  War!  War!

  The story of an unlikely hero. It takes a few readings to
  Get used to the ‘haccent’         

              The Coward

'Ave you seen Bill’s mug in the Noos to-day?
'E’s gyned the Victoriar Cross, they say;
Little Bill wot would grizzle and run away,
  If you 'it 'im a swipe on the jawr.
'E’s slaughtered the Kaiser’s men in tons;
'E’s captured one of their quick-fire guns,
And 'e ‘adn’t no practice in killin’ 'Uns
  Afore 'e went off to the war.

    Little Bill wot I nussed in 'is by-by clothes;
    Little Bill wot told me 'is childish woes;
    'Ow often I’ve tidied 'is pore little nose
    Wiv the 'em of me pinnyfore.
    And now all the papers 'is praises ring,
    And 'e’s been and 'e’s shaken the 'and of the King
    And I sawr ‘im to-day in the ward, pore thing,
    Where they’re patchin’ 'im up once more.

And 'e says:  "Wot d’ye think of it, Lizer Ann?"
And I says:  "Well, I can’t make it out, old man;
You’d 'ook it as soon as a scrap began,
  When you was a bit of a kid."
And 'e whispers:  "‘Ere, on the quiet, Liz,
They’re makin’ too much of the ‘ole damn biz,
And the papers is printin’ me ugly phiz,
  But . . . I’m 'anged if I know wot I did.

"Oh, the Captain comes and 'e says:  'Look ‘ere!
They’re far too quiet out there:  it’s queer.
They’re up to somethin’–'oo’ll volunteer
  To crawl in the dark and see?'
Then I felt me 'eart like a 'ammer go,
And up jumps a chap and 'e says:  'Right O!'
But I chips in straight, and I says 'Oh no!
  ‘E’s a missis and kids–take me.’

    "And the next I knew I was sneakin’ out,
    And the oozy corpses was all about,
    And I felt so scared I wanted to shout,
      And me skin fair prickled wiv fear;
    And I sez:  ‘You coward!  You ‘ad no right
    To take on the job of a man this night,’
    Yet still I kept creepin’ till ('orrid sight!)
      The trench of the 'Uns was near.

"It was all so dark, it was all so still;
Yet somethin’ pushed me against me will;
‘Ow I wanted to turn!  Yet I crawled until
  I was seein’ a dim light shine.
Then thinks I:  'I’ll just go a little bit,
And see wot the doose I can make of it,'
And it seemed to come from the mouth of a pit:
  ‘Christmas!’ sez I, ‘a MINE.’

"Then ‘ere’s the part wot I can’t explain:
I wanted to make for ‘ome again,
But somethin’ was blazin’ inside me brain,
  So I crawled to the trench instead;
Then I saw the bullet 'ead of a 'Un,
And 'e stood by a rapid-firer gun,
And I lifted a rock and I 'it 'im  one,
  And ‘e dropped like a chunk o’ lead.

    "Then all the 'Uns that was underground,
    Comes up with a rush and on with a bound,
    And I swings that giddy old Maxim round
    And belts ‘em solid and square.
    You see I was off me chump wiv fear:
    ‘If I’m sellin’ me life,’ sez I, ‘it’s dear.’
    And the trench was narrow and they was near,
    So I peppered the brutes for fair.

“So I 'eld 'em back and I yelled wiv fright,
And the boys attacked and we ‘ad a fight,
And we ‘captured a section o’ trench’ that night
  Which we didn’t expect to get;
And they found me there with me Maxim gun,
And I’d laid out a score if I’d laid out one,
And I fainted away when the thing was done,
  And I 'aven’t got over it yet.”

So that’s the 'istory Bill told me.
Of course it’s all on the strict Q. T.;
It wouldn’t do to get out, you see,
  As 'e hacted against 'is will.
But ‘e’s convalescin’ wiv all 'is might,
And 'e 'opes to be fit for another fight–
Say!  Ain’t 'e a bit of the real all right?
  Wot’s the matter with Bill!

                    The Convalescent

. . . So I walked among the willows very quietly all night;
There was no moon at all, at all; no timid star alight;
There was no light at all, at all; I wint from tree to tree,
And I called him as his mother called, but he nivver answered me.

Oh I called him all the night-time, as I walked the wood alone;
And I listened and I listened, but I nivver heard a moan;
Then I found him at the dawnin’, when the sorry sky was red:
I was lookin’ for the livin’, but I only found the dead.

