Wednesday, 14 November 2018


The leaves of autumn rustle ’neath my feet,
    And trees, that in the spring, have looked so fair,
And shelter gave through storm or summer heat,
  Now stretch their arms to heaven, all bleak and bare.
The winds that whistle o'er the lea proclaim
  The approach of darker days that follow fast;
No more is heard the thrush’s glad refrain,
  The joys of spring and summer days are past.
The Honeysuckle’s delicate perfume
  In evening walks shall gladden us no more;
The flowers are dead that decked the fields with bloom,
  Their little life of bright and beauty’s o’er.
And in our hearts a warning note we hear—
  “The sweets of life, how quickly all are past;
Our pleasant dreams, how soon they disappear;
  No joy on earth is ever given to last.”
And yet, why need we sadly mourn lost joy.
  Or pleasures fair that held our lives enthralled;
The sweets of life, are mixed with life’s alloy.
  Its brightest day some shadows doth enfold.
But ’tis not death that autumn winds foretell,
  But tired nature, gently lulled to sleep
By unseen hands, that ruleth all things well,
  And in His keeping rest, secure and, deep.
To wake again, with fresher beauty given,
  Renewed in strength, and all that now seem lost.
Healed from the wounds, which storm-clouds oft have riven.
  Anew shall bloom those buds onoe nipped by frost.
So we shall wake some happy morn to find
  Our winter days, and all their clouds have passed;
The storms that rent our hearts lie far behind.
  Secure we’ll rest in that fair haven at last.
No autumn days will sadden that fair spring—
  The “eternal spring” for which our lives were planned;
What tho’ these fleeting years, their sorrows bring,
  New joys await us in that “Better Land."

IVY. Londonderry.

Poem: The Witness, 15 November 1918

Thursday, 8 November 2018

The Road to Victory

Thorny and broken, crimson paven,
  Chill with the winds that blow from night;
With many footsteps deeply graven,
  Hidden in shade and bathed in light.

Winding afar thro’ dale and valley.
  Twining on high, up hill and steep;
Trodden by hosts that may not dally,
  Followed by eyes that never sleep.

Beaten of old by travellers lonely,
  Bordered with hopes and joys and fears;
Followed by hosts, yet each one only.
  Beating his way thro' blood and tears.

This is the way that we must follow.
  Grief scarred and dark, incarnadined;
And at the end the bauble hollow.
  Or the Great Crown, which may we find.


Poem: The Witness, 22nd November 1918.
Image: Men of the 8th Battalion, East Yorkshire Regiment going up to the line near Frezenberg during the Third Battle of Ypres 1917. IWM Q 2978.

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Unknown British Soldier – An Epitaph

He was killed just there, and they buried him
Where the wind fills up her cup to brim
Of the dews of evening pure and sweet
That she shall pour on the Traveller's Feet
Who comes, where the crosses cluster round
And makes of the grey earth holy ground.

The crimson sunset lent a pall,
Whispering, “This is best of all,"
And the Dawn laid downher robe of day,
Tender and soft where the sleeper lay.
“Not yet enough," the good God said,
And He spread poppies, flaming red.

That they may not miss him who come to find
The grave of the lad long left behind;
For the winds are rich with fragrance rare,
And the touch of the Saviour's hand is there,
Twining around the humble tomb
Borne of Calvary’s richest bloom.


Poem for The Witness, 11 October 1918

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Seaside Thoughts

I looked on the silver, shimmering sea,
And a message of peace it brought to me,
As it mirrored the infinite blue above
’Twas an emblem fair of eternal love;
A message of peace to a world of woe,
A healing balm to the souls that know
Of the wounds of sorrow, and pangs of grief,
Unto tired hearts a sweet relief.

A holy calm like a healing balm
Or hallowed hush at the close of day;
Were life’s sea like thee from tempests free
What a peaceful haven this earth would be;
Not a ripple of care on its bosom fair,
No sob of sorrow, or dark despair.

Then the glassy bosom rose and fell
As if a sob caused that surging swell;
But presently like a child at play
Over the rocks tossed the feathery spray;
And I thought of the varying scenes of life,
The playful prank's and the storms of strife,
The peaceful calm and the sunshine fair,
The nights of sorrow and days of care.

O ever changing, restless sea!
Such must life’s ocean ever be;
Not always for us the sunshine sweet,
The holy calm and restful retreat;
But storms and sorrows, tempests and tears,
Mingle with joys thro' the passing years.

I looked on the sea when the billows roared
And the frowning sky its torrents poured,
While not a gleam illumed the grey,
Save the seething foam of the silv’ry spray,
And all night long the storm raged high;
But morning came with a cloudless sky,
And I thought of the conflicts stern and grim
When my flickering faith waxed weak and dim.

When life’s skies were grey and on my way
No beacon gleamed or sunshine lay;
But dawning came at the darkest hour,
God’s sunshine dispelled the storm-cloud’s power;
So may the woes of warfare cease,
And Freedom’s dawn bring eternal peace.


Poem from The Witness, 20th September 1918

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Lough Neagh, and Home.

Son of Old Ireland, but his lot
Lies in a foreign, far-off spot;
He pauses oft, to think of — what?
   Lough Neagh; and home!

