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Thread: WWI Poetry

  1. #1
    Ecurb Ecurb's Avatar
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    WWI Poetry

    WWI was a traumatic event for Europe, and humanity. The U.K. and France suffered 2 to 3 times the military casualties they did in WW2.

    Modern poetry was just evolving, and the often tragic WW1 poets influenced it.

    Here are some of my favorites. The first is beautiful and poignant. I like the second, because I've been to Oxford, and, in fact, slept in the "visiting professor" quarters at Brasenose college. This was through no merit of my own -- I was dating a scholar who was lecturing there.

    The third is a great anti-war poem.

    The fourth is a Christmas poem, so I'm a little late. Joyce Kilmer is the author of the much-lampooned "Trees", but here he captures the essence of Christmas. All of the men I quote were killed in the war.

    Here are some of my favorites:

    I Have a Rendezvous with Death
    BY ALAN SEEGER (died 1916)

    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.

    It may be he shall take my hand
    And lead me into his dark land
    And close my eyes and quench my breath—
    It may be I shall pass him still.
    I have a rendezvous with Death
    On some scarred slope of battered hill,
    When Spring comes round again this year
    And the first meadow-flowers appear.

    God knows 'twere better to be deep
    Pillowed in silk and scented down,
    Where Love throbs out in blissful sleep,
    Pulse nigh to pulse, and breath to breath,
    Where hushed awakenings are dear ...
    But I've a rendezvous with Death
    At midnight in some flaming town,
    When Spring trips north again this year,
    And I to my pledged word am true,
    I shall not fail that rendezvous.

    From the home front we have this Winifred Letts offering:

    The Spires of Oxford
    Winifred M. Letts - 1882-1971


    I saw the spires of Oxford
    As I was passing by,
    The gray spires of Oxford
    Against the pearl-gray sky.
    My heart was with the Oxford men
    Who went abroad to die.

    The years go fast in Oxford,
    The golden years and gay,
    The hoary Colleges look down
    On careless boys at play.
    But when the bugles sounded war
    They put their games away.

    They left the peaceful river,
    The cricket-field, the quad,
    The shaven lawns of Oxford,
    To seek a bloody sod—
    They gave their merry youth away
    For country and for God.

    God rest you, happy gentlemen,
    Who laid your good lives down,
    Who took the khaki and the gun
    Instead of cap and gown.
    God bring you to a fairer place
    Than even Oxford town.

    Wilfred Owen died one week before the armistice. The Roman proverb at
    the end of the poem translates as, "It is sweet and dignified to die
    for your country".

    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 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,
    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.


    Wartime Christmas
    Joyce Kilmer - 1886-1918


    Led by a star, a golden star,
    The youngest star, an olden star,
    Here the kings and the shepherds are,
    Akneeling on the ground.
    What did they come to the inn to see?
    God in the Highest, and this is He,
    A baby asleep on His mother’s knee
    And with her kisses crowned.

    Now is the earth a dreary place,
    A troubled place, a weary place.
    Peace has hidden her lovely face
    And turned in tears away.
    Yet the sun, through the war-cloud, sees
    Babies asleep on their mother’s knees.
    While there are love and home—and these—
    There shall be Christmas Day.

  2. #2
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    Very fitting thread at this time of battles against visible and invisible enemies. Death was more individualized then.

    Here a German concrete poem about World War II by Ernst Jandl.

    The title is "Markierung einer Wende" = Marking a turning point.
    Krieg=War

    "Markierung einer Wende"

    Ernst Jandl

    1944 1945
    krieg krieg
    krieg krieg
    krieg krieg
    krieg krieg
    krieg mai
    krieg
    krieg
    krieg
    krieg
    krieg
    krieg
    krieg

    https://www.babelmatrix.org/works/de/Jandl%2C_Ernst-1925/Markierung_einer_Wende"
    #Stay home as much as you can and stay well

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