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3 July 2014updated 24 Jun 2021 12:35pm

The NS First World War poems: Edward Thomas and Robert Graves

Two poems by the First World War poets both appeared in the pages of the New Statesman – the first in June 1918, the second March 1919.

By Edward Thomas

No One Cares Less Than I
Edward Thomas

“No one cares less than I,
Nobody knows but God
Whether I am destined to lie
Under a foreign clod,”
Were the words I made to the bugle call in the morning.

But laughing, storming, scorning,
Only the bugles know
What the bugles say in the morning;
And they do not care when they blow
The call that I heard and made words to early this morning.


Thomas’s poem, published in the New Statesman of 1 June 1918, had the power of premonition: he arrived in France in late January 1917 and was killed less than three months later, on 9 April. He does indeed “lie under a foreign clod” – he is buried in the military cemetery at Agny, on the outskirts of Arras.

 

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Hate Not, Fear Not
Robert Graves

Kill if you must, but never hate,
Man is but grass and hate is blight;
The sun will scorch you soon or late,
Die wholesome then, since you must fight.

Hate is a fear, and fear is rot
That cankers root and fruit alike:
Fight cleanly then, hate not, fear not,
Strike with no madness when you strike.

Fever and fear distract the world,
But you be calm though madmen shout;
Through blazing fires of battle hurled,
Hate not, shrink not, but stare death out.


This poem appeared in the New Statesman of 22 March 1919. Graves, like his friend Siegfried Sassoon, was one of the few war poets to survive the fighting, not dying until 1985. He was, however, so badly wounded at the Battle of the Somme (1916) that his death in action was announced in the Times.