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100 years since WWI started

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100 years since WWI started

Postby mikesiva » Mon Aug 04, 2014 2:11 am

When I was going to school in Jamaica, we were required "Rhyme and Reason", which featured war poems by the likes of Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon and others. These poems had a profound effect on me, showing me the futility of war, the incompetence of the leadership, and the brutality of death on the Western Front. These poems left me with a feeling of "Never again".

Now that I'm living in the UK, I'm stunned to see that in the 100th anniversary of the First World War, all these commemorations, such as today's 100th anniversary of the start of the War itself, have studiously ignored these poets.

Why? Is it because these war poets criticised the leadership in a way that is still uncomfortable today?

Well, I will mark the start of the First World War in my own way, by posting poems by these War Poets....
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Re: 100 years since WWI started

Postby mikesiva » Mon Aug 04, 2014 2:12 am

Here's my first one:

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

9 Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!--An ecstasy of fumbling
10 Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
11 But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
12 And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime.--
13 Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
14 As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

15 In all my dreams before my helpless sight
16 He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

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

Wilfred Owen

For those who don't know, "Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori" is translated as "It is sweet and fitting to die for your country."

Owen openly questions the patriotism of WWI when so many young men died needlessly in ways similar to the one above. He calls our leaders liars for saying that it is an honour to die for your country in this way.
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Re: 100 years since WWI started

Postby mikesiva » Mon Aug 04, 2014 4:56 am

Suicide in the Trenches



I knew a simple soldier boy
Who grinned at life in empty joy,
Slept soundly through the lonesome dark,
And whistled early with the lark.

In winter trenches, cowed and glum,
With crumps and lice and lack of rum,
He put a bullet through his brain.
No one spoke of him again.

You smug-faced crowds with kindling eye
Who cheer when soldier lads march by,
Sneak home and pray you'll never know
The hell where youth and laughter go.

Siegfried Sassoon
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Re: 100 years since WWI started

Postby mikesiva » Mon Aug 04, 2014 1:41 pm

Anthem For Doomed Youth

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells;
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs,
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.
What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of good-byes.
The pallor of girls' brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.

Wilfred Owen
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Re: 100 years since WWI started

Postby Gils » Sat Aug 16, 2014 10:49 am

Sassoon wasn't someone I'd ever heard of, until I saw this.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0 ... tial-races"

Presented, excellently, by David Olusago " Forgotten soldiers of Empire " comes in two parts and is essential viewing for those, such as myself, who thought that war was only fought on the infamous western front.

Its only up until tuesday so I hope you get to see it in time.

The part African, Asian and Oriental soldiers and ancilliary staff played in the struggle and the tremendous obstacles they encountered in order to do so are jaw dropping, and also historically under represented.
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Re: 100 years since WWI started

Postby mikesiva » Tue Aug 19, 2014 3:02 am

Gils wrote:Sassoon wasn't someone I'd ever heard of, until I saw this.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0 ... tial-races" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;"

Presented, excellently, by David Olusago " Forgotten soldiers of Empire " comes in two parts and is essential viewing for those, such as myself, who thought that war was only fought on the infamous western front.

Its only up until tuesday so I hope you get to see it in time.

The part African, Asian and Oriental soldiers and ancilliary staff played in the struggle and the tremendous obstacles they encountered in order to do so are jaw dropping, and also historically under represented.

My mum brought it to my attention, and I saw both episodes - excellent!

It's interesting how the efforts of non-whites from the Commonwealth have been largely ignored....
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Re: 100 years since WWI started

Postby Gils » Thu Aug 21, 2014 6:57 am

Good.

I had no Idea, but should really have known.

All they every present is the western front but without colonial soldiers the official declaration of war for would have been months, maybe years after the august start date, as the allied forces were neither battle ready or mobilised.
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Re: 100 years since WWI started

Postby mikesiva » Sat Nov 07, 2015 7:46 am

I now wear the white poppy, rather than the red, to commemorate Conscientious Objectors. World War One in particular was a politician's war, much like the Iraq War, and we need to remind the politicians of that when Remembrance Sunday comes around.

Siegfried Sassoon (below) (awarded Military Cross 1916)

You smug-faced crowds with kindling eye

Who cheer when soldier lads march by,

Sneak home and pray you’ll never know the hell where youth and laughter go.
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Re: 100 years since WWI started

Postby mikesiva » Tue Nov 01, 2016 5:53 am

Now that November has begun, and the red poppy is hijacked by the war-mongers, I thought I'd remember another Siegfried Sassoon poem....

"Aftermath"

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 War's 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
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Re: 100 years since WWI started

Postby mikesiva » Wed Nov 02, 2016 4:30 am

Strange Meeting
BY WILFRED OWEN
It seemed that out of battle I escaped
Down some profound dull tunnel, long since scooped
Through granites which titanic wars had groined.

Yet also there encumbered sleepers groaned,
Too fast in thought or death to be bestirred.
Then, as I probed them, one sprang up, and stared
With piteous recognition in fixed eyes,
Lifting distressful hands, as if to bless.
And by his smile, I knew that sullen hall,—
By his dead smile I knew we stood in Hell.

With a thousand fears that vision's face was grained;
Yet no blood reached there from the upper ground,
And no guns thumped, or down the flues made moan.
“Strange friend,” I said, “here is no cause to mourn.”
“None,” said that other, “save the undone years,
The hopelessness. Whatever hope is yours,
Was my life also; I went hunting wild
After the wildest beauty in the world,
Which lies not calm in eyes, or braided hair,
But mocks the steady running of the hour,
And if it grieves, grieves richlier than here.
For by my glee might many men have laughed,
And of my weeping something had been left,
Which must die now. I mean the truth untold,
The pity of war, the pity war distilled.
Now men will go content with what we spoiled.
Or, discontent, boil bloody, and be spilled.
They will be swift with swiftness of the tigress.
None will break ranks, though nations trek from progress.
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.
Foreheads of men have bled where no wounds were.

“I am the enemy you killed, my friend.
I knew you in this dark: for so you frowned
Yesterday through me as you jabbed and killed.
I parried; but my hands were loath and cold.
Let us sleep now. . . .”
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