A Soldier’s Cemetery completely captures the futility and sorrow of the First World War. It’s brilliantly moving and is rightfully regarded as being one of the finest pieces of poetry to come out of the trenches.
What’s even more upsetting is that John William Streets was killed before he could see his poems published and touch the hearts of a nation. He was missing for ten months before his body was found on the battlefield of the Somme on 1 May 1917.
Behind that long and lonely trenched line
To which men come and go, where brave men die,
There is a yet unmarked and unknown shrine,
A broken plot, a soldier’s cemetery.
There lie the flower of youth, the men who scorn’d
To live (so died) when languished Liberty:
Across their graves flowerless and unadorned
Still scream the shells of each artillery.
When war shall cease this lonely unknown spot
Of many a pilgrimage will be the end,
And flowers will shine in this now barren plot
And fame upon it through the years descend:
But many a heart upon each simple cross
Will hang the grief, the memory of its loss.
Written by John William Streets