Photo by Metin Ozer on Unsplash
The below poem won first prize in the SSA (Soldiers’ Arts Academy) International Poetry Competition 2021.
Lest We Forget
Who now will speak for those lost souls whose ashen faces stare, What breath is heard upon their fate as stirs the saddened air, What news of Daniels, Dorey, Foot, has ought been said of Lee, Does no one person know of them that once were known to me. Who'll tell their tale and say what chance, or deed of valour lay The careless hand of death's cold touch upon their final day, How anguished were those fleeting hours, how dimmed their parting sight What fear or sorrow did they hold in life’s last fading light. By bullet's crack or mortar blast or bayonets searching blade, The Reaper came to steal their spark, his bonfire ready laid, Their spark to add to his great blaze of robbed humanity, Another name on silent stone unknown to all but we. Then surely still there's Mitchell, or the brothers Diment three, Or Cutler, Skiller, Christopher, or Warren, what of he, With friends as these I thought me blessed, are they too written there, Now pressed beneath some foreign soil, removed from mortal care. Did other friends unknowing share those winged grains of time, 'Fore silent death defiled the bloom of youth's exultant prime, Since unremarked life's moments pass, dissolve and soon forgot, 'Till fortune points, a man's last hour's the same as one that's not. So all are lost, while I remain, and mark each passing day, The life they treasured come for me as dead as now they lay, That greatest prize, denied their grasp, made worthless in my hand, While I survive to tread alone their path upon this land. For Burgess, Dennet, Honeybun, and Purchase, Samways, all Leave here the echo of their days and here their shadows fall, And we who knew them know them still, but time shall fade each trace, Save just these names alone engraved, when we are gone this place. and Robinson ..... ?
John writes: These are the WW1 names inscribed on the Dewlish, Dorset, village War Memorial. These men, all once known to others in this village, are now sadly just words carved in stone. In this, as in so many other places, such memorials bear silent but compelling witness.