Journal For Poetry Challenge#7 17/03/2012

Below is a poem and picture showing a brave war horse dying with his loving soldier comforting him as he breathes his last. It is a very poignant poem and painting. It shows the deep love that grew between the horses and their human handlers.

Horses are gentle and sensitive animals not usually given to coping with noise and blood and the smell of death it must of been awful for them. It was horrific for the men who fought the war but these poor honourable animals gave their all and for their troubles they were treated as broken machinery when they were were dead and dying and the soldiers who had come to love them were ordered to move the carcasses aside, like so much broken machinery…………. it could not be done without much heart break.

The poem and the portrait show the close bond of love between the man and the beast war had drawn them together.War is evil and bad and to draw in to itself these innocent animals is just so sad.


It appears that nothing is known of the poet. Although there are several soldiers from WW1 named Henry Chappell mentioned in “Soldiers Died “, efforts have been made to try to trace the poet, and it would be fitting to ascertain whether he was a soldier in the Great War or merely a poet who lived at the time, or whether the poem was written some time after the War. A mystery nonetheless.

It is not known whether the poem was inspired by a picture (shown below), painted during the Great War by an artist called Fortunato Matania, or vice-versa, or that one was to complement the other. If anyone has any information on Henry Chappel and the poem, it would be a pleasure to publish it on Where  I found most of this information.

The Soldiers’ Kiss

A Soldier’s Kiss

by Henry Chappell

Only a dying horse! pull off the gear,

And slip the needless bit from frothing jaws,

Drag it aside there, leaving the road way clear,

The battery thunders on with scarce a pause.

Prone by the shell-swept highway there it lies

With quivering limbs, as fast the life-tide fails,

Dark films are closing o’er the faithful eyes

That mutely plead for aid where none avails.

Onward the battery rolls, but one there speeds

Needlessly of comrades voice or bursting shell,

Back to the wounded friend who lonely bleeds

Beside the stony highway where he fell.

Only a dying horse! he swiftly kneels,

Lifts the limp head and hears the shivering sigh

Kisses his friend, while down his cheek there steals

Sweet pity’s tear, “Goodbye old man, Goodbye”.

No honours wait him, medal, badge or star,

Though scarce could war a kindlier deed unfold;

He bears within his breast, more precious far

Beyond the gift of kings, a heart of gold.

Poetry Challenge #7 is to create a journal of links and your reactions to poems by established (living or dead poets.) Details are here.  Example response is here. Mr. Linky for Challenge #7 is directly below:

mud, fear and death.

10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. gigoid
    Mar 17, 2012 @ 22:42:08

    I’m going to have to start filtering some of these animal posts; I find myself weeping too many times a day… very sad, but poignantly beautiful…. thanks….


  2. stevehallsbooks
    Mar 19, 2012 @ 15:45:48

    If our young were taught the horrors of war before the age of contract, it would be more difficult for those who profit from it to cause such misery and waste. A draft is only effective if the ones being drafted take the oath to be a part of the complex.


  3. granbee
    Mar 20, 2012 @ 19:37:19

    Our horses will truly give their lives for us. The least we can do is hold their heads and whisper comfort to them as they breathe their last. I was raised with horses; and my husband and I have worked with traumatized horses to rehabilitate them. This post swelled my heart and brought back many precious memories. Thank you.


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