Comments: November 11

Wilfred Owen is one of my poet heroes. He was a British soldier in WW I and was killed on the very day the armistice was signed. Church bells were ringing to signal the end of the war just as his mother received the telegram.

Posted by Rosemary Molloy at November 11, 2008 11:12 AM

Wilfred Owen
Apologia pro Poemate Meo

I, too, saw God through mud —
The mud that cracked on cheeks when wretches smiled.
War brought more glory to their eyes than blood,
And gave their laughs more glee than shakes a child.
Merry it was to laugh there —
Where death becomes absurd and life absurder.
For power was on us as we slashed bones bare
Not to feel sickness or remorse of murder.

I, too, have dropped off fear —
Behind the barrage, dead as my platoon,
And sailed my spirit surging, light and clear
Past the entanglement where hopes lay strewn;

And witnessed exultation —
Faces that used to curse me, scowl for scowl,
Shine and lift up with passion of oblation,
Seraphic for an hour; though they were foul.

I have made fellowships —
Untold of happy lovers in old song.
For love is not the binding of fair lips
With the soft silk of eyes that look and long,

By Joy, whose ribbon slips, —
But wound with war's hard wire whose stakes are strong;
Bound with the bandage of the arm that drips;
Knit in the welding of the rifle-thong.

I have perceived much beauty
In the hoarse oaths that kept our courage straight;
Heard music in the silentness of duty;
Found peace where shell-storms spouted reddest spate.

Nevertheless, except you share
With them in hell the sorrowful dark of hell,
Whose world is but the trembling of a flare,
And heaven but as the highway for a shell,

You shall not hear their mirth:
You shall not come to think them well content
By any jest of mine. These men are worth
Your tears: You are not worth their merriment.
November 1917.

I hope, our govt and we will take care of all the young men and women sent to the current wars when they come home. Today, I hope, we will also rememeber those families who have lost their loved ones. Their tragedy is alomost unimaginable.

Posted by Rupa Shah at November 11, 2008 11:57 AM

Britten's War Requiem was inspired by among other things Owen's poetry .
a magnificent rememberence it is if one's taste runs into western classical music .

Posted by badri at November 11, 2008 12:35 PM

cemmcs Your link is also a draft, which came after the one I posted. The final version was edited by Siegfried Sassoon (mortal minds / silent maids became patient minds); dead--> doomed is also his.

I like how poets edited each other's works. I understand that's a tradition that Paul Muldoon is trying to revive at the New Yorker.

Posted by Bernard Chazelle at November 11, 2008 01:35 PM

That's my second favorite by Owen, after "Dulce et Decorum Est." I've featured Owen before, but went with his pal Siegfried Sassoon this year.

Posted by Batocchio at November 11, 2008 04:38 PM

Thank you, Bernard.

Accompanying Owen in the effort to transform the awful into something moving and beautiful, not just sitting and taking it in, somehow puts the reader closer to his horrific experience.

Posted by Nell at November 11, 2008 10:24 PM

Rupa Shah,
Some school children are being taught how to make peace with their classmates, which is a precursor to results on a grander scale, through the PeaceBuilders program. Our local elementary school participates in the program.

Posted by Don Bacon at November 11, 2008 11:03 PM

Thanks for the link, Rupa. It is a moving piece, indeed.

Posted by James at November 12, 2008 05:26 AM

Don Bacon: Many thanks for the link. It is heartening to know, the programme is funded by the federal govt. Also, the money the next administration will have by reducing Pentagon budget, some of it could be given to United States Institute for Peace ( Daniel Pipes and likes prohibited from applying ) to expand its training programmes on conflict resolution and peace building, even to high school kids and under graduates ).

Posted by Rupa Shah at November 12, 2008 01:27 PM

Here are my two cents. The strange meeting, my favourite of Owen.
This website plenty of other war poetry too.

Posted by Omar328 at November 13, 2008 02:14 PM