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Jessie Pope

1868–1941

Jessie Pope was born in 1868 in Leicester, England. She studied at the North London Collegiate School for Girls. She began writing articles and light, often humorous verse for Punch magazine and other popular publications. She is best known for her poetry of World War I, published in Jessie Pope’s War Poems (G. Richards, 1915) and More War Poems (G. Richards, 1915). Though Pope was widely read during the war, she is often vilified now for her poetry’s light-hearted, pro-war sentiments, especially in comparison to contemporaries such as Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon. She died on December 14, 1941, in Devon, England.

By This Poet

10

Lights Out!

Darkness—expectant, discreet—
    Only a lamp here and there,
Gloom in the clattering street,
    Stygian black in the square;
Dazzling fascias and fronts,
    Scintillant sky-scrapers banished,
Snuffed and shut down are the spangles of Town.
            London has vanished.

Only a few months ago
    London woke up every night;
Dances or “Chemin” or Show,
    Festival vistas or light.
Everywhere glitter and glare,
    Junket and revelry keeping.
Yes, but despite the laughter and light,
             London was sleeping.

Searchlights are probing the skies,
    Eastward their streamers are trailed;
Masked are the city’s bright eyes—
    Even the tramcars are veiled.
Cockneys turn in at eleven,
    “Stop Press” thirst finally slaked.
Turn the lights out. Now, without doubt,
	 London’s awake!

Play the Game

Twenty-two stalwarts in stripes and shorts
    Kicking a ball along,
Set in a square of leather-lunged sports
    Twenty-two thousand strong,
Some of them shabby, some of them spruce,
    Savagely clamorous all,
Hurling endearments, advice or abuse,
    At the muscular boys on the ball. 

Stark and stiff ’neath a stranger’s sky
    A few hundred miles away,
War-worn, khaki-clad figures lie,
    Their faces rigid and grey—
Stagger and drop where the bullets swarm,
    Where the shrapnel is bursting loud,
Die, to keep England safe and warm—
    For a vigorous football crowd!

Football’s a sport, and a rare sport too,
    Don’t make it a source of shame.
To-day there are worthier things to do.
    Englishmen, play the game!
A truce to the League, a truce to the Cup,
    Get to work with a gun.
When our country’s at war, we must all back up—
    It’s the only thing to be done!

The Outpost

The dying sunset’s slanting rays
    Incarnadine the soldier’s deed,
His sturdy countenance betrays
               The bull-dog breed.

Not his to shun the stubborn fight,
    The struggle against cruel odds.
Alone, unaided—'tis a sight
                For men and gods.

And now his back is bowed and bent,
    Now stooping, now erect he stands,
And now the red life blood is sprent
                From both his hands.

He takes his enemies on trust
    As one who sees and yet is blind,
For every mutilating thrust
                Comes from behind.

’Tis done! The dying sun has gone,
    But triumph fills the soldier’s breast.
He’s sewn his back brace button on
                While fully dressed.

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