‘Wiser Than Me’, A Remembrance Poem by Myself.

They stood so tall,

So tall and fast

Their uniforms decked with polished brass

For two whole minutes the silence did last

Blue, black, red and khaki

Air Force, Navy, Marines, Army

And each one did so wear upon them,

that little flower that grew among them

Amongst the crosses, row on row

On Flanders, Passchendale, the Somme and Marne

Oh, how they did grow

 

At once the bugle did sound again

Breaking the silence, once again

The silence to remember, oh so many men

The silence that did mark the end

When the country would cease to send

So many off to fight a war

They’d be home by Christmas, so many were sure

A glorious war?

A ghastly war?

That we remember, forevermore

 

‘But what does it mean?’ a young lad did ask,

To his Father, as the soldiers passed

Their duty, as always, unsurpassed

Past the many crosses, marked

He turned to his son, and began to answer;

‘Well, it’s for people like these, and like my own Father’s Father,

Your Great Grandad Tommy was the man they were after,

He would fight for King and Country, and go so much farther’

And the man he did speak of, that soldier called Tommy,

He was young, in his prime, eager and bonnie

But little would he know, little of what would be remembered by the poppy

 

‘Well, he’s Tommy from the village, Tommy from the shop,’ they said

‘There goes Tommy, to see the Kaiser off’

Tommy’s off to war, Tommy’s heading off

‘But he can’t go, he’s just a boy,’ how some were heard to say

But off to the recruiting sergeant, off he was today

‘Tommy will see the Hun off,’ others so did say

‘Tommy’s off! Tommy’s off! He’s o’er the hills and far away’

 

‘Well here are your boots and here’s your tin hat,

Here’s your wool greatcoat, you’ll be needing that’

And one more item, so the captain did tell

‘Here is your rifle, now shoot with it well’

And so he would shoot with it

Shoot it so well

Through the hundreds of miles of death

And thousands of yards of hell.

 

‘Day three on the front’, he would write off to home

‘I may be at war, but I’m by no means alone

I have friends by my side, of that I do know

The lads I am with will see me through this whole show

Atkins is one of them, and he likes often to ask,

“Well what’s this war about?” in the spare moments that pass

“Why does Lord Kitchener make us do this whole task?”

But I promise you dearest, I’ll be back in not long

When the fighting will end, and we play our last marching song.’

 

But the war it dragged on, now 1918

The battle raged on, and the things Tommy had seen

Well nothing before it was quite so obscene

Nothing he’d imagined back in 1914

But to get home still, was he so keen

But the pain, the shame, the endless rain

Of the shells that hit the ground again

Hitting the earth with a terrible thud

Throwing up rubble, and clods of mud

Tommy sees the chaos, the heartbreak and blood

In that terrible trench, where the dead did flood.

And the mire, the wire, the raging fire!

The cannon smoke it was so dire

‘But why is it us,’ Atkins said

‘Us who must face the enemy’s ire’  

 

But poor old Atkins, well, he soon did fall

Struck by shrapnel, like so many more

Like so many that were yet to fall, and so many that did so before

Another one taken by this terrible war

The war, so rightly remembered, forevermore

 

But Atkins’ question required an answer

And on the eleventh hour, Tommy did ponder

On the eleventh day of the month of November

When cannon fell silent, Tommy did remember

The thing Atkins asked, and so Tommy did wonder

‘Why are we here,’ was the question so posed

Why was he there, could anyone know?

Know any more than a son who asks to his father,

‘What’s it all about?’ a whole hundred years later

Now in a time that is so much safer

Where it’s easy to forget those who volunteered for danger

For to do the cowardly thing was not in their nature

 

But all of a sudden, there was a strange breeze

And then came a whisper, which made them weak to their knees

‘It’s Tommy here,’ so the whisper did say

‘I see you’ve been asking the same question again

The same one as old Atkins, just in a slightly different way

Well to answer you why, and my friend Atkins too

Why myself and he fought, and why the poppy is worn by you

For this is a world where terrible things happen

And where people can jump on an awful bandwagon

And in the wars and regimes, not so long after mine, how that did happen

And if we did not know of that, we would be so lacking

But when you look back through the dark clouds of history,

You can hope to do better, to keep freedom and harmony

And so every year, when you wear a poppy,    

You are so reminded of why you are free

And you pay heed to our sacrifice, so you can be wiser than me’

 

 

 

Angus Andrews, 2018.

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