Poems of remembrance - listen to the greatest World War 1 poetry

The most poignant and powerful poems of the first world war, read by Classic FM's presenters.

British troops moving up to the trenches

Rupert Brooke: The Soldier 

Read by John Suchet

If I should die, think only this of me:
    That there's some corner of a foreign field
That is forever England. There shall be
    In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
    Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England's, breathing English air,
    Washed by the rivers, blest by the suns of home.

And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
    A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
        Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
    And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
        In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.

Rudyard Kipling: My Boy Jack

Read by Jane Jones

“Have you news of my boy Jack?”
    Not this tide.
“When d’you think that he’ll come back?”
    Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.

“Has any one else had word of him?”
    Not this tide.
For what is sunk will hardly swim,
    Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.

“Oh, dear, what comfort can I find?”
    None this tide,
Nor any tide,
    Except he did not shame his kind —
Not even with that wind blowing, and that tide.

Then hold your head up all the more,
    This tide,
And every tide;
    Because he was the son you bore,
And gave to that wind blowing and that tide!

Wilfred Owen: Dulce et Decorum Est

Read by John Brunning

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
    Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
    And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
    But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
    Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.

Gas! Gas! Quick, boys!—An ecstasy of fumbling,
    Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
    And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime...
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
    As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
    He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
    Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
    His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
    Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
    Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
    To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
    Pro patria mori.

Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae: In Flanders Fields

Read by Tim Lihoreau 

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
      Between the crosses, row on row,
   That mark our place; and in the sky
   The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
   Loved and were loved, and now we lie
         In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
   The torch; be yours to hold it high.
   If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
         In Flanders fields.

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