Thursday, July 2, 2015

Peace and a pint



Hardly any of the "light verse" that was written during the First World War is reprinted or remembered, but reams of it was written.  The following short poem was found in Captain Hugh Stewart Smith's journal after he was killed in an attack on the German trenches at High Wood on August 18, 1916, part of the offensive of the Battle of the Somme that began ninety-nine years ago on July 1, 1916.  You can listen to Michael Murpurgo read the poem in a video prepared by the Commonwealth War Grave Commission at this link. 
From the Forces War Records

On the plains of Picardy
Lay a soldier, dying
Gallantly, with soul still free
Spite the rough world’s trying.
Came the Angel who keeps guard
When the fight has drifted,
"What would you for your reward
When the clouds have lifted?"
Then the soldier through the mist
Heard the voice and rested
As a man who sees his home
When the hill is breasted –
This his answer and I vow
Nothing could be fitter –
Give me peace, a dog, a friend
And a glass of bitter!

Hugh Smith is buried at Caterpillar Valley Cemetery, Longueval, France.  He was an only son.  It seems fitting to raise a glass to a man who didn't make it home to see the peace or have his pint.  
Hugh Stewart Smith, from his book Verses,
courtesy of Corpus Christi College Library, Oxford

Caterpillar Valley Cemetery, the Somme




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