English poet, scholar and novelist Robert Graves was born in South London in 1895. He studied at Oxford after serving on the front lines in WW1. The publication of his early collections Over The Brazier in 1916 and Fairies And Fusiliers in 1918, which contains many poems celebrating his friendship with fellow war poet Siegfried Sassoon, earned him the reputation as an accomplished war poet. During his long life he produced more than 140 works, many of which, have never been out of print. He died in 1985. This is:
COUNTRY AT WAR
By Robert Graves
And what of home—how goes it, boys,
While we die here in stench and noise?
“The hill stands up and hedges wind
Over the crest and drop behind;
Here swallows dip and wild things go
On peaceful errands to and fro
Across the sloping meadow floor,
And make no guess at blasting war.
In woods that fledge the round hill-shoulder
Leaves shoot and open, fall and moulder,
And shoot again. Meadows yet show
Alternate white of drifted snow
And daisies. Children play at shop,
Warm days, on the flat boulder-top,
With wildflower coinage, and the wares
Are bits of glass and unripe pears.
Crows perch upon the backs of sheep,
The wheat goes yellow: women reap,
Autumn winds ruffle brook and pond,
Flutter the hedge and fly beyond.
So the first things of nature run,
And stand not still for any one,
Contemptuous of the distant cry
Wherewith you harrow earth and sky.
And high French clouds, praying to be
Back, back in peace beyond the sea,
Where nature with accustomed round
Sweeps and garnishes the ground
With kindly beauty, warm or cold—
Alternate seasons never old:
Heathen, how furiously you rage,
Cursing this blood and brimstone age,
How furiously against your will
You kill and kill again, and kill:
All thought of peace behind you cast,
Till like small boys with fear aghast,
Each cries for God to understand,
‘I could not help it, it was my hand.’”