Francis E. Ledwidge
A prolific poet noted for his pastoral pieces about Ireland; his last poems made subtle reference to war.
He had already served in Gallipoli and Salonika with the 5th Bn of the Inniskillings before returning to France with the 1st Bn in December 1916.
When I was young I had a care
Lest I should cheat me of my share
Of that which makes it sweet to strive
For life, and dying still survive,
A name in sunshine written higher
Than lark or poet dare aspire.
But I grew weary doing well.
Besides, ‘twas sweeter in that hell,
Down with the loud banditti people
Who robbed the orchards, climbed the steeple
For jackdaws’ eyes and made the cock
Crow ere ‘twas daylight on the clock.
I was so very bad the neighbours
Spoke of me at their daily labours.
And now I’m drinking wine in France,
The helpless child of circumstance.
To-morrow will be loud with war,
How will I be accounted for?
It is too late now to retrieve
A fallen dream, too late to grieve
A name unmade, but not too late
To thank the gods for what is great;
A keen-edged sword, a soldier’s heart,
Is greater than a poet’s art.
And greater than a poet’s fame
A little grave that has no name.
By Francis E. Ledwidge
Original text: The Complete Poems of Francis Ledwidge, intro. by Lord Dunsany (London: Herbert Jenkins, 1919): 259-60. British Library 011649.g.88