Sure I know that it was Shamus by the silver cross he wore;
But the bugles they were callin’, and I heard the cannon roar.
Oh I had no time to tarry, so I said a little prayer,
And I clasped his hands together, and I left him lyin’ there.

Now the birds are singin’, singin’, and I’m home in Donegal,
And it’s Springtime, and I’m thinkin’ that I only dreamed it all;
I dreamed about that evil wood, all crowded with its dead,
Where I knelt beside me brother when the battle-dawn was red.

Where I prayed beside me brother ere I wint to fight anew:
Such dreams as these are evil dreams; I can’t believe it’s true.
Where all is love and laughter, sure it’s hard to think of loss . . .
But mother’s sayin’ nothin’, and she clasps–A SILVER CROSS.

Robert W. Service


He hurried away, young heart of joy, under our Devon sky!
And I watched him go, my beautiful boy, and a weary woman was I.
For my hair is grey, and his was gold; he’d the best of his life to live;
And I’d loved him so, and I’m old, I’m old; and he’s all I had to give.

Ah yes, he was proud and swift and gay, but oh how my eyes were dim!
With the sun in his heart he went away, but he took the sun with him.
For look!  How the leaves are falling now,
  and the winter won’t be long. . . .
Oh boy, my boy with the sunny brow, and the lips of love and of song!

How we used to sit at the day’s sweet end, we two by the firelight’s gleam,
And we’d drift to the Valley of Let’s Pretend,
  on the beautiful river of Dream.
Oh dear little heart!  All wealth untold would I gladly, gladly pay
Could I just for a moment closely hold that golden head to my grey.

For I gaze in the fire, and I’m seeing there a child, and he waves to me;
And I run and I hold him up in the air, and he laughs and shouts with glee;
A little bundle of love and mirth, crying:  "Come, Mumsie dear!"
Ah me!  If he called from the ends of the earth
  I know that my heart would hear.

      .    .    .    .    .

Yet the thought comes thrilling through all my pain:
  how worthier could he die?
Yea, a loss like that is a glorious gain, and pitiful proud am I.
For Peace must be bought with blood and tears,
  and the boys of our hearts must pay;
And so in our joy of the after-years, let us bless them every day.

And though I know there’s a hasty grave with a poor little cross at its head,
And the gold of his youth he so gladly gave, yet to me he’ll never be dead.
And the sun in my Devon lane will be gay, and my boy will be with me still,
So I’m finding the heart to smile and say:  “Oh God, if it be Thy Will!”

Robert W Service

              The Fool

“But it isn’t playing the game,” he said,
And he slammed his books away;
“The Latin and Greek I’ve got in my head
Will do for a duller day.”
“Rubbish!” I cried; "The bugle’s call
Isn’t for lads from school."
D’ye think he’d listen?  Oh, not at all:
So I called him a fool, a fool.

Now there’s his dog by his empty bed,
And the flute he used to play,
And his favourite bat . . . but Dick he’s dead,
Somewhere in France, they say:
Dick with his rapture of song and sun,
Dick of the yellow hair,
Dicky whose life had but begun,
Carrion-cold out there.

Look at his prizes all in a row:
Surely a hint of fame.
Now he’s finished with,–nothing to show:
Doesn’t it seem a shame?
Look from the window!  All you see
Was to be his one day:
Forest and furrow, lawn and lea,
And he goes and chucks it away.

Chucks it away to die in the dark:
Somebody saw him fall,
Part of him mud, part of him blood,
The rest of him–not at all.
And yet I’ll bet he was never afraid,
And he went as the best of 'em go,
For his hand was clenched on his broken blade,
And his face was turned to the foe.

And I called him a fool . . . oh how blind was I!
And the cup of my grief’s abrim.
Will Glory o’ England ever die
So long as we’ve lads like him?
So long as we’ve fond and fearless fools,
Who, spurning fortune and fame,
Turn out with the rallying cry of their schools,
Just bent on playing the game.

A fool!  Ah no!  He was more than wise.
His was the proudest part.
He died with the glory of faith in his eyes,
And the glory of love in his heart.
And though there’s never a grave to tell,
Nor a cross to mark his fall,
Thank God! we know that he "batted well"
In the last great Game of all.

Robert  W. Service.

