The War Poetry Website
Hope and Survival
Poems on this page
A wish by Maxine Kendall
St Paul's by Namur King
Making or Breaking by David Roberts
There will be peace by David Roberts
Ode to a snowdrop during wartime by Namur King
Maybe it is pointless
To wish for lasting peace
For all mankind to lay down arms
For all fighting to cease
I could despair of seeing
Peace throughout the land
No longer hearing talk of war
Blood mixed with desert sand
We do not have the tolerance
For cultures not our own
Seeds fly on an ill wind
From beds where they are sown
Hope lies in a child's heart
Not yet turned to stone
A mind free of prejudice
A child not alone
If all children of the world
Held each others hand
They could do what we could not
Make a Brotherhood of Man.
Burlington, Ontario, Canada.
Maxine Kendall was born in the UK
(London May 11th 1941)
I walked to Ludgate Hill down from the Strand,
By broken beauty of a City’s shattered breast;
Where streets, tradition-steeped, were piled
With debris; where men fought fire to wrest,
From fiercest hate, the fragments of a grand
And glorious heritage; untiring men, who smiled.
I saw St. Clements Dane, and thought of Spring,
Of fashionable weddings and decades now done;
But smouldering walls and empty aisles were hushed
With silence of rebuke for splendour gone;
From ruined pews lost echoes seemed to ring
With peals of praise, but ravished bells lay crushed.
Then, poised out of chaos and this Dantesque dream,
Shrouded by smoke, the high familiar dome,
Splendidly proud above the crumbling walls
And devastation, the symbol of our Home,
And Britain’s faith and effort, shone supreme,
An edifice of glory, old St. Pauls.
New Year's Eve was approaching and I thought of the dawning of a new century, as Thomas Hardy had done one hundred years earlier. This poem was in part inspired by the first pictures of the earth taken from space. In the simplest possible terms the poem Making or Breaking sets out the choice before each of us. DR
Making or breaking
the whole of history,
our place on earth,
our place in time,
our fortune, good or bad,
in one picture,
we see our entire planet:
for the breaking
12 December 1999
bound together for the first time.
The above poem was set to music by Norwegian composer, Kim André Arnesen in 2016. In February 2017, as a choral piece, it was performed by the Kantorei Choir in Denver, Colorado. In 2018 it came out on a Naxos CD entitled Infinity.
A video of Making or Breaking made by the composer
There Will Be Peace
There will be peace:
when attitudes change;
when self-interest is seen as part of common interest;
when old wrongs, old scores, old mistakes
are deleted from the account;
when the aim becomes co-operation and mutual benefit
rather than revenge or seizing maximum personal or group gain;
when justice and equality before the law
become the basis of government;
when basic freedoms exist;
when leaders - political, religious, educational - and the police and media
wholeheartedly embrace the concepts of justice, equality, freedom, tolerance, and reconciliation as a basis for renewal;
when parents teach their children new ways to think about people.
There will be peace:
when enemies become fellow human beings.
There will be peace is a re-written version of the poem which appeared in Kosovo War Poetry in 2000. (See Books page.) It was written with the relations between Serbs and Kosovo Albanians in Kosovo in the years around 1999, in mind, but I also had in mind the relations between the Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland. DR To Kosovo War Poetry page. (link)
Ode to a snowdrop during wartime
Fragile flower, hiding your tender purity
In the green shrouds of unborn daffodils;
Tentative symbol of the ultimate surety,
Of Spring, you bring
A waft of beauty to these derelict hills.
Here is mud ! A sticky, filthy, foul morass,
Churned by marching men and wheels endlessly turning;
Where once were flowers and trees, soft dew-moist grass
And mossy banks - now tanks
Trundle noisily through, and the woods are burning.
And yet, I know the vibrant life that lies
Deep in defoliated trees, small flower;
All of Summer's sweetness soon to rise,
The drift, the lift
Eternally, now in your loneliest hour.