3 comments on “Never Forget

  1. An all-time classic and appropriate choice. I’m sure Obama will be the one to put an end to all wars right after he’s finished walking on water.

  2. 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 goodbyes.
    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 September – October, 1917

    ——-

    HERE DEAD WE LIE

    Here dead we lie
    Because we did not choose
    To live and shame the land
    From which we sprung.
    Life, to be sure,
    Is nothing much to lose,
    But young men think it is,
    And we were young.

    A E Housman

  3. Wonderful. I’ve posted this at least once before, probably more, but there’s a bit in Tony Harrison’s poem ‘A Cold Coming’, a dialogue between the poet and ‘the charred man’, (a voice from that one astonishing photograph that made it through the censor’s barrier of the first gulf war of an Iraqi soldier burnt to death in an armoured car) that I absolutely love as another comment not just on war but on war poetry…

    Lie that you saw me and I smiled to see the soldier hug his child.
    Lie and pretend that I excuse my bombing by B52s,

    pretend I pardon and forgive that they still do and I don’t live,
    pretend they have the burnt man’s blessing and then, maybe, I’m spared confessing

    that only fire burnt out the shame of things I’d done in Saddam’s name,
    the deaths, the torture and the plunder the black clouds all of us are under.

    Say that I’m smiling and excuse the Scuds we launched against the Jews.
    Pretend I’ve got the imagination to see the world beyond one nation.

    That’s your job, poet, to pretend I want my foe to be my friend.

    The whole poem is here

    My elder daughter will start, next September, at the secondary school that Wilfred Owen went to, albeing briefly, and my youger girl had a school outing on November 11th to Owen’s memorial in the grounds of the abbey, a simple abstract sculpture with Owen’s dates on one side and the line ‘I am the enemy you killed, my friend’ on the other.

    As a teenager I didn’t have the sophistication to see beyond the militarism of remembrance day – actually, I would argue that the whole thing was hijacked horribly by Thatcher and the far right who openly described those on the left as the enemy withing, disloyal opposition, and denied us the right to be involved in remembrance. Shameful. I think the day has risen again in people’s consciousness, and there is talk of creating a public holiday on 11th November each year so that instead of commemorating on the nearest Sunday and then again on the day itself we are all able to make time at the right time.

    One more quote, from Vonnegut, which again I’ve written somewhere else but deleted with the old blog – he’s talking about the moment of the armistice, the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918…

    “It was during that minute in nineteen hundred and eighteen, that millions upon millions of human beings stopped butchering one another. I have talked to old men who were on the battlefields during that minute. They have told me in one way or another that the sudden silence was the Voice of God. So we still have among us some men who can remember when God spoke clearly to mankind.”

    Long comment – no apology.

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