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Robert Graves: A certain cure for lust of blood

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

Robert Graves: Selections on war

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Robert Graves
A Dead Boche (1916)

robert_graves

To you who’d read my songs of War
And only hear of blood and fame,
I’ll say (you’ve heard it said before)
”War’s Hell!” and if you doubt the same,
Today I found in Mametz Wood
A certain cure for lust of blood:

Where, propped against a shattered trunk,
In a great mess of things unclean,
Sat a dead Boche; he scowled and stunk
With clothes and face a sodden green,
Big-bellied, spectacled, crop-haired,
Dribbling black blood from nose and beard.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. August 26, 2014 at 7:04 pm

    I’ve included ‘A Dead Boche’ in an oratorio commemorating the Great War called The Cool Web : A Robert Graves Oratorio. ‘A Dead Boche’, Robert Graves’ most famous war poem, is an incredible piece of writing and a stark warning to all those who would blindly wage and support war (without knowing the real consequences). I see the poem as a lament for humanity; it follows ‘Goliath and David’ in the oratorio and within the context of the piece as a whole it helps bring compassion for soldiers from both sides, and for humanity in general.

    This is certainly one of the most powerful First World War poems.

    Here’s a link to a recording:

    • richardrozoff
      August 26, 2014 at 7:58 pm

      Thank you greatly.
      The link to the music may be missing.
      Regarding the poem “A Dead Boche,” compare this from Graves’ Good-Bye to All That (1929):

      …I collected my overcoats and hurried out as quickly as I could, climbing out as quickly as I could, climbing through the wreckage of green branches. Going and coming, by the only possible route, I passed by the bloating and stinking corpse of a German with his back propped against a tree. He had a green face, spectacles, close-shaven hair; black blood was dripping from the nose and beard. I came across two other unforgettable corpses: a man of the South wales Borderers and one of the Lehr Regiment had succeeded in bayoneting each other simultaneously. A survivor of the fighting told me later that he had seen a young soldier of the Fourteenth Royal Welch bayoneting a German in parade-ground style, automatically exclaiming: ‘In, out, on guard!’

      • August 26, 2014 at 8:21 pm

        You’re very welcome, thank you.

        Yes, I found that section whilst reading the book before starting composition. An incredible WW1 auto-biography.

        100 years in 2016… not that long ago really.

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