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PostPosted: Sun Jun 22, 2008 12:48 pm 
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Location: Sheffield, UK
Royal Naval Air Station - Roy Fuller
The piano, hollow and sentimental, plays,
And outside, falling in a moonlit haze,
The rain is endless as the empty days.

Here in the mess, on beds, on benches, fall
The blue serge limbs in shapes fantastical:
The photographs of girls are on the wall.

And the songs of the minute waltz walk into our ears;
Behind the easy words are difficult tears:
The pain which stabs is dragged out over years.

A ghost has made uneasy every bed.
You are not without me and The dead
Only are please to be alone
it said.

And hearing it silently the living cry
To be again themselves, or sleeping try
To dream it is impossible to die.

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PostPosted: Sun Jun 22, 2008 10:38 pm 
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Nice one, Ian. The moonlit rain and uneasy beds...very evocative.


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PostPosted: Sat Jun 28, 2008 9:47 pm 
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I thought I'd read all Owen's work and then found this:

A Terre by Wilfred Owen

(Being the philosophy of many Soldiers.)


Sit on the bed; I'm blind, and three parts shell,
Be careful; can't shake hands now; never shall.
Both arms have mutinied against me - brutes.
My fingers fidget like ten idle brats.


I tried to peg out soldierly - no use!
One dies of war like any old disease.
This bandage feels like pennies on my eyes.
I have my medals? - Discs to make eyes close.
My glorious ribbons? - Ripped from my own back
In scarlet shreds. (That's for your poetry book.)


A short life and a merry one, my brick!
We used to say we'd hate to live dead old, -
Yet now...I'd willingly be puffy, bald,
And patriotic. Buffers catch from boys
At least the jokes hurled at them. I suppose
Little I'd ever teach a son, but hitting,
Shooting, war, hunting, all the arts of hurting.
Well, that's what I learnt, - that, and making money.
Your fifty years ahead seem none too many?
Tell me how long I've got? God! For one year
To help myself to nothing more than air!
One Spring! Is one too good to spare, too long?
Spring wind would work its own way to my lung,
And grow me legs as quick as lilac-shoots.
My servant's lamed, but listen how he shouts!
When I'm lugged out, he'll still be good for that.
Here in this mummy-case, you know, I've thought
How well I might have swept his floors for ever,
I'd ask no night off when the bustle's over,
Enjoying so the dirt. Who's prejudiced
Against a grimed hand when his own's quite dust,
Less live than specks that in the sun-shafts turn,
Less warm than dust that mixes with arms' tan?
I'd love to be a sweep, now, black as Town,
Yes, or a muckman. Must I be his load?


O Life, Life, let me breathe, - a dug-out rat!
Not worse than ours the existences rats lead -
Nosing along at night down some safe vat,
They find a shell-proof home before they rot.
Dead men may envy living mites in cheese,
Or good germs even. Microbes have their joys,
And subdivide, and never come to death,
Certainly flowers have the easiest time on earth.
"I shall be one with nature, herb, and stone."
Shelley would tell me. Shelley would be stunned;
The dullest Tommy hugs that fancy now.
"Pushing up daisies," is their creed, you know.
To grain, then, go my fat, to buds my sap,
For all the usefulness there is in soap.
D'you think the Boche will ever stew man-soup?
Some day, no doubt, if...
Friend, be very sure
I shall be better off with plants that share
More peaceably the meadow and the shower.
Soft rains will touch me, - as they could touch once,
And nothing but the sun shall make me ware.
Your guns may crash around me. I'll not hear;
Or, if I wince, I shall not know I wince.
Don't take my soul's poor comfort for your jest.
Soldiers may grow a soul when turned to fronds,
But here the thing's best left at home with friends.


My soul's a little grief, grappling your chest,
To climb your throat on sobs; easily chased
On other sighs and wiped by fresher winds.


Carry my crying spirit till it's weaned
To do without what blood remained these wounds.


Wilfred Owen


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PostPosted: Thu Jul 10, 2008 10:36 pm 
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Another Owen:

Smile, smile, smile
Head to limp head, the sunk-eyed wounded scanned
Yesterday's Mail; the casualties (typed small)
And (large) Vast Booty from our latest Haul.
Also, they read of Cheap Homes, not yet planned,
'For,' said the paper, 'when this war is done
The men's first instinct will be making homes.
Meanwhile their foremost need is aerodromes,
It being certain war has but begun.
Peace would do wrong to our undying dead, -
The sons we offered might regret they died
If we got nothing lasting in their stead.
We must be solidly indemnified.
Though all be worthy Victory which all bought,
We rulers sitting in this ancient spot
Would wrong our very selves if we forgot
The greatest glory will be theirs who fought,
Who kept this nation in integrity.'
Nation? - The half-limbed readers did not chafe
But smiled at one another curiously
Like secret men who know their secret safe.
(This is the thing they know and never speak,
That England one by one had fled to France,
Not many elsewhere now, save under France.)
Pictures of these broad smiles appear each week,
And people in whose voice real feeling rings
Say: How they smile! They're happy now, poor things.


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PostPosted: Sun Jul 13, 2008 11:54 am 
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Location: Sheffield, UK
War Dead - Gavin Ewart
With grey arm twisted over a green face
The dust of passing trucks swirls over him,
Lying by the roadside in his proper place,
For he has crossed the ultimate far rim
That hides from us the valley of the dead.
He lies like used equipment thrown aside,
Of which our swift advance can take no heed,
Roses, triumphal cars - but this one died.

Once war memorials, pitiful attempt
In some vague way regretfully to atone
For those lost futures that the dead had dreamt,
Covered the land with their lamenting stone -
But in our hearts we bear a heavier load:
The bodies of the dead beside the road.