Thank You 97 B-LINE for these poetry readings.  My Dad was an Air Force man and I remember had a book of Robert W. Service when I was a kid, he used to read it quite often.  Funny, I remember the book, kind of a golden color cover, anyway, my favorites are “The Convalescent”  and “Son”  but they are all beautiful.  Thank you for taking the time to post these…For many reasons, it is much appreciated.

  Thank you for your comments Cody Bear. Poetry can evoke deep emotion when we associate it with our
  own personal memories. These poems need to be read and reread. The sacrifices of the people who died
  and were maimed, both military and civilian must not be forgotten.                         

                            Only a Boche

We brought him in from between the lines:  we’d better have let him lie;
For what’s the use of risking one’s skin for a TYKE that’s going to die?
What’s the use of tearing him loose under a gruelling fire,
When he’s shot in the head, and worse than dead,
  and all messed up on the wire?

However, I say, we brought him in.  DIABLE!  The mud was bad;
The trench was crooked and greasy and high, and oh, what a time we had!
And often we slipped, and often we tripped, but never he made a moan;
And how we were wet with blood and with sweat!
  but we carried him in like our own.

Now there he lies in the dug-out dim, awaiting the ambulance,
And the doctor shrugs his shoulders at him,
  and remarks, "He hasn’t a chance."
And we squat and smoke at our game of bridge
  on the glistening, straw-packed floor,
And above our oaths we can hear his breath deep-drawn in a kind of snore.

For the dressing station is long and low, and the candles gutter dim,
And the mean light falls on the cold clay walls
  and our faces bristly and grim;
And we flap our cards on the lousy straw, and we laugh and jibe as we play,
And you’d never know that the cursed foe was less than a mile away.
As we con our cards in the rancid gloom, oppressed by that snoring breath,
You’d never dream that our broad roof-beam was swept by the broom of death.

Heigh-ho!  My turn for the dummy hand; I rise and I stretch a bit;
The fetid air is making me yawn, and my cigarette’s unlit,
So I go to the nearest candle flame, and the man we brought is there,
And his face is white in the shabby light, and I stand at his feet and stare.
Stand for a while, and quietly stare:  for strange though it seems to be,
The dying Boche on the stretcher there has a queer resemblance to me.

It gives one a kind of a turn, you know, to come on a thing like that.
It’s just as if I were lying there, with a turban of blood for a hat,
Lying there in a coat grey-green instead of a coat grey-blue,
With one of my eyes all shot away, and my brain half tumbling through;
Lying there with a chest that heaves like a bellows up and down,
And a cheek as white as snow on a grave, and lips that are coffee brown.

And confound him, too!  He wears, like me, on his finger a wedding ring,
And around his neck, as around my own, by a greasy bit of string,
A locket hangs with a woman’s face, and I turn it about to see:
Just as I thought . . . on the other side the faces of children three;
Clustered together cherub-like, three little laughing girls,
With the usual tiny rosebud mouths and the usual silken curls.
“Zut!” I say.  "He has beaten me; for me, I have only two,"
And I push the locket beneath his shirt, feeling a little blue.

Oh, it isn’t cheerful to see a man, the marvellous work of God,
Crushed in the mutilation mill, crushed to a smeary clod;
Oh, it isn’t cheerful to hear him moan; but it isn’t that I mind,
It isn’t the anguish that goes with him, it’s the anguish he leaves behind.
For his going opens a tragic door that gives on a world of pain,
And the death he dies, those who live and love, will die again and again.

So here I am at my cards once more, but it’s kind of spoiling my play,
Thinking of those three brats of his so many a mile away.
War is war, and he’s only a Boche, and we all of us take our chance;
But all the same I’ll be mighty glad when I’m hearing the ambulance.
One foe the less, but all the same I’m heartily glad I’m not
The man who gave him his broken head, the sniper who fired the shot.

No trumps you make it, I think you said?  You’ll pardon me if I err;
For a moment I thought of other things . . .

Robert W. Service.


For oh, when the war will be over
We’ll go and we’ll look for our dead;
We’ll go when the bee’s on the clover,
And the plume of the poppy is red:
We’ll go when the year’s at its gayest,
When meadows are laughing with flow’rs;
And there where the crosses are greyest,
We’ll seek for the cross that is ours.

For they cry to us:  'Friends, we are lonely,
A-weary the night and the day;
But come in the blossom-time only,
Come when our graves will be gay:
When daffodils all are a-blowing,
And larks are a-thrilling the skies,
Oh, come with the hearts of you glowing,
And the joy of the Spring in your eyes.

