Monday, 4 August 2014

One Hundred Years Ago

I could hardly let this day go by without making reference to the sacrifice that so many men and women made for this country as a result of World War I.

No one had experienced a war like it, and at the beginning, I doubt that most people really understood the reason we had been pulled into the conflict.

As with many wars a seemingly small incident can lead to many other countries becoming involved - especially if they are looking for an excuse to exert dominance over others.

I find it so sad that that initial single death caused the death of so many millions - on both sides of the war.  

World War I was to be the war to end all wars, sadly two decades later we were at war again and have remained in some kind of conflict ever since.  It seems that the leaders of our countries have learnt nothing by these sacrifices.  But that's another debate.

To concentrate on this anniversary I wanted to post a poem which to me sums up the pointless of such hostilities.

When I studied my O Levels (yes so many years ago) we studied Wilfred Owen.  His words struck a chord with me that remains today.  And saddest of all, the words from such an intelligent man were cut short in the very last days of the war.

Dulce et decorum est proppatria mori translates as "It is sweet and honourable to die for the fatherland". Owen ironically shows through a gas attack that there is nothing sweet and honourable about this kind of death at all.

Dulce et Decorum Est

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.

I think he says it all.