Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans Day

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 gas-shells dropping softly 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
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.

By Wilfred Owen (1893-1918) -- a WWI soldier-poet's thoughts on the lines from Horace:

Dulce et decorem est pro patria mori -- It is sweet and fitting to die for your country.
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Martin H. said...


You've prompted me to revisit the collected poems of Wilfred Owen. It's been sitting on a shelf, unread for years.

The poem and the pictures - a perfect choice for such a poignant day.

marĂ­a cecilia said...

May all the men be protected and blessed!!!

Vicki Lane said...

Martin --I need to do the same -- I only know the poems of Owen's that have been anthologized.

Maria Cecelia -- Amen! And the women too!

Miss_Yves said...

I'llwrite you later, because I'm in a hurry .
Thank you for your lovely poem .
I enjoyed the beautiful post about your wedding.

Carol @ TheWritersPorch said...

Hey vicki, loved the poem! We have many vets in this family and so appreciate their sevice! We are still busy busy busy but wanted to drop in on you! :)

Auntie Knickers said...

Thanks for posting this...I recently read Pat Barker's books Regeneration and The Eye in the Door (there's one more in the trilogy I need to get to soon) -- Owen is a character in Regeneration, getting poetic pointers from Siegfried Sassoon in the hospital for shell-shocked vets. All Quiet on the Western Front was great too.

Vicki Lane said...

Thankss for stopping by, Miss Yves and Carol!

And I'm glad to know more about the Barker books, Auntie K -- a friend lent them to me some time back and I haven't gotten to them yet. You have piqued my interest!

tipper said...

What a powerful poem-I've never heard it before-but I'll never forget it now.

Vicki Lane said...

Hi, Tipper -- powerful is indeed the word.