The Hedge: as seen by a war poet

John William Streets died on 1st July in the Battle of the Somme. In the period before his death he wrote some memorable poems, frequently contrasting the hell of war with the beauty of nature. In this poem he describes a hedge on the battlefield.

The Hedge

Like memories born in a dream my Fancy around thee plays,
Re-embodies the life, the beauty of olden days
That were thine ere the scourge of war-
aflame in the sweet blue sky-
Wither’d thy full expanding life-leaving thy spring to die.

Those were the days when the violets bloom’d blue at thy brambly feet,
Beauty’s own flower, shedding upon the winds perfumes sweet;
When the bee went hunting down the trail of the celandine,
And the primrose starr’d the May with loveliness divine.
When the sunbeams played in thy leaves and the wild brook fled to a
tune;
When the wild rose trailed its beauty thro’ the noons of June;
When the silver-throated thrush sang on the dewy thorn,
And the lark sprang mad with love beyond the top of morn.

The wild birds hid their nests within thy secret bowers,
And sweet-faced children joyously gather’d thy pageant of flowers;
In the soft deep twilights of summer when the stars stole out in the night,
The moths on silken wings stole down thy ways in flight.
Now like a woman who keeps but the ghost of a wasted life,
Alluring, breeding pity, thy vestige fronts the strife:
With bullets and bursting shells, thy trees all splinter’d and torn
Thou remainest a ghost of thyself-a glory alas! now forlorn.

Behind thy broken line, brown faces their vigil keep,
Peering into the night, and into Death’s shadows deep;
Fronting the great unknown as thou frontest the twilight now,
Bold, enduring, grand, with flowers on thy scorch’d brow.

For thy sap still stirs in thy veins and defiant of death will rise
And weave thro’ the years’ wild beauty ‘neath soft summer skies-
And the men who peer thro’ thy leaves facing the battle’s
hot breath
Like thee will project their life beyond the phase of Death.

May, 1916.

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2 Comments

Filed under Historical Hedges, Literary Hedges

2 responses to “The Hedge: as seen by a war poet

  1. Jamie Roy Streets

    Thankyou for still appreciating my relatives work it’s nice to see his life was documented and still loved

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