Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Lest we forget...

90 years ago today on armistice day, families were still finding out their sons had fallen, including the family of the man who wrote the following. He received the Military Cross for bravery at Amiens and was killed on the 4th of November when attempting to lead men across the Sambre-Oise canal at Ors where he is now buried.

To all currently caught up in conflicts worldwide, may you return home safely so no more families have to face such news.

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame, all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.

Gas! GAS! Quick, boys! — An ecstasy of fumbling
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime.—
Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams before my helpless sight
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin,
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs
Bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues, —
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

Wilfred Owen (18th March 1893 - 4th November 1918)


alanonline said...
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alanonline said...

Ah, the wonderful Wilfred Owen. I struggle to read this without a lump in the throat. Similarly beautiful is 'Red lips are not so red as the stained stones kissed by the English dead' (Greater Love) and 'What passing-bells for these who die as cattle? Only the monstrous anger of the guns.'
(Anthem for Doomed Youth) both of which you can read in full at www.geocities.com/~bblair/owenidx.htm