War Poems

Updated May 3, 2021 | Infoplease Staff

Meditations on War



If these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the king that led them to it . . .
compiled by Erin Martin

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Read these renowned poets' thoughts on war, with lines ranging from Stephen Crane's "war is kind" to William Shakespeare's "I am afeard there are few die well that die in a battle." Enjoy these poems during National Poetry Month (April), or any other time of year!

War Is Kind, Stephen Crane (1871-1900)

Do not weep, maiden, for war is kind.

Because your lover threw wild hands toward the sky

And the affrighted steed ran on alone,

Do not weep.

War is kind.

more . . .

Battleship: US Navy Photo

Dulce Et Decorum Est, Wilfred Owen (1893-1918)

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 gas-shells dropping softly behind.

more . . .

For the Union Dead, Robert Lowell (1917-1977)

On a thousand small town New England greens,

the old white churches hold their air

of sparse, sincere rebellion; frayed flags

quilt the graveyards of the Grand Army of the Republic.

The stone statues of the abstract Union Soldier

grow slimmer and younger each year

wasp-waisted, they doze over muskets

and muse through their sideburns . . .

more . . .

African-American Soldiers in World War II

Abraham Lincoln Walks at Midnight, Vachel Lindsay (1879-1931)

The sins of all the war-lords burn his heart.

He sees the dreadnaughts scouring every main.

He carries on his shawl-wrapped shoulders now

The bitterness, the folly, and the pain.

He cannot rest until a spirit-dawn

Shall come;-the shining hope of Europe free:

The league of sober folk, the Workers' Earth

Bringing long peace to Cornland, Alp, and Sea.

It breaks his heart that kings must murder still,

That all his hours of travail here for men

Seem yet in vain. And who will bring white peace

That he may sleep upon his hill again?

more . . .

At the Public Market Museum: Charleston, South Carolina, Jane Kenyon (1947-1995)

Who would choose this for himself?

And yet the terrible machinery

waited in place. With psalters

in their breast pockets, and gloves

knitted by their sisters and sweethearts,

the men in gray hurled themselves

out of the trenches, and rushed against

blue. It was what both sides

agreed to do.

more . . .

Wheat Field

Dry Loaf, Wallace Stevens (1879-1955)

It was soldiers went marching over the rocks

And still the birds came, came in watery flocks,

Because it was spring and the birds had to come.

No doubt that soldiers had to be marching

And that drums had to be rolling, rolling, rolling.

more (scroll down). . .

King Henry V, act IV, scene I, William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

I am afeard there are few die well that die in a battle; for how can they charitably dispose of any thing when blood is their argument? Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the king that led them to it, whom to disobey were against all proportion of subjection.

more . . .

On Being Asked for a War Poem, William Butler Yeats (1865-1939

I think it better that in times like these

A poet keep his mouth shut, for in truth

We have no gift to set a statesman right;

He has had enough of meddling who can please

A young girl in the indolence of her youth,

Or an old man upon a winter's night.

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