Tag Archives: War

Bonus WWI Centennial Blogging

Memorial Day Poetry Blogging Part V


Mother and Poet
BY ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING
I.
Dead ! One of them shot by the sea in the east,
And one of them shot in the west by the sea.
Dead ! both my boys ! When you sit at the feast
And are wanting a great song for Italy free,
Let none look at me !

II.
Yet I was a poetess only last year,
And good at my art, for a woman, men said ;
But this woman, this, who is agonized here,
— The east sea and west sea rhyme on in her head
For ever instead.

III.
What art can a woman be good at ? Oh, vain !
What art is she good at, but hurting her breast
With the milk-teeth of babes, and a smile at the pain ?
Ah boys, how you hurt ! you were strong as you pressed,
And I proud, by that test.

IV.
What art’s for a woman ? To hold on her knees
Both darlings ! to feel all their arms round her throat,
Cling, strangle a little ! to sew by degrees
And ‘broider the long-clothes and neat little coat ;
To dream and to doat.

V.
To teach them … It stings there ! I made them indeed
Speak plain the word country. I taught them, no doubt,
That a country’s a thing men should die for at need.
I prated of liberty, rights, and about
The tyrant cast out.

VI.
And when their eyes flashed … O my beautiful eyes ! …
I exulted ; nay, let them go forth at the wheels
Of the guns, and denied not. But then the surprise
When one sits quite alone ! Then one weeps, then one kneels !
God, how the house feels !

VII.
At first, happy news came, in gay letters moiled
With my kisses, — of camp-life and glory, and how
They both loved me ; and, soon coming home to be spoiled
In return would fan off every fly from my brow
With their green laurel-bough.

VIII.
Then was triumph at Turin : Ancona was free !’
And some one came out of the cheers in the street,
With a face pale as stone, to say something to me.
My Guido was dead ! I fell down at his feet,
While they cheered in the street.

IX.
I bore it ; friends soothed me ; my grief looked sublime
As the ransom of Italy. One boy remained
To be leant on and walked with, recalling the time
When the first grew immortal, while both of us strained
To the height he had gained.

X.
And letters still came, shorter, sadder, more strong,
Writ now but in one hand, I was not to faint, —
One loved me for two — would be with me ere long :
And Viva l’ Italia ! — he died for, our saint,
Who forbids our complaint.”

XI.
My Nanni would add, he was safe, and aware
Of a presence that turned off the balls, — was imprest
It was Guido himself, who knew what I could bear,
And how ’twas impossible, quite dispossessed,
To live on for the rest.”

XII.
On which, without pause, up the telegraph line
Swept smoothly the next news from Gaeta : — Shot.
Tell his mother. Ah, ah, his, ‘ their ‘ mother, — not mine, ‘
No voice says “My mother” again to me. What !
You think Guido forgot ?

XIII.
Are souls straight so happy that, dizzy with Heaven,
They drop earth’s affections, conceive not of woe ?
I think not. Themselves were too lately forgiven
Through THAT Love and Sorrow which reconciled so
The Above and Below.

XIV.
O Christ of the five wounds, who look’dst through the dark
To the face of Thy mother ! consider, I pray,
How we common mothers stand desolate, mark,
Whose sons, not being Christs, die with eyes turned away,
And no last word to say !

XV.
Both boys dead ? but that’s out of nature. We all
Have been patriots, yet each house must always keep one.
‘Twere imbecile, hewing out roads to a wall ;
And, when Italy ‘s made, for what end is it done
If we have not a son ?

XVI.
Ah, ah, ah ! when Gaeta’s taken, what then ?
When the fair wicked queen sits no more at her sport
Of the fire-balls of death crashing souls out of men ?
When the guns of Cavalli with final retort
Have cut the game short ?

XVII.
When Venice and Rome keep their new jubilee,
When your flag takes all heaven for its white, green, and red,
When you have your country from mountain to sea,
When King Victor has Italy’s crown on his head,
(And I have my Dead) —

XVIII.
What then ? Do not mock me. Ah, ring your bells low,
And burn your lights faintly ! My country is there,
Above the star pricked by the last peak of snow :
My Italy ‘s THERE, with my brave civic Pair,
To disfranchise despair !

XIX.
Forgive me. Some women bear children in strength,
And bite back the cry of their pain in self-scorn ;
But the birth-pangs of nations will wring us at length
Into wail such as this — and we sit on forlorn
When the man-child is born.

XX.
Dead ! One of them shot by the sea in the east,
And one of them shot in the west by the sea.
Both ! both my boys ! If in keeping the feast
You want a great song for your Italy free,
Let none look at me !

Memorial Day Poetry Blogging — Part IV


Carentan O Carentan
BY LOUIS SIMPSON
Trees in the old days used to stand
And shape a shady lane
Where lovers wandered hand in hand
Who came from Carentan.

