dying_horse_bluecrossIan McFarlane writes to draw my attention to the following poem entiled 'A Soldier's Kiss':

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.


Ian writes that the poem was copied out by his grandfather, Jack May, in Ypres 1916, to reflect an occasion when his horse was shot from underneath him near Arras. Please see the photograph of the extract Jack made which was kept by Ian's grandmother. Jack's copy also featured later in 1918, in a local parish newspaper (see PDF attachment). (Kimpton Down is near Andover in Hampshire.)


Sources on the web cite the original author as follows (please see http://www.warpoetry.co.uk/war_poetry_new.html):

A neglected First World War poet who was once very popular Henry Chappell, 1874-1937

Introduced by Susan Sawyer

My great grand-father, Henry Chappell, was born in 1874 and died in 1937 aged of 63.

He became famous over night with his poem 'The Day' published in the Daily Express on 22nd August 1914. It was translated into many languages.

He also had poems published in the Daily Express (I think) on a regular basis.

He became known as the 'Bath Railway Poet' as he was a porter on Bath Station. As far as I know he was never in the forces, but he turned down promotion to keep in contact with people as they were his 'inspiration'.

He had a book published in 1918 entitled 'The Day and Other Poems'. of which I have a copy. There are several copies for sale onlin.

He also wrote a book about the railway called 'Life on the Iron Road'. It seems that after the First World War he became forgotten. The Daily Express must have many of his other poems in their archives. Also visit www.powell76.freeserve.co.uk as there is a poem of my great grandfather's on that site called A Soldier's Kiss.

Unofficially it was suggested he should became the new Poet Laureate. He was close friends with Rudyard Kipling and knew other famous poets of the time.

I feel he should have more recognition than he does at the moment, recognition being practically nil. Here is the poem.

The link referred to above by Susam Sawyer is the WFA South Wales Branch website. The website carries the poem and the image of the dying horse shown above. The site references the image, as follows:

Shown is the painting produced by Fortunato Matania during WW1 which seems to depict the scene set by the poem and captures the poem's thread, and is especially relative to the fourth verse.

However, more seems to be known about the artist than the poet. Matania who was an illustrator for "The Sphere" magazine during the Great War and he produced a number of WW1 posters and the poster shown below was a typical Matania work and inspired by the original picture.

The picture and poster both show a soldier on the battlefield of the Western front in WW1 cradling the head of a dying horse, This particular poster was produced for the American Red Star animal relief organisation, at Albany, New York in order to draw attention to the plight and relief of horses in the Great War. It has the heading "Help the Horse to save the soldier" and has the title "Good bye, old man" in a panel under the main picture.

Poster image courtesy of WFA South Wales Website and Bluecross


Attachments / downloads
Download this file (Jack_May_p1.pdf)Jack_May_p1.pdf[Parish newspaper publication of poem]1149 kB
Back to top