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About this poet

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.

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!

This poem is in the public domain.

 

This poem is in the public domain.

 

Jessie Pope

Jessie Pope was born in 1868 in Leicester, England. 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). Pope died in 1941 in Devon, England.

by this poet

poem
In heaven, a pale uncertain star,
    Through sullen vapour peeps,
On earth, extended wide and far,
In all the symmetry of war,
    A weary army sleeps.

The heavy-hearted pall of night
    Obliterates the lines,
Save where a dying camp-fire’s light
Leaps up and flares, a moment bright,
    Then once again
poem
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,
poem
The call came in the stormy night,
    Beneath a stranger’s sky.
The soldier of a life-long fight,
    Still fighting, went to die.

His country’s honour was his goal;
    Patient, unswerving, brave,
His mind, his heart, his work, his soul—
    His very all, he gave.  

He toiled to rouse us from our sleep,