Picked this one at random. Not sure about the first verse, but I like second one - especially the "lamenting stone".

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PostPosted: Sun Jul 13, 2008 4:06 pm 
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I agree. I liked the 'lost futures that the dead had dreamt' as well as 'lamenting stone' and the 'heavier load'.
Anything else by him in the antho?


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PostPosted: Sun Jul 13, 2008 9:01 pm 
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Just this one...

The Bofors AA Gun - Gavin Ewart
Such marvellous ways to kill a man!
An 'instrument of precision', a beauty,
The well-oiled shining marvel of our day
Points an accusing finger at the sky.
- But suddenly, traversing, elevating madly,
It plunges into action, more than eager
For the steel blood of those romantic birds
That threaten all the towns and roads.
O, that man's ingenuity, in this so subtle,
In such harmonious synchronization of parts,
Should against man be turned and he complaisant,
The pheasant-shooter be himself the pheasant!

I can't decide if it's over-written or sarcastic. But that "plunges" in the sixth line just seems like the wrong verb to use.

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PostPosted: Sun Jul 13, 2008 9:07 pm 
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Deeply ironic.
As for 'plunges', the only thing I can think of is that he's seeing it as a gun dog going after the pheasants, but that doesn't seem to work with the ,echanical imagery.
Bad word day for Mr. Ewart?


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 14, 2008 4:58 pm 
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Location: Swansea
Could be he is describing the recoil action of this particular weapon, especially the 4-barrelled versions seen on warships etc? The barrels plunge down into the main body of the weapon.

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 14, 2008 7:58 pm 
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Ah.....thanks Bob!


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 23, 2008 12:35 pm 
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Here's another one of the Personal Landscape poets from WWII Cairo:

Vergissmeinnicht - Keith Douglas
Three weeks gone and the combatants gone
returning over the nightmare ground
we found the place again, and found
the soldier sprawling in the sun.

The frowning barrel of his gun
overshadowing. As we came on
that day, he hit my tank with one
like the entry of a demon.

Look. Here in the gunpit spoil
the dishonoured picture of his girl
who has put: Steffi. Vergissmeinnicht
in a copybook gothic script.

We see him almost with content,
abased, and seeming to have paid
and mocked at by his own equipment
that's hard and good when he's decayed.

But she would weep to see today
how on his skin the swart flies move;
the dust upon the paper eye
and the burst stomach like a cave.

For here the lover and killer are mingled
who had one body and one heart.
And death who had the soldier singled
has done the lover mortal hurt.

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 23, 2008 2:31 pm 
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This one ia a great favourite in the schools. How the weans love the 'paper eye' and the 'swart flies'...and oh, the time spent analysing 'copybook Gothic script'!


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 30, 2008 4:07 pm 
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Through These Pale Cold Days


Through these pale cold days
What dark faces burn
Out of three thousand years,
And their wild eyes yearn,

While underneath their brows
Like waifs their spirits grope
For the pools of Hebron again--
For Lebanon's summer slope.

They leave these blond still days
In dust behind their tread
They see with living eyes
How long they have been dead.

Isaac Rosenberg


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 06, 2008 3:27 pm 
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The Victory Ball
by Alfred Noyes

The cymbals crash
And the dancers walk
With long silk stockings
And arms of chalk
With butterfly skirts
And white breasts bare
And shadows of dead men
Watching 'em there.

God! how the dead men
Grin by the wall
Watching the fun
Of the victory ball.
They do not reproach
Because they know
If they're forgotten
It's better so.

Under the dancing feet
Are the graves
Dazzle and motley
In long bright waves.
Brushed by the palm fronds
Grapple and whirl
Ox-eyed matron
And slim white girl.

Fat wet bodies
Go waddling by
Girdled in satin
Tho' God knows why,
Gripped by satyrs
In white and black
With a fat wet hand
On the fat wet back.

See, there's a new girl
Fresh from school
Learning the ropes
As the old hands rule.
God! how that dead boy gapes and grins
As the tom-toms bang
And the shimmy begins.

'What did you think you'd
Find' asked a shade
'When the last shot echoed
And peace was made?'
'Christ' laughed the
Fleshless jaws of his friend,
'I thought they'd be
Praying for worlds to mend
And making earth better
Or something damn silly
Like whitewashing hell
Or Picc-damn-dilly.
They've a sense of humour
These women of ours,
These exquisite lilies,
These fresh young flowers'.

'Pish', said a statesman
Standing near, 'we mustn't
Reproach 'em, they're young you see'.
'Ah', said the dead men,
'So were we'.

Victory! Victory!
On with the dance
Back to the jungle
The new beasts prance.
God, how the dead men
Grin by the wall
Watching the fun
Of the Victory Ball.


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PostPosted: Sun Sep 07, 2008 11:09 am 
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Chindit - KN Batley
Have you ever seen a column march away,
And left you lying, too damned sick to care?
Have you ever watched the night crawl into day
With red-rimmed eyes that are too tired to stare?
Have you ever bled beside a jungle trace
In thick brown mud like coagulating stew?
Have you ever counted leeches loping back
Along the trail of sweat that leads to you?
Have you ever heard your pals shout 'cheerio',
Knowing this is no 'Auf wiedersehen'?
Have you ever prayed, alone, for help although
The stench of mules has vanished in the rain?
Have you ever thought 'what a bloody way to die!',
Left in the tree-roots, rotting, there to stay?
God, I remember last poignant 'Goodbye';
I was one of the men that marched away.

Spoiled a bit by a missing article in the penultimate line - removed to make it scan, I suppose.

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