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View Diary: They Were Soldiers Once (177 comments)

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  •  Turn on the lights, and look. (13+ / 0-)

    The feeling about a soldier is, when all is said and done, he wasn't really going to do very much with his life anyway. The example usually is: "he wasn't going to compose Beethoven's Fifth."

    ~ Kurt Vonnegut Jr., City Lights

    Look at the names inscribed in that tomb of "not going to do very much."  So easy to say, even easy, alas, to feel.  But so terribly false.

    They were going to love people, raise children, build homes with their own hands.  They were going to be sports heroes and celebrities, famous lawyers and doctors, important politicans; senators, representatives, governors... even presidents.

    We'll never know what most of them might have achieved--would have achieved--had those blossoms not been cut off (and for what?) before they'd even really opened.

    But every once in a while, there's a hint.

    Rupert Brooke:
    A young Apollo, golden-haired,
    Stands dreaming on the verge of strife,
    Magnificently unprepared
    For the long littleness of life.

    John McCrae:

    In Flanders fields the poppies blow
    Between the crosses, row on row
    That mark our place; and in the sky
    The larks, still bravely singing, fly
    Scarce heard amid the guns below.

    Wilfred Owen:
    (I find I have to put the whole of this poem up)
    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 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.

    Isaac Rosenberg
    Ah! if the day were arid, somehow lost
    Out of us, but it is as hair of us,
    And only in the hush no wind stirs it.
    And in the light vague trouble lifts and breathes,
    And restlessness still shadows the lost ways.
    The fingers shut on voices that pass through,
    Where blind farewells are taken easily . . .

    Ah! this miasma of a rotting God!

    Alan Seeger
    I have a rendezvous with Death
    At some disputed barricade,
    I have a rendezvous with Death
    At some disputed barricade,
    When Spring comes back with rustling shade
    And apple-blossoms fill the air--
    I have a rendezvous with Death
    When Spring brings back blue days and fair.

    Edward Thomas
    Gone, gone again,
    May, June, July,
    And August gone,
    Again gone by,

    Not memorable
    Save that I saw them go,
    As past the empty quays
    The rivers flow.

    And now again,
    In the harvest rain,
    The Blenheim oranges
    Fall grubby from the trees

    Tim Cross observes, in The Lost Voices of World War I: An International Anthology of Writers, Poets & Playwrights, "A complete list of all poets, playwrights, writers, artists, architects and composers who died as a result of the First World War is an impossible task," but even so lists roughly 750 names--including only people who had already accomplished something of note in their fields. How many of the 9,000,000 young men wasted in that war might have done great things in the arts, sciences, medicine, and politics?

    There died a myriad,
    And of the best, among them,
    For an old bitch gone in the teeth,
    For a botched civilization,

    Charm, smiling at the good mouth,
    Quick eyes gone under earth's lid,

    For two gross of broken statues,
    For a few thousand battered books.

    -- Ezra Pound, 1920

    A "mere" 2300 or so Americans are the casualties, so far, of Mr Bush's pointless war, fought for causes demonstrably false and erroneous.  WHo among them were some of our very, very best and brightest?  We already know about Tillman.  How many more?

    "I desire what is good. Therefore, everyone who does not agree with me is a traitor." King George III

    by ogre on Sat Mar 18, 2006 at 04:22:20 PM PST

    •  Recommend - if only for the Owen (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      adigal, vox humana

      I prefer this one...

      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 ardent for some desperate glory,
      The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
      Pro patria mori.


      "Strange and beautiful are the stars tonight / That dance around your head"

      by deepfish on Sat Mar 18, 2006 at 06:04:01 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Kipling too (0+ / 0-)

        We have done with Hope and Honour, we are lost to Love and Truth,
        We are dropping down the ladder rung by rung,
        And the measure of our torment is the measure of our youth.
        God help us, for we knew the worst too young!
        Our shame is clean repentance for the crime that brought the sentence,
        Our pride it is to know no spur of pride,
        And the Curse of Reuben holds us till an alien turf enfolds us
        And we die, and none can tell Them where we died.

        From Gentlemen-Rankersby Rudyard Kipling

    •  Amen (0+ / 0-)

      "here died a myriad,
      And of the best, among them,
      For an old bitch gone in the teeth,
      For a botched civilization,"

      Parody - another thing getting harder and harder to do in Bushevik America.

      by Carbide Bit on Sat Mar 18, 2006 at 06:54:43 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

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