'But never, oh, never come sighing,
For ours was the Splendid Release;
And oh, but ‘twas joy in the dying
To know we were winning you Peace!
So come when the valleys are sheening,
And fledged with the promise of grain;
And here where our graves will be greening,
Just smile and be happy again.’

And so, when the war will be over,
We’ll seek for the Wonderful One;
And maiden will look for her lover,
And mother will look for her son;
And there will be end to our grieving,
And gladness will gleam over loss,
As–glory beyond all believing!
We point . . . to a name on a cross.

Robert W. Service.

      Young Fellow My Lad

“Where are you going, Young Fellow My Lad,
On this glittering morn of May?”
“I’m going to join the Colours, Dad;
They’re looking for men, they say.”
“But you’re only a boy, Young Fellow My Lad;
You aren’t obliged to go.”
“I’m seventeen and a quarter, Dad,
And ever so strong, you know.”

      .    .    .    .    .

“So you’re off to France, Young Fellow My Lad,
And you’re looking so fit and bright.”
“I’m terribly sorry to leave you, Dad,
But I feel that I’m doing right.”
“God bless you and keep you, Young Fellow My Lad,
You’re all of my life, you know.”
“Don’t worry.  I’ll soon be back, dear Dad,
And I’m awfully proud to go.”

      .    .    .    .    .

“Why don’t you write, Young Fellow My Lad?
I watch for the post each day;
And I miss you so, and I’m awfully sad,
And it’s months since you went away.
And I’ve had the fire in the parlour lit,
And I’m keeping it burning bright
Till my boy comes home; and here I sit
Into the quiet night.”

      .    .    .    .    .

“What is the matter, Young Fellow My Lad?
No letter again to-day.
Why did the postman look so sad,
And sigh as he turned away?
I hear them tell that we’ve gained new ground,
But a terrible price we’ve paid:
God grant, my boy, that you’re safe and sound;
But oh I’m afraid, afraid.”

      .    .    .    .    .

"They’ve told me the truth, Young Fellow My Lad:
You’ll never come back again:
For you passed in the night, Young Fellow My Lad,
And you proved in the cruel test
Of the screaming shell and the battle hell
That my boy was one of the best.

“So you’ll live, you’ll live, Young Fellow My Lad,
In the gleam of the evening star,
In the wood-note wild and the laugh of the child,
In all sweet things that are.
And you’ll never die, my wonderful boy,
While life is noble and true;
For all our beauty and hope and joy
We will owe to our lads like you.”

Robert W. Service

Thank You 97 B-LINE for your dedication to these poems…I am printing them off and sending them to my Dad as I know that he has misplaced his own book and is very fond of his poetry. As I posted earlier, these bring back many memories for me as an Air Force “Brat” and as my Dad is living in Ontario, it is a wonderful subject for us to chat about, especially today…Thank You

Well I am not familiar with these poems you speak of but I hope your father and you connect and bring back memories for you both. It was cold but clear at the gathering in front of the court house. I met one elder gentleman who always wishes to go but it is still so hard on him, still brings back so many horrible memories.

Yes Justin Case, the Veterans that are getting on and have had many years to remember and mourn lost Comrades will have many painful memories.
For those who didn’t have to go through the hell of war, these poems by Robert Service, and other war poems, and especially John McCrae’s ‘In Flanders Fields’ have to be read over and over again with the reader’s heart open to the horror of it all.
Many times Words themselves cannot covey the message without the willingness on the part of the reader to understand and appreciate the message of the poem.
And Codybear, I am so glad that I posted these poems, if only for the pleasure of you Father, but I also hope that many others
Have appreciated the poetry of Robert Service. 
My Grandfather was a veteran of WW1 and I have inherited his Anthology of Robert Service’s poems.
I can only say that reading, and rereading this volume has brought me a greater appreciation for the brave people who have gone before us.
Most likely, not many of us adults here now will never have the necessity to go to war, but we still need to keep our minds open to the past because our grandchildren or great grandchildren may be thrown into a future conflict which may be even more horrible Than the last ones.   

So, Please, Read and appreciate:

          The Lark

From wrath-red dawn to wrath-red dawn,
The guns have brayed without abate;
And now the sick sun looks upon
The bleared, blood-boltered fields of hate
As if it loathed to rise again.
How strange the hush!  Yet sudden, hark!
From yon down-trodden gold of grain,
The leaping rapture of a lark.

