Monday, 1 May 2017

Erwin Clarkson Garrett (1879 – 1954) - American

While looking for information about British soldier poet Nathan Percy Graham, I came across Erwin Clarkson Garrett, an American soldier poet of the First World War.

Erwin was born on 28th March 1879 in Germantown, Philadelphia in the United States of America. His parents were George L. Garrett and his wife Sophia Cooper Garrett, nee Gray.

 In 1906, Erwin graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Pennsylvania.  He enlisted as a Private in the American Army and served during the Philippine Insurrection of 1899 – 1902 in the 23rd Infantry.

Erwin then travelled around the world.   In 1916 he published “Army Ballads and Other Verses”.

In August 1917, following the entry of America into the First World War, Erwin travelled at his own expense to France, where he enlisted in the American Army in Paris on 1st September 1917.  He served as a Private in Co. “G” of the 16th Infantry of the AEF and was awarded the Purple Heart and Silver Star.

Erwin died in October 1954.

In 1919, Erwin published “Trench Ballads, and Other Verses” which were all written while he was in the Trenches on the Western Front - published in 1919 by The John C. Winston Company, Philadelphia, USA.   The collection is available as a free down-load on Project Gutenberg and if you scroll down you will not only find his poems but also copious notes about his time in France, which are fascinating:


CHARLIE CHAPLIN IN BLIGHTY by Erwin Clarkson Garrett from "Trench Ballads, and Other Verses"

The mess-hall windows blanketed
    To bar the western light—
The tables cleaned and cleared away,
And bench by bench in close array
Five hundred convalescents sway
    To catch the caption bright.

And there are men with helpless legs,
    And torn chest and back;
And men with arms in sling and splint,
And one poor eye that bears no glint,
And muscles limp or turned to flint—
    And souls upon the rack.

They came from Chateau Thierry—
    From Fere-en-Tardenois—
From Soissons, Oulchy-le-Chateau,
From Rheims and Fismes, where blow by blow,
’Cross Marne and Oureq and Vesle aflow
    They hammered them afar.

And now upon the screen is thrown
    An old familiar form:
’Tis Charlie of the strong appeal,
At skating-rink or riot meal,
And every mirth-producing reel
    Awakes the farthest dorm.

The aching head, the splintered arm,
    The weary, dragging feet;
The wound that took a month to drain—
The everlasting, gnawing pain—
Are all forgot and gone again
    When Charlie strikes the street.

Your esoteric shrug and sneer
    And call him crude and quaint;
But we who’ve seen him “over here”—
Who’ve heard the laugh that brings the tear—
Who’ve heard the bellowing roar and cheer—
    _We_ call him Charles the Saint.