The Eleventh

Ninety years ago today, on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the Great War, the War to End All Wars, was brought to an end, as the world hoped that eight million lives lost would be enough to bring sanity and peace to the globe.  Sadly, it was not to be.

But here in the United States, we still reserve November 11th as Veterans Day, to honor those who have served our nation.

I goofed; I meant to have a beautiful piece of poetry that probably none of you have ever seen to mark this day, but I left the book containing it at home.  If I get a chance, I’ll post it up later tonight, but in the meantime I’ll put up the classic poem by WWI poet (and casualty) Wilfred Owen, and link you to this not-so-great-quality but still moving video of Iron Maiden’s WWI tribute, “Paschendale.”

Dulce Et Decorum Est

By Wilfred Owen

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

I’ll be back with less serious stuff later…but for now, I bow my head in recognition of all veterans everywhere.  Especially Sgt. Howson of the 59th Virginia, PFC Gus of the 29th, Sgt. Bob of the 25th, and Sgt. Steve of the 23rd (Americal).

Please accept my thoroughly inadequate thanks.

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4 Responses

  1. In all seriousness, I am also grateful to our veterans and active-duty military for their service, including my own father, both of my grandfathers, and innumerable acquaintances over the years.

    But all I can think of when I look at this poem is reading it in ninth grade. Our English teacher thought it was a good idea to have each member of the class read the poem aloud, to see what each person could bring to the reading, and I thought I would throw up myself if I heard “Gas! Gas! Quick, boys!” again after that day.

    Wish you hadn’t forgotten that book…

    I think I read it in either 9th or 10th grade – 9th sounds right, though.

    Yes, I agree, it seems somewhat harsh. It’s not Hamlet’s soliloquy or Marc Antony’s speech or even the “Sing in me, Muse” of Homer. Why have every student do a dramatic reading?

    That said, it’s one of my favorites. A back-burner blog post of mine is “Poems everybody should read.” I’ll get around to putting it up one day.

  2. […] 2:00 pm Filed under: Om | Tags: yoga Taoist Biker has put up a “sweet and fitting” tribute to this auspicious day, and I have trod muddy memories all over it, and that’s all I have to […]

  3. War really is the most awful thing…I also truly appreciate the sacrifices that so many have made, then and now, for us and our countries. I can’t say I loved the poem, per se, but it is excellent and a fitting tribute. I hope you know what I mean!

    Thanks for posting this. We all get wrapped up in our own stuff sometimes and need to be reminded of what others have been through, and still go through on a daily basis, so that we can live our lives.

    Even though I think the poem is great, I don’t love it. I’m actually somewhat frightened and repulsed by it, which I suppose is why I think it’s important.

  4. Sorry I’m late in posting. It’s difficult for me to write/read/comment blogs from work.

    Of a lot of the Veteran’s Day related posts I’ve read today, this one has been my very favorite.

    And not just because you touched my heartstrings by throwing in Iron Maiden. 😉

    ‘Sok, I had one of those days today myself! Thanks a bunch; glad you enjoyed it. And I love that song, although I do admit the opening riff is awfully close to “Wasted Years.”

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