A fusillade of melody,
That sprays us from yon trench of sky;
A new amazing enemy
We cannot silence though we try;
A battery on radiant wings,
That from yon gap of golden fleece
Hurls at us hopes of such strange things
As joy and home and love and peace.

Pure heart of song! do you not know
That we are making earth a hell?
Or is it that you try to show
Life still is joy and all is well?
Brave little wings!  Ah, not in vain
You beat into that bit of blue:
Lo! we who pant in war’s red rain
Lift shining eyes, see Heaven too.

Robert W. Service.

The Mourners

I look into the aching womb of night;
I look across the mist that masks the dead;
The moon is tired and gives but little light,
  The stars have gone to bed.

The earth is sick and seems to breathe with pain;
A lost wind whimpers in a mangled tree;
I do not see the foul, corpse-cluttered plain,
  The dead I do not see.

The slain I WOULD not see . . . and so I lift
My eyes from out the shambles where they lie;
When lo! a million woman-faces drift
  Like pale leaves through the sky.

The cheeks of some are channelled deep with tears;
But some are tearless, with wild eyes that stare
Into the shadow of the coming years
  Of fathomless despair.

And some are young, and some are very old;
And some are rich, some poor beyond belief;
Yet all are strangely alike, set in the mould
  Of everlasting grief.

They fill the vast of Heaven, face on face;
And then I see one weeping with the rest,
Whose eyes beseech me for a moment’s space. . . .
  Oh eyes I love the best!

Nay, I but dream.  The sky is all forlorn,
And there’s the plain of battle writhing red:
God pity them, the women-folk who mourn!
  How happy are the dead!

Robert W. Service.

        The Twins

There were two brothers, John and James,
And when the town went up in flames,
To save the house of James dashed John,
Then turned, and lo! his own was gone.

And when the great World War began,
To volunteer John promptly ran;
And while he learned live bombs to lob,
James stayed at home and–sneaked his job.

John came home with a missing limb;
That didn’t seem to worry him;
But oh, it set his brain awhirl
To find that James had–sneaked his girl!

Time passed.  John tried his grief to drown;
To-day James owns one-half the town;
His army contracts riches yield;
Robert W. Service.

                    My Job

I’ve got a little job on ‘and, the time is drawin’ nigh;
At seven by the Captain’s watch I’m due to go and do it;
I wants to ‘ave it nice and neat, and pleasin’ to the eye,
And I ‘opes the God of soldier men will see me safely through it.
Because, you see, it’s somethin’ I 'ave never done before;
And till you ‘as experience noo stunts is always tryin’;
The chances is I’ll never 'ave to do it any more:
At seven by the Captain’s watch my little job is . . . DYIN’.

I’ve got a little note to write; I’d best begin it now.
I ain’t much good at writin’ notes, but here goes:  “Dearest Mother,
I’ve been in many ‘ot old ‘do’s’; I’ve scraped through safe some’ow,
But now I’m on the very point of tacklin’ another.
A little job of hand-grenades; they called for volunteers.
They picked me out; I’m proud of it; it seems a trifle dicky.
If anythin’ should 'appen, well, there ain’t no call for tears,
And so . . . I ‘opes this finds you well.–Your werry lovin’ Micky.”

I’ve got a little score to settle wiv them swine out there.
I’ve 'ad so many of me pals done in it’s quite upset me.
I’ve seen so much of bloody death I don’t seem for to care,
If I can only even up, how soon the blighters get me.
I’m sorry for them perishers that corpses in a bed;
I only ‘opes mine’s short and sweet, no linger-longer-lyin’;
I’ve made a mess of life, but now I’ll try to make instead . . .
It’s seven sharp.  Good-bye, old pals! . . . A DECENT JOB IN DYIN’.

                              Bill the Bomber

The poppies gleamed like bloody pools through cotton-woolly mist;
The Captain kept a-lookin’ at the watch upon his wrist;
And there we smoked and squatted, as we watched the shrapnel flame;
‘Twas wonnerful, I’m tellin’ you, how fast them bullets came.
‘Twas weary work the waiting, though; I tried to sleep a wink,
For waitin’ means a-thinkin’, and it doesn’t do to think.
So I closed my eyes a little, and I had a niceish dream
Of a-standin’ by a dresser with a dish of Devon cream;
But I hadn’t time to sample it, for suddenlike I woke:
“Come on, me lads!” the Captain says, 'n I climbed out through the smoke.