This was the shining green canal
Where we came two by two
Walking at combat-interval.
Such trees we never knew.

The day was early June, the ground
Was soft and bright with dew.
Far away the guns did sound,
But here the sky was blue.

The sky was blue, but there a smoke
Hung still above the sea
Where the ships together spoke
To towns we could not see.

Could you have seen us through a glass
You would have said a walk
Of farmers out to turn the grass,
Each with his own hay-fork.

The watchers in their leopard suits
Waited till it was time,
And aimed between the belt and boot
And let the barrel climb.

I must lie down at once, there is
A hammer at my knee.
And call it death or cowardice,
Don’t count again on me.

Everything’s all right, Mother,
Everyone gets the same
At one time or another.
It’s all in the game.

I never strolled, nor ever shall,
Down such a leafy lane.
I never drank in a canal,
Nor ever shall again.

There is a whistling in the leaves
And it is not the wind,
The twigs are falling from the knives
That cut men to the ground.

Tell me, Master-Sergeant,
The way to turn and shoot.
But the Sergeant’s silent
That taught me how to do it.

O Captain, show us quickly
Our place upon the map.
But the Captain’s sickly
And taking a long nap.

Lieutenant, what’s my duty,
My place in the platoon?
He too’s a sleeping beauty,
Charmed by that strange tune.

Carentan O Carentan
Before we met with you
We never yet had lost a man
Or known what death could do.

Picture found here.

Memorial Day Poetry Blogging — Part III


i sing of Olaf glad and big

i sing of Olaf glad and big
whose warmest heart recoiled at war:
a conscientious object-or

his wellbelovéd colonel (trig
westpointer most succinctly bred)
took erring Olaf soon in hand;
but–though an host of overjoyed
noncoms (first knocking on the head
him )do through icy waters roll
that helplessness which others stroke
with brushes recently employed
anent this muddy toiletbowl,
while kindred intellects evoke
allegiance per blunt instruments–
Olaf (being to all intents
a corpse and wanting any rag
upon what God unto him gave)
responds,without getting annoyed
“I will not kiss your fucking flag”

straightway the silver bird looked grave
(departing hurriedly to shave)

but–though all kinds of officers
(a yearning nation’s blueeyed pride)
their passive prey did kick and curse
until for wear their clarion
voices and boots were much the worse,
and egged the firstclassprivates on
his rectum wickedly to tease
by means of skilfully applied
bayonets roasted hot with heat–
Olaf (upon what were once knees)
does almost ceaselessly repeat
“there is some shit I will not eat”

our president, being of which
assertions duly notified
threw the yellowsonofabitch
into a dungeon,where he died

Christ (of His mercy infinite)
i pray to see;and Olaf,too

preponderatingly because
unless statistics lie he was
more brave than me:more blond than you.

~E. E. Cummings

Picture found here.

Memorial Day Poetry Blogging — Part II


Waiting for the Barbarians

What are we waiting for, assembled in the forum?

The barbarians are to arrive today.

Why such inaction in the Senate?
Why do the Senators sit and pass no laws?

Because the barbarians are to arrive today.
What laws can the Senators pass any more?
When the barbarians come they will make the laws.

Why did our emperor wake up so early,
and sits at the greatest gate of the city,
on the throne, solemn, wearing the crown?

Because the barbarians are to arrive today.
And the emperor waits to receive
their chief. Indeed he has prepared
to give him a scroll. Therein he inscribed
many titles and names of honor.

Why have our two consuls and the praetors come out
today in their red, embroidered togas;
why do they wear amethyst-studded bracelets,
and rings with brilliant, glittering emeralds;
why are they carrying costly canes today,
wonderfully carved with silver and gold?

Because the barbarians are to arrive today,
and such things dazzle the barbarians.

Why don’t the worthy orators come as always
to make their speeches, to have their say?

Because the barbarians are to arrive today;
and they get bored with eloquence and orations.

Why all of a sudden this unrest
and confusion. (How solemn the faces have become).
Why are the streets and squares clearing quickly,
and all return to their homes, so deep in thought?

Because night is here but the barbarians have not come.
And some people arrived from the borders,
and said that there are no longer any barbarians.

And now what shall become of us without any barbarians?
Those people were some kind of solution.

~Constantine P. Cavafy

Picture found here.

Memorial Day Poetry Blogging


For a War Memorial
BY G. K. CHESTERTON
(SUGGESTED INSCRIPTION PROBABLY NOT SUGGESTED BY THE COMMITTEE)

The hucksters haggle in the mart
The cars and carts go by;
Senates and schools go droning on;
For dead things cannot die.

A storm stooped on the place of tombs
With bolts to blast and rive;
But these be names of many men
The lightning found alive.

If usurers rule and rights decay
And visions view once more
Great Carthage like a golden shell
Gape hollow on the shore,

Still to the last of crumbling time
Upon this stone be read
How many men of England died
To prove they were not dead.

Picture found here.