Monday, November 12, 2007

War poetry

A poem for Veteran's Day, written by a young man who died in the Great War that sparked our observance of the holiday.

The Dead

These hearts were woven of human joys and cares,
Washed marvellously with sorrow, swift to mirth.
The years had given them kindness. Dawn was theirs,
And sunset and the colours of the earth.
These had seen movement, and heard music; known
Slumber and waking; loved; gone proudly friended;
Felt the quick stir of wonder; sat alone;
Touched flowers and furs and cheeks. All this is ended.
There are waters blown by changing winds to laughter
And lit by the rich skies, all day. And after,
Frost, with a gesture, stays the waves that dance
And wandering loveliness. He leaves a white
Unbroken glory, a gathered radiance,
A width a shining peace, under the night.

Rupert Brooke, August 2, 1888-April 23, 1915

Wilfred Own, another talented poet, died only a week before the armistice was signed. He died going over the top, just as so many other young men had.

J.R.R. Tolkien, one of my favorite authors, fought in France and lost two of his three best friends there. His experiences in the trench, I believe, greatly shaped how he portrays war in his books. From his foreword to Lord of the Rings: "One has indeed personally to come under the shadow of war to feel fully its oppression; but as the years go by it seems now often forgotten that to be caught in youth by 1914 was not less hideous an experience than to be involved in 1939 and the following years. By 1918 all but one of my close friends were dead."

I do not consider myself a patriotic person as such, but let us honor the sacrifices that these men and many others like them (and now women) have made and continue to make.

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