We spread out in the open:  it was like a bath of lead;
But the boys they cheered and hollered fit to raise the bloody dead,
Till a beastly bullet copped ‘em, then they lay without a sound,
And it’s odd–we didn’t seem to heed them corpses on the ground.
And I kept on thinkin’, thinkin’, as the bullets faster flew,
How they picks the werry best men, and they lets the rotters through;
So indiscriminatin’ like, they spares a man of sin,
And a rare lad wot’s a husband and a father gets done in.
And while havin’ these reflections and advancin’ on the run,
A bullet biffs me shoulder, and says I:  “That’s number one.”

Well, it downed me for a jiffy, but I didn’t lose me calm,
For I knew that I was needed:  I’m a bomber, so I am.
I 'ad lost me cap and rifle, but I “carried on” because
I 'ad me bombs and knew that they was needed, so they was.
We didn’t ‘ave no singin’ now, nor many men to cheer;
Maybe the shrapnel drowned ‘em, crashin’ out so werry near;
And the Maxims got us sideways, and the bullets faster flew,
And I copped one on me flipper, and says I:  “That’s number two.”

I was pleased it was the left one, for I 'ad me bombs, ye see,
And 'twas ‘ard if they’d be wasted like, and all along o’ me.
And I’d lost me ‘at and rifle–but I told you that before,
So I packed me mit inside me coat and “carried on” once more.
But the rumpus it was wicked, and the men were scarcer yet,
And I felt me ginger goin’, but me jaws I kindo set,
And we passed the Boche first trenches, which was ‘eapin’ 'igh with dead,
And we started for their second, which was fifty feet ahead;
When something like a 'ammer smashed me savage on the knee,
And down I came all muck and blood:  Says I:  “That’s number three.”

So there I lay all ‘elpless like, and bloody sick at that,
And worryin’ like anythink, because I’d lost me ‘at;
And thinkin’ of me missis, and the partin’ words she said:
"If you gets killed, write quick, ol’ man, and tell me as you’re dead."
And lookin’ at me bunch o’ bombs–that was the 'ardest blow,
To think I’d never 'ave the chance to ‘url them at the foe.
And there was all our boys in front, a-fightin’ there like mad,
And me as could 'ave 'elped 'em wiv the lovely bombs I 'ad.
And so I cussed and cussed, and then I struggled back again,
Into that bit of battered trench, packed solid with its slain.

Now as I lay a-lyin’ there and blastin’ of me lot,
And wishin’ I could just dispose of all them bombs I’d got,
I sees within the doorway of a shy, retirin’ dug-out
Six Boches all a-grinnin’, and their Captain stuck 'is mug out;
And they 'ad a nice machine gun, and I twigged what they was at;
And they fixed it on a tripod, and I watched 'em like a cat;
And they got it in position, and they seemed so werry glad,
Like they’d got us in a death-trap, which, condemn their souls! they ‘ad.
For there our boys was fightin’ fifty yards in front, and 'ere
This lousy bunch of Boches they 'ad got us in the rear.

Oh it set me blood a-boilin’ and I quite forgot me pain,
So I started crawlin’, crawlin’ over all them mounds of slain;
And them barstards was so busy-like they ‘ad no eyes for me,
And me bleedin’ leg was draggin’, but me right arm it was free. . . .
And now they ‘ave it all in shape, and swingin’ sweet and clear;
And now they’re all excited like, but–I am drawin’ near;
And now they ‘ave it loaded up, and now they’re takin’ aim. . . .
Rat-tat-tat-tat!  Oh here, says I, is where I join the game.
And my right arm it goes swingin’, and a bomb it goes a-slingin’,
And that “typewriter” goes wingin’ in a thunderbolt of flame.

Then these Boches, wot was left of 'em, they tumbled down their ‘ole,
And up I climbed a mound of dead, and down on them I stole.
And oh that blessed moment when I heard their frightened yell,
And I laughed down in that dug-out, ere I bombed their souls to hell.
And now I’m in the hospital, surprised that I’m alive;
We started out a thousand men, we came back thirty-five.
And I’m minus of a trotter, but I’m most amazin’ gay,
For me bombs they wasn’t wasted, though, you might say, “thrown away”.

Robert W. Service