Twin pictures they have ever been,
A white familiar sheet — no scene
To thrill strange eyes — then fields of green,
    Lough Neagh, and home!

A house p’rhaps near the water’s edge,
Where grows the reed and clusters sedge,
And broods the crane like any sage;
    Lough Neagh, and home!

Maybe the Lough was miles away,
A treasured, view, as fair it lay —
How it sparkled in the morning ray!
    Lough Neagh, and home!

With water calm and weather fine
Someone, remembering Moore’s line.
Would try to see the “Round Towers” shine.
    Lough Neagh, and home!

Then bits of folklore, some old saying,
And some old tale is heard again,
Links here and there in memory’s chain:
    Lough Neagh, and home!

And will he not recall with both
The kindly province of his youth,
The very heart of which, in truth,
    Is Lough Neagh — and home?

And should he meet a pal or host,
Perchance, who makes the self-same boast,
Athrill they’d drink the common toast:
    “Lough Neagh, and Home!”


Poem from The Witness, 13 September 1918.
Image: Across Lough Neagh by John Halliday.

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

Verdun, 1917

The following poem is [was then] written by a schoolboy of fourteen,
at the C.I.M. school of Chefoe, China.

The German view:—

"It must be done!” the War Lord cries.
To Paris now your pathway lies.
Break thro’ the ranks, and all is done,
Our land is saved, the war is won.

"It must be done!" Despite the loss.
’Tis but a narrow line to cross.
But once you’ve crossed the battlefield
Your country’s fate, and yours, is sealed.

"It must be done!” Now to the work!
Your country’s crushed, if now, you shirk
Break thro’ the line — ’tis not for gain,
Break thro’ the line by might and main.

"It must be done!” Spare not the gun.
Begin e'en now, before the sun.
At once the foe, in dreadful fright
Will leave the field at your first sight.

“It must be done!” ’Tis done at last,
The foe has fled before our blast;
The line is won, and all is done,
The war and battle both are won.

“It has been done!” But we are pushed,
Our fondest dreams have now been crushed,
But we'll begin the strife anew,
And all, from us, for peace shall sue.

French View:–

“They shall not pass1!” A solemn hush
Greet at the dawn the foeman’s rush.
And when the Germans reach our wire,
Out bursts a living flame of fire.

“They shall not pass!" Fatigued, forlorn,
We fight throughout the sultry morn;
At e’en we tread with weary feet
The sombre pathway of retreat.

“They shall not pass!" The midnight pall,
With inky blackness covers all;
The star-shells flame — the shrapnels scream,
And loose their fatal leaden stream.

“They shall not pass!” The forest aisles
Ring to the tread of marching files,
The fertile fields are green no more.
But torn with shells, and, red with gore.

"They shall not pass!” With clarion blare
The stirring bugles rend the air.
And, following on its fearsome note,
A cheer bursts forth from every throat.

“They shall not pass!” The Marseillaise
Sounds forth anon our country’s praise;
And, re-encouraged by the strain,
We summon strength, and fight again.

“They shall not pass!” And once again
Are Douaumont and Vaux reta’en.
Once more we strive for liberty.
Once more our foes before us flee.

"They shall not pass!" The p├Žan sound
Awakes the echoes far around.
And now, in majesty unfurl'd,
Proud flies the flag that saved the world.

Chefoo, Feb., 1918.

Poem from The Witness, 23rd August 1918.
Painting Verdun, artist unknown.


Wednesday, 1 August 2018

Free Tram Rides

“The Belfast Corporation voted themselves free ‘passes’ on the new city tramways, on 1st January, 1905.” — City Press.

If you want gear, then never fear
   To grab and gather pelf;
But mind the penny, one or many,
   The pound will mind itself.

Our Councilmen of six times ten,
   The trustees of the people,
All sworn to ward our gold, and guard
   The town from sewer to steeple,

Have bought in fine the tramway line.
   And all its skinny horses;
And ere they die may 'lectrify
   The company’s old hearses.

But first they’ve tried and ’lectrified
   The people of the city
By issuing “pass” to every ass
   In office or committee.

Poor men may toil, and women moil.
   Their rags and hunger hiding,
While paying for each councillor
   On plush and velvet riding.

Our people work like Jap or Turk
   For barely food and clothing;
They’re so oppress’t they can’t protest,
   Nor show their silent loathing

For belted knights and baronites,
   And merchant princes many.
Who take their tram nor care a d------
   Who pays their wretched penny.

They’ll pay no more, nor go footsore,
   But show their “pass” and snigger,
And tax the poor, and crowd the car.
   And grin like any nigger!

The horses cheap can hardly creep
   Around from streets to stations.
Yet councillors now load the cars
   With their huge corporations.

No doubt they’re great and much elate,
   But then it’s hardly funny
That they should be so deuced free
   With other people’s money!

Great City Fathers! one soon gathers
   How stupid you must think us,
That we should vote and never note
   The way you all can blink us.

But are you not the meanest lot
   That ever ruled a city,
To tax the poor and load the car
   With neither shame nor pity?

From Antrim Idylls and other Poems 
by W Clarke Robinson (published 1907).

Image: Belfast City Tramways Horsecar No 23 taken in 1905 (after the corporation take-over). The car is still in the livery of the Belfast Street Tramways Company. From the National Tramway Museum.