Crimean War Poem – When Will the Battle End

Crimean War, Rediscovered 1856 Poem by Belfast Soldier

In 1855, there had been much talk across Europe of the escalation of the fighting in the Crimea. The Crimean War had started on October 16th 1853 and was to finally come to a close on March 30th 1856.

crimea poetry
Crimean War poem – sent home by a soldier from Belfast, Ireland

But by early 1856, one newspaper in the South of Ireland, the Southern Reporter and Cork Commercial Courier, lamented that “we have been perfectly deluged, for the past twelve months, with war poetry of every description….all animated by the war-spirit which breathes through the land.” They admitted that much of the material that they had received was not of very good quality.

But on the 11th January 1856, the newspaper published a wonderful poem that they believed was: “a perfectly unique specimen. It is, as far as we know, the only piece of war poetry that has been sent home from the Crimea. It has been composed in the trenches, before Sebastopol, by what we are accustomed to call a ‘common’ soldier, and has been sent to us through his mother, a very poor woman, living in Belfast……the verses possess very considerable poetic merit.”

The Siege of Sevastopol (called the ‘Siege of Sebastopol’ by the English at the time), lasted from October 1854 until September 1855.

When Will the Battle End?

“Ah! Cans’t thou tell me, mother, dear!
What tidings from afar,
Are there not words to comfort us
From yonder fearful war?
A tear standing in your eye,
Some trouble ’twould portend –
O, tell me, mother, if thou cans’t,
When will the battle end?

“Our home is but cheerless one,
Our comforts all have fled,
The garden is neglected now,
And all the flowers are dead;
Thus speaks the beating my heart,
God help our absent friend –
O, tell me, mother, if thou cans’t,
When will the battle end?

It seems a long, long time ago,
Since, in that hallowed seat,
I saw my father’s cheerful smile,
And nestled at his feet;
How bv that chair I loved to sit,
The livelong day to spend!
But, tell me, mother, if thou cans’t,
When will the battle end?

“I recollect the morning well
Our soldiers left this shore.
And many a heart beat high with hope,
That now will beat no more.
I saw their plumes wave in the breeze,
I heard their shouts ascend,
They bade us to keep up our hearts,
The battle soon would end.

I had dream, last night, mother,
A vision sent to me –
I saw father once again,
And sate upon his knee;
Once more I saw a gentle smile,
As o’er me he did bend.
And heard him whisper in my ear,
‘The battle’s at an end!’

And then, methought, the scene did change
Into the battle-field,
The horror of that bloody strife
To me was all revealed;
I saw the bravest sink in death,
Beneath the iron storm,
And, ‘mid the foremost of the fight,
Beheld my father’s form.

With lion-hearted courage, there.
His manly breast did swell –
He gave one cheer for England,
And then, methought, he fell;
But, ere he yielded up his soul,
I saw his hand extend
To bless me, and, once more, he said
‘The battle’s at an end.’


"I have spread my dreams beneath your feet. Tread softly because you tread on my dreams."

One thought on “Crimean War Poem – When Will the Battle End

  1. Nice piece of history. The poem reflects the agony of any foot soldier in a miserable in any war. Good link to the siege of sebastopol page

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