The Friday Poem this week is ‘From the Somme’, by journalist, poet and soldier of the first world war, Leslie Coulson. The poem was included in a collection of poetry, ‘first world war poems’, published in 2014.
“Leslie Coulson fought in Malta, Egypt and Gallipoli, where he was wounded. He recovered in hospital in Egypt, was sent to France and was killed in action at the Battle of the Somme. Shortly before he died, he wrote in a letter, ‘If I should fall do not grieve for me. I shall be one with the wind and the sun and the flowers.'”
In remembrance of the Battle of the Somme, one of the lesser known poets of the great war reflects on the impact of the battle on his worldview. His voice carries through the century to speak to all who are transformed by tragedy.
From the Somme
In other days I sang of simple things,
Of summer dawn, and summer noon and night,
The dewy grass, the dew-wet fairy rings,
The larks long golden flight.
Deep in the forest I made melody
While squirrels cracked their hazel nuts on high,
Or I would cross the wet sand to the sea
And sing to sea and sky.
When came the silvered silence of the night
I stole to casements over scented lawns,
And softly sang of love and love’s delight
To mute white marble fauns.
Oft in the tavern parlour I would sing
Of morning sun upon the mountain vine,
And, calling for a chorus, sweep the string
In praise of good red wine.
I played with all the toys the gods provide,
I sang my songs and made glad holiday
Now I have cast my broken toys aside
And flung my lute away.
A singer once, I now am fain to weep,
Within my soul I feel strange music swell,
Vast chants of tragedy too deep – too deep
For my poor lips to tell.
Leslie Coulson (1889-1916) ‘first world war poems’ edited by Jane McMorland Hunter, 2014