Birds in the Trenches (Poem)


Birds in the Trenches

Ye fearless birds that live and fly where men
Can venture not and live, that even build
Your nests where oft the searching shrapnel shrilled
And conflict rattled like a serpent, when
The hot guns thundered further, and from his den
The little machine-gun spat, and men fell piled
In long-swept lines, as when a scythe has thrilled,
And tall corn tumbled ne'er to rise again.

Ye slight ambassadors twixt foe and foe,
Small parleyers of peace where no peace is,
Sweet disregarders of man's miseries
And his most murderous methods, winging slow
About your perilous nests - we thank you, so
Unconscious of sweet domesticities.

by Willoughby Weaving

Harry Willoughby Weaving was born on 8 June 1885 in Cutteslowe, Oxford where his father was a brewer and maltster, and eventually, successful businessman. Willoughby's family lived for some years at Pewet House, Wootton, near Abington and after attending Abington School, he went up to Pembroke College, Oxford in 1905, graduating in 1911. During his time at Oxford, he was mentored by Robert Bridges, later Poet Laureate, who encouraged his writing and poetry. His first volume was published in 1913, and the last of his ten volumes in 1952. Some of his poetry contained reflections and observations on the First World War.

After graduating, Weaving took up an appointment as a junior master at Rockport School, County Down, Ireland, and when the First World War began in 1914 he enlisted and was commissioned into The Royal Irish Rifles on 20 October 1914. He served his probation with the 4th Battalion following which, on 28 August 1915, he was confirmed in the rank of Second Lieutenant. However, in November 1915, he was medically discharged and returned to teaching at Rockport. In 1921 he was one of the two founding headmasters of Elm Park Preparatory School near the village of Killylea in County Armagh.