It is not necessary to conquer, only to love,

So lay down your arms men at the feet of a dove,

Let her wings clasp your worn brow to her breast,

White feathers of mercy, not cowardice, will let you find rest,

From the ‘theatre of war’, such a bland term for hell,

Where the props are quite deadly and producers as well,

And a cast of millions wait willingly in line,

To play their roles bravely in Incendiary Times.

Then the curtain goes up on bouquets of barbed wire,

Lacing trenches of thunder and acres of fire,

And through this melée shuffle Tommies and Hun,

Youth dressed as men, most teenagers with guns,

“March on boys, march on! Our future’s at stake!”,

Rank officers cry out, “Over the top for God’s sake!”

As mud-caked boots slide and slip on the slopes,

Leaps of faith turn to suicide in frenzied false hopes,

Acrid smoke chokes and gas rips at the lungs,

Faces, torn open, blood streams from the tongues,

Gore-splattered limbs and gaunt, shell-shocked stares

Show the truth of our dismembered sanity laid bare,

Upon battle-scarred ground that whispers and groans,

With the weight of the corpses, shrapnel and bones,

Where sighs of the dying are drowned by the sounds,

From horses in agony and whimpering hounds,

Meanwhile, in Blighty’s green, pleasant land,

The bread and circuses soon get out of hand,

Merchants of madness peddle lies for a price,

Sowing hate seeds of prejudice, propaganda and spite,

Politics water these gardens of contempt,

And churchmen stand by and watch murderous intent,

A liturgy of combat at altars of power,

Where depraved humanity sinks even lower,

Then comes the chorus in a poignant refrain,

The mothers and fathers lament children slain,

They turn away weeping with grief and bereft,

By the ghosts of their offspring, who exit stage left,

The spotlight now shines on two famous male leads,

A pin-up and Premier campaign and plead,

“Your country needs you!” and “Let’s go to war!”,

For Tommies, who heard them, there’ll be no encore.


A poem by Sarah Justine Packwood in acknowledgement that this year, 2018, will mark 100 years since the end of the First World War 1914 – 1918, then known as The Great War. 

Please note that the feature image above is from the nationwide art installation in the UK called There But Not There

© Sarah Justine Packwood, 5th April 2018


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