Julian Grenfell, the son of Lord Desborough, was born in 1888. Educated at Eton and Balliol College, Oxford, he joined the Royal Dragoons in 1910. During the next four years Grenfell served as a cavalry officer in India and South Africa.
On the outbreak of the First World War, Grenfell was sent to France. He soon obtained a reputation for bravery by stalking German snipers and then shooting them from close range. He was twice mentioned in dispatches and was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO).
Grenfell was badly wounded when shrapnel hit him during action near Ypres. Grenfell was taken to a hospital in Boulogne but died on 26th May 1915. A few days later his poem, Into Battle, was published in The Times. It later became one of the most popular poems of the First World War. (Source: Spartacus Educational Website)
The naked earth is warm with Spring,
And with green grass and bursting trees
Leans to the sun’s gaze glorying,
And quivers in the sunny breeze;
And Life is Colour and Warmth and Light,
And a striving evermore for these;
And he is dead who will not fight;
And who dies fighting has increase.
The fighting man shall from the sun
Take warmth, and life from the glowing earth;
Speed with the light-foot winds to run,
And with the trees to newer birth;
And find, when fighting shall be done,
Great rest, and fullness after dearth.
All the bright company of Heaven
Hold him in their high comradeship,
The Dog-Star, and the Sisters Seven,
Orion’s Belt and sworded hip.
The woodland trees that stand together,
They stand to him each one a friend;
They gently speak in the windy weather;
They guide to valley and ridge’s end.
The kestrel hovering by day,
And the little owls that call by night,
Bid him be swift and keen as they,
As keen of ear, as swift of sight.
The blackbird sings to him, “Brother, brother,
If this be the last song you shall sing,
Sing well, for you may not sing another;
In dreary, doubtful, waiting hours,
Before the brazen frenzy starts,
The horses show him nobler powers;
O patient eyes, courageous hearts!
And when the burning moment breaks,
And all things else are out of mind,
And only Joy-Of-Battle takes
Him by the throat, and makes him blind,
Through joy and blindness he shall know,
Not caring much to know, that still
Nor lead nor steel shall reach him, so
That it be not the Destined Will.
The thundering line of battle stands,
And in the air Death moans and sings:
But Day shall clasp him with strong hands,
And Night shall fold him in soft wings.
Written by Julian Grenfell – Flanders, April 1915