Sunday, November 10, 2013

Dulce et Decorum Est

Remembrance Sunday

Today we can all thrill to the sight of mass-murdering war criminal
Tony Blair wearing his poppy with pride. What began as a remembrance
of those who died in war is being hijacked by people who glory in war.
I pray that the politicians and generals who send better people than
themselves to die in battle will be forgiven.

War is a multi-million dollar business. Tony Blair and G W Bush traded
blood for oil. The shareholders of arms companies rub their hands in
glee at every opportunity to sell more guns to regimes around the
world which have questionable morals and human rights records with
Amnesty International.

And before I get to the poem, I must mention "God Save the Queen." She
is not my queen. I didn't vote for her.

"Dulce et Decorum Est pro Patria Mori" was a phrase they taught public
school boys. "It is sweet and fitting to die for your country." or
better yet get your servants to go off an die on your behalf

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 ardentfor some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.
Wilfred Owen
8 October 1917 - March, 1918

1 comment:

Kate J said...

Good to be reminded of the Wilfred Owen poem, which I remember studying for school Eng Lit. I'll bet it's not on the syllabus in these flag-waving, poppy-wearing days.

I spoke on the phone yesterday to a Belgian friend. We are about the same age and our grandfathers both fought in WWI - his on the Somme, mine at Passchendaele. Because of accidents of boundaries, his French-speaking village was in Germany at the time, so he was in the German army. Paul and I were struck by the fact our grandfathers could easily have faced each other across no-mans land and killed each other. Thankfully, they both returned, damaged but alive, and lived out their lives as members of the working class, in my grandfather's case as a railway guard.

As the last fighting 'Tommy', Harry Patch, said, "politicians who took us to war should have been given the guns and told to settle their differences themselves, instead of organising nothing better than legalised mass murder."