Remember

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Please note, this post contains graphic and harrowing images of war.

In the year when many are ‘celebrating’ the centenary of the First World War, it is worth sparing a thought for those, such as Owen and Sassoon, who spoke out against its horrors and our government’s mishandling and inept military tactics. Particularly at a time when such things were unheard of.

I’m a lover of poetry and history. And it sickens me to to the core to see how many people’s lives were sacrificed needlessly due to incompetence and profiteering.

I went to the Somme once on holiday. (Ibiza isn’t really my cup of tea.) The thing that struck me most was that one minute I would be strolling through the undulating, idyllic French countryside on a summer’s afternoon and, the next, I was confronted by tens of thousands of white marble headstones. Inscribed on one gargantuan monument I saw in Arras are the names of 75,000 men and women. They don’t have any headstones. Because nothing was ever found of their bodies. They were vapourised by shelling. Ponder that for a moment. Vapourised. Their atoms scattered to the winds.

‘Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori’ roughly translates as: ‘It is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country.’ Remember, this poem was written at a time when most poets romanticised or glorified war. And also a time when governments could censor and suppress what the public read or saw.

Dulce Et Decorum Est

By Wilfred Owen 

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 tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped 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

Obscene as cancer, 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.

SommeEndlarge1Revelon, gefallener Deutscher3656belg-antwerp-hosplargearticle-2226235-0F7F8D0300000578-696_964x682British_55th_Division_gas_casualties_10_April_1918

So, on the one hundredth anniversary of the War to End all Wars, spare a thought for all the victims, whichever side they fought for. I know it doesn’t seem like something which I should be grateful for, but pioneers like Wilfred Owen, paved the way for the rest of us to dissent against irresponsible governments and incompetent military leaders. For that, I am truly grateful.

Those tactical geniuses, that were the British generals.

Those tactical geniuses, that were the British generals. I bet not one of them got their boots muddy.

I wonder how many troops died in the time it took to paint this picture by John Singer Sargent?

I wonder how many troops died in the time it took to paint this picture by John Singer Sargent?

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15 Comments

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15 responses to “Remember

  1. Siobhán

    Beautifully put, Dave. x

  2. Patrick Chapman

    Thank you Dave. That reminded me of the power poetry can have, and the horror that humans are capable of.

    Px

    _______________________________

    http://www.patrickchapman.net

    • Glad you liked it, matey. One of my favourite poems. So visceral. Mankind has an unparalleled capacity for horror and destruction. Perhaps if the world was governed by women we might have a bit less of it. Unless it was Maggie Thatcher, of course. Dx

      Sent from my iPhone

      >

  3. Speechless. Whenever I read that poem, it knocks the wind out of me … totally D:

  4. My favourite poet, and poem.

    Excellent post, well said.

  5. dorispacheco

    Hi This is Doris from http://www.miartedoris.wordpress.com
    my blog got hack so I started a new one.

    I always love you poetry, this is beautiful.

    • Hi Doris,
      Welcome back! I’ll come and have a look at your new blog.
      Glad you like the poem, it’s one of my favourites.

      • dorispacheco

        It is beautiful, well my blog has nothing right now thank you, I am glad I could find your blog love it and your writing. I been wanting to put a book review on your poem book but have not had the chance with all of this but will do it soon. I need to buy your books too. take care

      • You’re too kind, Doris. (But a review would be lovely!) I’ve just finished my second novel which I’m hoping to get up on Amazon in the not too distant future. Just need to proofread it and maybe do a bit of tinkering. 🙂

      • dorispacheco

        good luck!

  6. So well said, David. Thank you.

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