Tuesday, October 16, 2018

The Little Folk

Francis F. Hogan

In his war memoir Toward the Flame, Hervey Allen remembers a night near Chateau Thierry when he learned of a friend encamped nearby: “Francis Hogan, a friend of mine, was in that regiment [4th US Infantry], and I determined to see him that night. It was one of those decisions that comes of itself and leaves no doubt in your mind that it is what you are going to do.” Despite getting lost and nearly stumbling into German lines, Allen found Hogan, and the two men sat in the dark and “shared a close talk.”* It would be the last time they would meet: Hogan was killed in the Meuse-Argonne offensive on October 17, 1918, less than four weeks before the war’s end. 

Before enlisting in the American Expeditionary Force, Hogan studied at Carnegie Tech in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; several of his poems are included in Carnegie Tech War Verse (1918). 

The Little Folk

The little leaves, the little leaves,
Thou Shalt Not Steal
John Singer Sargent ©IWM ART 1609 
I wonder if they know
The reason for the thundering
That makes them tremble so;
Or do they think the rain will come
And then a quiet sun?
Ah, many days there’ll be
Before the war is done.

The little birds, the little birds,
 I wonder if they see
The reason for the bursting shell
That tears the nesting tree;
Or do they think the hunt is on,
And they must take to flight?
Ah. there’ll be hunts on many hills
Before the world is right.

The little vines, the little vines,
I wonder have they found
Why yonder soldier lies so still,
And what has stained the ground;
Or do they think that wine is red,
And men who drink, drink deep?
Ah, many more shall drink with him
And he still lie asleep.
            —Francis F. Hogan

Poetry magazine’s Harriet Monroe reviewed Carnegie Tech War Verse, describing it as “an ingratiating little pamphlet by Professor Haniel Long’s doughboy students, led by Francis F. Hogan and Richard Mansfield II, who both died in service.”**  In the foreword to the small anthology, the Carnegie Tech English professor Long wrote,

There have always been boys and girls who insisted on being poets. Why, nobody knows; but the phenomenon has a depressing effect upon those who feel that this is no world to be a poet in.  Being a poet is a pretty risky way, one hears, of living one’s life.  But others regard it as a fine thing to be young and to be a poet.  And to be young and to be a poet in an age when the world is vastly disturbed and there is a great fight to be fought for liberty,—such a destiny has seemed altogether glorious to-day in the eyes of many a young man and young woman.  And to go forth and to die as a poet, what other destiny is like this?
....The poems in this volume came from a group of students in the school of the arts at the Carnegie Institute of Technology.  Before the War these students were writing and dreaming.  The war came, and scattered them.  But they continue to write, and some of their songs came back to the deserted corridors and studios and rehearsal rooms of the school.  For those who will sing no more, whose beloved faces we may no longer see, may this book be a cry at parting, and a lasting salute.***
* Hervey Allen, Toward the Flame, Farrar & Rinehart, 1926, pp. 69, 76.
** Harriet Monroe, “Anthologies,” Poetry, vol. 14, no. 5, Aug. 1919, p. 283.
*** Haniel Long, “Foreword,” Carnegie Tech War Verse, Carnegie Institute of Technology, 1918, pp. 5, 6-7.

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