In Memorium

November 11, 2008

Today is Armistice Day, so at around 11am, on the 11th day, of the 11th month, I’m posting this as a tribute to my great-uncles, Jack and Bob Stevenson, teenagers who left for the War to End all Wars, and died in France, one before his eighteenth birthday – ‘cos they were farmers’ sons, recruited from high school, underage.
Requisat in pace.

As I’m a literary grad foremost, I know this poem from way back. It’s not popular in the NZ curriculum any more, so I’m going to quote it in it’s entirety.

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 some still yelling out and stumbling
And floundering like men 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 that 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

written August 1917
Wilfred Owen, 18-03-1893 – 01-11-1918

No more wars, please.
Peace Movement Aotearoa

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