Thursday, November 10, 2011

First World War Poetry-Wilfred Owen's 'Dulce et Decorum Est'

It's been sad, but not surprising this week, that FIFA have refused to allow the England football team to wear poppies on their shirts for their weekend game against Spain. They're allowing them to wear them on their black armbands but not their shirts. It was good to see the German FA come out in support of wearing poppies on their shirts.

I also had a brief altercation this week with a member of the white poppy brigade. They really do piss me off and he got short shrift. Remembrance Day is not a time for political point scoring, it is about remembering the dead. Remembering the millions who have died in wars over the centuries.

I'm amazed that there are still people who think remembering the war dead is some act of glorifying war. It is not. To the overwhelming majority of decent people it is about remembering those who gave their lives for freedom. It is also about remembering the horrors of war and about praying that one day young men and women will no longer have to make the sacrifice.

Wilfred Owen's poem Dulce et Decorum Est truly brings out the horror of fighting in the trenches in the First World War:

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.

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