• More on poetry and war

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    As is often the case, readers responded with much useful and interesting information to my most recent post.

    One reader drew my attention to the poetry of an England-born Canadian poet named Robert Service (1874-1958) of whom I had not heard before (from “At The Parade”):

    I cannot flap a flag/
    Or beat a drum;/
    Behind the mob I lag/
    With larynx dumb;/
    Alas! I fear I’m not/
    A Patriot.

    And another pointed out a piece of Chesterton poetry that is appropriate here (from “Elegy in a Country Churchyard”):

    But they that fought for England/
    following a falling star,/
    Alas, alas for England/
    They have their graves afar.

    And they that rule in England/
    in stately conclave met,/
    Alas, alas for England/
    They have no graves as yet.

    Wildred Owen remains the best of all for me though. Even if I were a raving warmonger, I’d still have to admit that Owen as a poet is pretty much unparalleled (from “A Strange Meeting”):

    Courage was mine, and I had mystery,/
    Wisdom was mine, and I had mastery;/
    To miss the march of this retreating world/
    Into vain citadels that are not walled./
    Then when much blood had clogged their chariot wheels/
    I would go up and wash them from sweet wells,/
    Even with truths that lie too deep for taint./
    I would have poured my spirit without stint/
    But not through wounds; not on the cess of war.

    We live in an age in which the old devour the young. The young work to support the idleness of the old. The young fight and die to satisfy the foolish ideologies of the old. The young are ignorant libertines because all they witnessed from the old was vain pursuit of pleasure.

    Thus, this is one of my favorites by Owen (from “The Parable of the Old Man and the Young”):

    Then Abram bound the youth with belts and strops,/
    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.


    8:57 pm on July 9, 2008