Sunday, 9 November 2008

A Dead Boche

To you who’d read my songs of War And only hear of blood and fame,
I’ll say (you’ve heard it said before)
”War’s Hell!”
and if you doubt the same, Today I found in Mametz Wood A certain cure for lust of blood: Where, propped against a shattered trunk,
In a great mess of things unclean, Sat a dead Boche;
he scowled and stunk With clothes and face a sodden green,
Big-bellied, spectacled, crop-haired, Dribbling black blood from nose and beard.
Robert Graves.

Christ and the Soldier
by Siegfried Sassoon (1916)
The straggled soldier halted -- stared at Him -- Then clumsily dumped down upon his knees, Gasping

"O blessed crucifix, I'm beat !"

And Christ, still sentried by the seraphim, Near the front-line, between two splintered trees, Spoke him:

"My son, behold these hands and feet."

The soldier eyed him upward, limb by limb, Paused at the Face, then muttered,

"Wounds like these Would shift a bloke to Blighty just a treat !"

Christ, gazing downward, grieving and ungrim, Whispered,

"I made for you the mysteries, Beyond all battles moves the Paraclete."
The soldier chucked his rifle in the dust, And slipped his pack, and wiped his neck, and said --

"O Christ Almighty, stop this bleeding fight !"

Above that hill the sky was stained like rust With smoke. In sullen daybreak flaring red The guns were thundering bombardment's blight. The soldier cried,

"I was born full of lust, With hunger, thirst, and wishfulness to wed. Who cares today if I done wrong or right?"

Christ asked all pitying,

"Can you put no trust In my known word that shrives each faithful head ? Am I not resurrection, life and light ?"
Machine-guns rattled from below the hill; High bullets flicked and whistled through the leaves; And smoke came drifting from exploding shells.

Christ said

"Believe; and I can cleanse your ill. I have not died in vain between two thieves; Nor made a fruitless gift of miracles."

The soldier answered,

"Heal me if you will, Maybe there's comfort when a soul believes In mercy, and we need it in these hells. But be you for both sides ? I'm paid to kill And if I shoot a man his mother grieves. Does that come into what your teaching tells ?"

A bird lit on the Christ and twittered gay; Then a breeze passed and shook the ripening corn. A Red Cross waggon bumped along the track. Forsaken Jesus dreamed in the desolate day -- Uplifted Jesus, Prince of Peace forsworn -- An observation post for the attack.

"Lord Jesus, ain't you got no more to say ?"

Bowed hung that head below the crown of thorns. The soldier shifted, and picked up his pack, And slung his gun, and stumbled on his way.

"O God," he groaned,"why ever was I born ?"

... The battle boomed, and no reply came back.

We Remember

We Remember

We remember in the rising of the sun and in it’s going down,

We will remember them; in the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter,

We will remember them; in the opening of the buds and in the warmth of the summer,

We will remember them; in the rustling of the leaves and in the beauty of autumn,

We will remember them; in the beginning of the year and when it ends,

We will remember them; when we are weary and in need of strength,

We will remember them; when we are lost and sick of heart,

We will remember them; when we have joys we yearn to share,

We will remember them;

So long as we live, they to shall live, for their memory is a part of us, and so,

We will remember them!

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Does It Matter?

Does it matter?

-losing your legs?

For people will always be kind,

And you need not show that you mind

When others come in after hunting To gobble their muffins and eggs.

Does it matter?

-losing you sight?

There’s such splendid work for the blind;

And people will always be kind,

As you sit on the terrace rememberingAnd turning your face to the light.

Do they matter

-those dreams in the pit?

You can drink and forget and be gald,

And people won't say that you’re mad;

For they know that you've fought for your country,

And no one will worry a bit.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

The General

‘Good-morning; good-morning!’ the General said When we met him last week on our way to the line. Now the soldiers he smiled at are most of ’em dead, And we’re cursing his staff for incompetent swine. ‘He’s a cheery old card,’ grunted Harry to JackAs they slogged up to Arras with rifle and pack.. . . . But he did for them both by his plan of attack.

Siegfried Sassoon

HAVE you forgotten yet?...

For the world's events have rumbled on since those gagged days,

Like traffic checked while at the crossing of city-ways:

And the haunted gap in your mind has filled with thoughts that flow Like clouds in the lit heaven of life;

and you're a man reprieved to go,

Taking your peaceful share of Time, with joy to spare. But the past is just the same--and Wars a bloody game...

Have you forgotten yet?...

Look down, and swear by the slain of the War that you'll never forget.
Do you remember the dark months you held the sector at Mametz--

The nights you watched and wired and dug and piled sandbags on parapets?

Do you remember the rats;

and the stench Of corpses rotting in front of the front-line trench--

And dawn coming, dirty-white, and chill with a hopeless rain?

Do you ever stop and ask, 'Is it all going to happen again?'
Do you remember that hour of din before the attack--

And the anger, the blind compassion that seized and shook you then As you peered at the doomed and haggard faces of your men?

Do you remember the stretcher-cases lurching back With dying eyes and lolling heads--

those ashen-grey Masks of the lads who once were keen and kind and gay?
Have you forgotten yet?...

Look up, and swear by the green of the spring that you'll never forget.
Siegfried Sassoon

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned out 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

So Abram rose, and clave the wood, and went,And took the fire with him, and a knife.

And as they sojourned both of them together,Isaac the first-born spake and said,

"My Father,Behold the preparations,

fire and iron,But where the lamb for this burnt offering? "

Then Abram bound the youth with belts and straps,

And builded parapets and trenches there,

And stretched forth the knife to slay his son.When lo! an angel called him out of heaven,Saying, "Lay not thy hand upon the lad,Neither do anything to him.

Behold,A ram, caught in a thicket by its horns;Offer the Ram of Pride instead of him. "

But the old man would not so, but slew his son,

And half the seed of Europe, one by one.

Wilfred Owen.